2016-10-20 / Outdoors

Conservancy to construct deer fencing in Palmer Woods

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


AN EXCAVATOR clears a path in Palmer Woods where deer fencing will soon be placed. This deer exclosure borders the main Valley Trail and will be easy to view while out hiking or skiing. 
Photo: Leelanau Conservancy AN EXCAVATOR clears a path in Palmer Woods where deer fencing will soon be placed. This deer exclosure borders the main Valley Trail and will be easy to view while out hiking or skiing. Photo: Leelanau Conservancy The problems caused by a healthy deer population are well documented in orchards and on motorways, but other deer-related issues extend into private property and even in the woods.

Such is the case at the Palmer Woods Forest Reserve in Cleveland Township, where the Leelanau Conservancy is preparing to put up a pair of deer exclosures surrounding some 35 acres of the 707-acre natural area. The 8-foot-tall fencing is expected to help with forest restoration efforts in an area depleted by deer browsing.

Becky Hill, natural areas and preserves manager with the Conservancy, said it may not take long to notice results.

“A lot of times people don’t realize how much deer are impacting our forests,” Hill said.

The Conservancy has hired a contract botanist who will service and monitor the different plots and document her findings along the way.

In time, that information may be of use to local property owners dealing with deer issues.

“One of the main problems with forest regeneration is getting the trees to grow above the browse line, which is generally 6 feet tall,” Hill said. “There’s the tall, mature trees and the small seedlings, but not a lot in between.

“Getting the trees to grow above the canopy is a struggle for our forests right now. She’ll be looking at those type of things, too.”

Small mammals will still have access to the fenced-in areas, but hungry deer will have to forage for food elsewhere.

Hill said the Conservancy has no intentions of taking the fencing down.

“They’re going to be up for a long time,” she said.

There’ll certainly be room to grow.

Hill said one location in Palmer Woods is a location of “heavy blow-down” from the August 2015 storm, where the previous owners did some salvage logging.

“The canopy has been opened up dramatically because so many trees (fell during) that storm,” she said. “There’s a lot of sunlight coming in. That’ll be an interesting spot to observe.”

The Conservancy isn’t the first local organization to experiment with deer exclosures.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has fenced in areas, too, albeit with smaller acreage.

“This is an opportunity to not only just learn, specifically, impacts on Palmer Woods, but our forests here in northern Michigan,” Hill said. “It will be an educational tool for the public.”

Learn more about Palmer Woods by visiting leelanauconservancy.org/blog/naturalarea/palmer woods-forest-reserve.

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