Monday, March 24, 2014

Field Trip

Demonstrating the white-tailed deer trap
Members of the Society for Ecological Restoration's Mid-Atlantic Chapter visited "my" preserve on Saturday afternoon, March 22, to review forest restoration and white-tailed deer research projects underway here.  This field trip was one of three trips scheduled to coincide with the Chapter's annual conference that took place the day before at Temple University.
Deer researcher explaining how he remotely springs the deer trap from his laptop
A research and teaching colleague from a local college began by reviewing the white-tailed  deer movement research he has been conducting since 2006 using collared deer and digital telemetry. 
A chapter member from New York City Parks pointing out chestnut blight canker
The group then took a walking tour of an old-growth woods recently cleared of invasive plants, several reforestation projects (including one project that incorporated American chestnut trees, now exhibiting signs of chestnut blight disease), riparian reforestation projects, and the preserve's 160-acre native grasslands.  We also took advantage of the fact that one of the tour participants was a former University of Pennsylvania researcher who had established a forest succession research project in the preserve in 1990 - a project he had not been back to review in over two decades.

Former University of Pennsylvania researcher explaining a research project in the background

Fortunately, the day was partly sunny and warm - the warmest day so far this year, with temperatures in the mid-60s.  I had expected the preserve's trails to be muddy after the endless winter snows, but they were pleasantly firm and dry.  Participants seemed to have enjoyed themselves - even if it was just to have a chance to be outside on a nice spring day.  We even heard spring peepers trilling in one of the wetlands!

Timing for the tour was fortuitous - there's more snow forecast for tomorrow!


packrat said...

Looks to be an interesting field trip, Scott. Although I recognize the importance of scientific research, I'm often conflicted about the cornering, collaring and monitoring of animals--even though I understand the results often benefit them.

The effort to relocate Bighorn Sheep from Yuma to the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson has been a disappointing failure. The 16th of 31 sheep was recently found dead from predation; so Arizona Game and Fish has compounded the problem by killing three mountain lions "responsible" for the deaths.


Scott said...

Thanks for the link about the Bighorn Sheep, Packrat. I feel pretty much the same way about releasing Canadian lynx in Colorado to try to re-establish a population there. Until there's a really good indication that a reintroduction will be a rousing success, let's just leave things alone.

Except for the immediate and undeniable trauma the deer experience when they are subdued and collared in the trap, they don't seem to be much the worse for wear. In fact, some individuals actually return to the traps to eat the bait corn. However, I do have to report one exception: one of the most recently collared deer lost nearly all of the pelage under the collar--something we have not noticed before in the 29 deer previously collared. The deer is alive and seems to be doing well (and its fur is regrowing), but it must have been an especially cold winter for the deer without a "muffler."

robin andrea said...

Looks like a great warm day for a field trip. Definitely excellent timing.

I often have very mixed feelings about human interventions into animal lives. Good intentions do sometimes go awry. I wish we could know outcomes before we engage. Still, I always want the very best for the animals. I want them to thrive and carve out niches for their ongoing success.

Mark P said...

It's a shame to see the chestnut showing blight signs, but I guess it's not unexpected.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea; it was a good day for the field trip, and the participants seemed to enjoy themselves and get a lot out of the walk.

With regard to the deer, we have been culling the herd here since 1984 and have reduced the size by 3/4 or more, which has been good for the ecosystem and also for the deer, if individual size and productivity are used as measures. It's not, however, good for the animals that are killed, of course. On the other hand, we also pick up road killed deer from the municipalities surrounding us (as a courtesy to the municipalities, and so that we can collect biological information from the deer). Last year, we collected 88 deer--by far, the largest number of deer we have ever gathered from roadways. With our own deer numbers way down, this road kill uptick is perplexing.

Scott said...

Mark: I had my fingers crossed that these chestnuts wouldn't get infected, but I guess I was too optimistic and unrealistic. It's so discouraging.