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Fearsome Critters

The term fearsome critter refers to legendary beasts found in early lumberjack lore, said to inhabit the frontier wilderness of North America. 

The Hidebehind

It is a nocturnal fearsome critter that preys upon humans that wander the woods, and was credited for the disappearances of early loggers when they failed to return to camp. The creature has the noted ability to be able to conceal itself. When an observer attempts to look directly at it, the creature hides again behind an object or the observer and therefore cannot be directly seen: a feat it accomplishes by sucking in its stomach to a point where it is so slender that it can easily cover itself behind the trunk of any tree. The hidebehind uses this ability to stalk human prey without being observed and to attack without warning. Their victims, including lumberjacks, who frequent the forests, are dragged back to the creature’s lair to be devoured.

 The creature subsists chiefly upon the intestines of its victim, and has a severe aversion to alcohol, which is considered a sufficient repellent.  Early accounts describe hidebehinds as large, powerful animals, despite the fact that no one was able to see them.

The Hugag

 The hugag is a huge animal of the Lake States. Its range includes western Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and a territory extending indefinitely northward in the Canadian wilds toward Hudson Bay.

  • In terms of size and appearance, the hugag is often compared to a moose.
  • It has jointless legs, which compel the animal to remain on its feet.
  • It has a long upper lip, which prevents it from grazing. 
  • Its head and neck is leathery and hairless.
  • The ears flop downward.
  • Four-toed feet.
  • Long, bushy tail.
  • A shaggy coat.

The hugag has great stamina for travelling, and few hunters who have taken up its trail ever came up with the beast or back to camp. It is reported to keep going all day long, browsing on twigs, flopping its lip around trees, and stripping bark as occasion offers, and at night, since it cannot lie down, it leans against a tree, bracing its hind legs and marking time with its front ones.

The most successful hugag hunters have adopted the practice of notching trees so that they are almost ready to fall, and when the hugag leans up against one, both the tree and the animal come down. In its helpless condition it is then easily dispatched.

The last one killed, so far as known, was on Turtle River, in northern Minnesota, where a young one, weighing 1,800 pounds, was found stuck in the mud. It was knocked in the head by Mike Flynn, of Cass Lake.

The Sidehill Gouger

They have adapted to living on hillsides by having legs on one side of their body shorter than the legs on the opposite side

Sidehill gougers are herbivores, who dwell in hillside borrows. Some sources say they lay eggs, and there usually 6-8 pups in a litter. Since the gouger is footed for hillsides, it cannot stand up on level ground. If by accident a gouger falls from a hill, it can easily be captured or starve to death. When a clockwise gouger meets a counter-clockwise gouger, they have to fight to the death since they can only go in one direction.

Gougers are said to have migrated to the west from New England, a feat accomplished by a pair of gougers who clung to each other in a fashion comparable to “a pair of drunks going home from town" with their longer legs on the outer sides. A Vermont variation is known as the Wampahoofus. It was reported that farmers crossbreed them with their cows so they could graze easily on mountain sides.

The Snow Wasset

They are said to be found in the northern logging camps of Canada, an animal of the Boreal Zone. It is a migratory animal, wintering in the lumbering region between the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay and spending its summers far north in Labrador and the Barren Grounds. Unlike most wild creatures of the North, the wasset is said to hibernate during only the warmest weather, when its hair turns green and it curls up in a cranberry marsh. During the summer it has rudimentary legs, which enable it to creep slowly around and remain in the shade.

According to woodsmen, the tragedies of the far North are more numerous beneath the crusted snow than above it. There is no telling how many creatures are pulled down and eaten by the wasset, for this animal has a voracious appetite, comparable only to that of the wolverine, but since it is four times as big and forty times as active as the wolverine it must eat correspondingly more.

The only specimen of this beast ever examined by white men was an imperfect one on James Bay, where a party of surveyors found an Indian in a peculiar canoe, which, upon examination, was shown to be made from one wasset hide greatly stretched. There being no leg holes in the white winter pelt, it is peculiarly adapted to the making of shapely one-man. A whole battery of dead-falls are believed to be used in trapping a wasset, since it is impossible to tell in what direction the animal’s body may extend. The trigger is set so that a dozen logs fall in from all sides toward the bait, pinning the animal under the snow wherever it may be.