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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Minnesota showing some smarts and concern for it's forests as it launches a three year study of it's Deer Herd................Study after study shows that browsing by overabundant deer herds is crushing the biodiversity of northern and eastern forests........... The threat they pose, say some forest ecologists, is greater than climate change......Between 1997 and 2006, Minnesota’s whitetail population soared from an estimated 733,000 to more than 1.1 million, prompting an outcry from foresters and ecologists that deer were wiping out the understory in the woods........... The Minn.Department of Natural Resources responded by lowering deer density goals in many areas between 2005 and 2007............... Increasing the legal take, especially for female deer, reduced the herd size...............My question is this: Why has Minnesota since taking over management of Wolves gone to such great lengths to halve their population when they are natures deer eaters,,,,,,,,,,,,,especially knowing that despite recent severe winters, the northcentral and central regions of the state have a "forest crushing" 20 to 25 per square mile??????

This Article from
The full Article, with any associated images and

 links can be viewed here.
Minnesota launches
 deer vs. trees debate
Tony Kennedy, Star Tribune

Minnesota’s deer czar, Leslie McInenly, knows that for
 a lot of hunters there can never be enough deer.“It’s
 like me and chocolate,’’ she said.

But as the state launches a three-year process to 
reset its deer population — the first in nearly a 
decade — deer hunters won’t be the only ones
 at the table. There also will be white, red and
 jack pines, orchids and other wildflowers and 
all the species that depend on them.

The likely increased numbers of Minnesota’s
 favorite game animal will come at the peril of
 the state’s beloved pine trees and the native
 plants, insects and animals that live below
 them on the forest floor. 

The state’s deer population exploded starting
 in the late 1990s, and, due largely to recent
harsh winters, has since declined somewhat.
But study after study shows that browsing by
 overabundant deer herds is crushing the
 biodiversity of northern and eastern forests.
 The threat they pose, say some forest ecologists,
is greater than climate change.

In areas around Bemidji and Park Rapids, forest
experts are projecting sizable loss of jack pine
stands — partly because deer eat the new growth.
 With jack pine, red pine and the majestic white
 pine, any meaningful regeneration is now dependent
 on planting by hand or aerial seeding on prepared
 sites. Anti-browsing protections for the tiny trees
 and the cost of replanting stands that get wiped
out by deer have made the process less successful
 and more expensive.

It’s a problem seen throughout the United States.
“We’ve already got more deer than the land can
 support,” said Gary Alt, a wildlife biologist now
based in California who reduced Pennsylvania’s
 deer population to curtail the destruction of plant
life that was harming that state’s $7 billion forest
 industry.“If anything, it’s getting worse,” said Brian
 Palik, research ecologist for the U.S. Forest
Service in Grand Rapids.
Between 1997 and 2006, Minnesota’s whitetai
l population soared from an estimated 733,000
 to more than 1.1 million, prompting an outcry
 from foresters and ecologists that deer were
wiping out the understory in the woods. The
Department of Natural Resources responded b
y lowering deer density goals in many areas
 between 2005 and 2007. Increasing the legal
 take, especially for female deer, reduced the
 herd size, as planned. 

But recent harsh winters have crashed the
 population in some areas, leading to an outcry
 from hunters who complained at recent
“listening sessions” that deer are too scarce.
The 2013 hunting season produced a harvest
of 172,000 deer, the lowest in 15 years.“As a
 general consensus, people I talk to think the
 numbers are about half of what they were,”
said Mike Staggemeyer, who hunts on private
 land south of La Crescent. “I would like to see
 a few more deer.’’

Deer populations across Minnesota vary according to
 habitat and are managed differently from area to area.
Current density levels range from a high of 25 to 30 deer
 per square mile in the extreme southeast to only 3 to 5
per square mile in the far west. In much of central and
north-­central Minnesota, where most deer are harvested,
 numbers hover around 20 to 25 per square mile.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer
Hunters Association, said doubling the number would not
 be too much in some areas. Most hunters believe the
 state went “quite a ways” too far in lowering the population
 the last time around, he said.“We are definitely at a low
ebb,’’ Johnson said.

The latest rejiggering has started with a look at
southeastern Minnesota, where a hunter-dominated
 citizen advisory team has called for increases in more
 than half of the region. The 21-member team, 18 of
whom are deer hunters, did not propose any decreases.
 Its recommendations have been posted by the DNR
for public reaction.

As Minnesota wades into the three-year process,
 McInenly said she expects to hear more from
foresters, ecologists and timber companies as
 the evaluation moves northward. Farmers who
suffer crop damage from deer and motorists who
 cross paths with them also will weigh in. And the
 DNR has its own costly fight against chronic
wasting disease to consider as it changes
density goals.

In the Arrowhead region, timber mill operator
Jack Rajala has a different perspective on how
 many deer are enough. After years of fighting
deer, he’s finally seeing low-enough numbers
where browsing isn’t a problem for his young
 trees. Since the 1980s deer have eaten 1 million
 young white pines on his property even though
the numbers in his part of the state are lower than
 many other areas. He learned to protect new
 seedlings with bud caps — paper scraps
stapled to the trees’ leading growth stems.
Even with lower densities, capping the seedlings
 is a necessity for about the first five years, until
 they are beyond deers’ reach. “If you bring the
herd back up, it will hurt the conifers,’’ said
 Rajala, who wrote the 1998 book “Bringing
 Back the White Pine.’’

Mark White, a forest biologist for the Nature
Conservancy, said he’s demonstrated what a
 deer-free forest can look like by fencing them out
 of a large plot of woods on the North Shore. Inside
is thick, lush plant life and healthy young trees. Outside,
 the forest floor is sparsely vegetated, with few trees.
“It’s so well studied, there’s really no debate,’’ said
White, who asserts that too many deer — not climate
change — pose the biggest threat to forests in
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and farther east.

Rajala and other forest experts believe that the
 preferences of Minnesota’s 500,000 deer
hunters — who annually pay $19.6 million to
 the state in license revenue — will continue
 to trump ecological concerns. The low end of
 acceptability for hunters is still at a level that
changes forests for the worse, they say.“We
 are at that point,’’ said Mike Locke, a longtime
 DNR forester based in Bemidji. “If you want a
 lot of deer you are not going to have a lot of
 jack pine or white pine.’’

Locke was part of a 2006 state SWAT team,
including wildlife managers, that studied why
 state forest land in a large triangular region
 including Backus, Bemidji and Park Rapids
 wasn’t meeting its goals to regenerate trees
. Deer, drought and diseased seedlings were
 the main culprits and one recommendation the
 team agreed on was to keep local deer
populations “at levels that will ensure pine
species can regenerate and grow, ’’ Locke said.
But the deer numbers didn’t change. Pine
regeneration “seems to be a minor factor’’
in setting deer population goals, he said.
 Deer densities of 10 animals per square
 mile — a level foresters can work around
 without too much spending on seedling
protection and replanting — is not
 acceptable to hunters.

“It’s pretty clear that nobody is really going
 to politically stand up and say we are going
 to decrease the number of deer that are out
there,’’ Locke said.
Gary Alt, the biologist who was appointed
by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to decrease
 deer herds, said the story is similar in nearly
every big deer hunting state. Hunters overprotect
 female deer to increase fawn production,
multiplying their chances of shooting a buck.
 As the herd increases, they get used to seeing
 a lot of deer and then revolt when game managers
 try to lower populations.

“They pay the bills, so [states] keep them happy,’’
 said Alt, who experienced death threats in
Pennsylvania and wore body armor to public
Alt said he foresees a time when deer
populations become so unbalanced that
some states will authorize commercial
culling for food, supplanting hunters as a
 herd management tool.

Johnson of the Deer Hunters Association
 said foresters sometimes exaggerate
depredation by deer, ignoring other factors
 that stifle new trees. He said most hunters
 don’t see a need for densities to be as
 high as they were during peak population in
 the mid-2000s, when there were 50 deer per
square mile in some areas. But “something in
 between’’ would be fair to hunters and protective
 of the ecosystem, he said.

Lowering deer densities wouldn’t necessarily
 solve the browsing problem either, Locke said,
 because even small groups of deer have
 “hammered’’ large pine plantings. Many
foresters believe that seedlings from commercial
nurseries are extra tasty to deer because they
 contain more nutrients than trees that grow
 from seeds cast from aircraft.

There is also a considerable cost to taxpayers
in protecting forests from hungry deer. In the
 nine years that ended in fiscal 2012, the DNR
 spent about $2.75 million on bud-capping and
spraying repellent on seedlings. National forests
 in the state also spend money annually on
 deterrents. Palik said a contractor recently
 submitted a bid to bud-cap pine seedlings
 on a 500-acre site at a cost of $185 per acre
, or $92,500 per year.

DNR wildlife and forestry officials from Locke’s
 area revisited the deer debate last year,
producing a draft report on how to manage
pine regeneration and deer populations in
 the northwest part of the state. The report
 noted that there are fewer hunters now and
 more land has been put off limits to hunting
 due to development or leasing — factors
 that diminish deer hunting as a tool to keep
herds in check.

The draft report projected that by 2025 there
could be a steep decline in the area’s jack pine
 cover based on losses of 15,000 to 16,000
acres that occurred between 1990 and 2006.

For the environment, selective browsing by deer
 also means a reduction in other trees and plants,
 including red oak, certain lillies, orchids and other
 plant species, said Lee Frelich, University of
Minnesota forest biologist. The overall effect is a
 cascading drop-off in certain insects, less habita
 for animals, fewer songbirds, less grouse and
pheasant and the disappearance of various berries
 Frelich said.

“Deer are contributing to the shifting composition
 of the forest,’’ said Frelich, who has studied the
 deer-related loss of new-growth hemlock trees
 in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper

McInenly said deer hunters in Minnesota understand
 the need to keep the herd in check. Hunters went
along with the deer reduction in 2005-2007 when
foresters and ecologists were more vocal about
browsing damage, she said. And it’s the DNR’s
job to balance competing interests, especially
 when it comes to the “upper thresholds’’ for
protecting healthy ecosystems, she said.
But the DNR can’t ignore the social reality of
deer hunting and “certainly’’ listens to hunters,
 McInenly said.

For now, indications point toward a managed
 increase in the deer population, but no one
knows what that number will be.“We are trying
to find the sweet spot, but I don’t think you ever
 land on the sweet spot,’’ McInenly said.

Tony Kennedy • 612-673-4213

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