Posted by: Stefan Anderson | November 21, 2012


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Greetings from Conserve School,

A few years ago one of the highlights of my time exploring Conserve School’s campus was watching the otters play on Big Donahue Lake. Unfortunately, as the area has continued to experience drought conditions and the lake levels have fallen those otters left the area. Over the past semester I have been pleased to discover a new otter watching area on Little Bateau Lake which like Big Donahue Lake is also adjacent to Conserve School’s campus.

Over the past few days I have especially enjoyed watching the otters interact with the early season ice on the lake. Last Saturday I spent a pleasant hour watching four otters run and slide on the new ice, occasionally breaking through into the waters below. I took a picture, but with the low light and long distance my camera wasn’t up to the challenge. Today I returned to Little Bateau Lake and was pleased to first hear the otters calling to each other and then again see them at play. Today the ice only partially covered the ice and was much thinner. Instead of sliding on the ice the otters kept diving under it and coming up strongly from below it to crash through. Sometimes when they did this the ice sheet would make a twanging sound, similar to a large cable being strummed or a strange musical instrument. At other times the otters would take breaks, floating around the open water or diving down to surface with a fish that they would then eat.

I am fortunate to live and work in an area that offers so many natural wonders. I hope that some of this semester’s students get to share my otter experience next week when they return from Thanksgiving Break.


Stefan Anderson
Head of School



  1. Stephan,

    My Great Grandmother homesteaded Little Bass Lake. Mary Julia Butterfield Newcomb Farmer, She was my Grandmother, Sarah U. Newcomb Marling’s, mother and homesteaded in 1886/87 the property from Big Bateau lake and her land is included in the Conserve School land now.

    Franklin Newcomb, my Grandmother Marlilng’s brother, was the surveyor of the Michigan/Wisconsin border from State Line (now Land O’Lakes) to Phelps. He also homesteaded some of the Conserve Land and had one of his camps at the north end of Dollar Lake. They built the cabin on the south side of Big Bass Lake in Wisconsin with the Michigan. About 1923 the property was sold to the Buschanans, (Buchanan Road) just west of the Nagel Saw mill.

    I did not know if you knew how Dorothy and I fit in to the Land O’Lakes History. We have the original surveyor’s book in the HWSbank safe deposit box. Paul Mac Leod started his search using this book and hearing our stories.

    Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas.

    I loved the pictures of the otters. Thanks for sharing your Conserve School news with me.

    • Roberta,

      Thanks for providing this interesting historical insight. Let’s talk soon. 🙂


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