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Archive | Outdoors

DNR parks employees honored for lifesaving actions

People come to Michigan state parks to enjoy the great outdoors, but sometimes unexpected circumstances can threaten visitors’ safety and even their lives. For their actions on two such occasions this year, several DNR Parks and Recreation employees were honored with the division’s Lifesaving Awards at Thursday’s Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting.

On May 14, at Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), a man mushroom hunting in the park’s Jackson Hole Lake area began experiencing chest pains and flagged down seasonal employees Gabe Feller and Walker Truckey, who called the park office. Park ranger Mandy Hills and park manager Tony Trojanowski responded to the scene with the parks’defibrillator. The man’s  chest pains worsened, and 911 was called. Feller and Truckey met emergency personnel at the park office and guided them to the scene. An electrocardiogram determined the man was having a heart attack, and he was taken to Borgess Hospital. The grateful man has since returned to the park to thank everyone involved.

On July 30, in Holland State Park (Ottawa County), during red-flag beach conditions, park officer Dana Skytta observed a 9-year-old boy and his father being swept out of the swim zone toward the park’s north pier. A 12-year-old girl also witnessed this and tried to help the boy, but she was quickly overwhelmed by the wind and water. Skytta quickly entered the water with a life jacket and threw a rescue line to the struggling boy and girl. On his second attempt throwing the line, Skytta was able to pull the fatigued children to shore. The boy’s father had safely reached the beach, too, and everyone was examined by emergency services personnel.

For more on these awards or general information on Michigan state parks, contact Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson at 517-243-1477.

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Safety is key to every successful hunt

Man wearing hunter orange vest and cap, holding firearm upright, walking through a grassy field.

With Michigan’s firearm deer season starting in just a few days, the DNR reminds both new and veteran hunters to always put safety first.

Lt. Tom Wanless, who heads up the DNR’s recreational safety programs, said that although some safety tips seem obvious, it’s critical for anyone hunting with firearms, regardless of their experience level, to understand safety basics.

“You’re not successful unless you’re safe,” Lt. Wanless said. “We want everyone to return home to their families and friends. While many safety recommendations may seem like common sense reminders, they shouldn’t be taken for granted.”

Some safety tips to keep in mind include:

* Treating every firearm as if it is loaded.

* Being aware of your surroundings—know your target and what is beyond it.

* Unloading the firearm when crossing obstacles and/or getting in or out of a tree stand.

* Obeying “no trespassing” signs—they are there for a reason.

* Obtaining the landowner’s permission to retrieve your game if it wandered onto private property.

* Wearing as much hunter orange as possible to increase your visibility.

Get more hunting safety tips and resources at Michigan.gov/HuntingSafety. For season and regulation details, see the 2019 Hunting Digest at Michigan.gov/DNRDigests.

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Tree on stilts

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

A gray bark tinged with yellow helps identify the yellow birch that grows scattered in mixed hardwood and conifer forest. Hardwoods, broad leaved trees that shed their leaves dominate with some conifer needled trees mixed throughout the forest. It is easier to find the yellow birches by looking for trees on root stilts. 

The birches often get started on white pine stumps. Over the course of many years and the pine decays much slower than other tree stumps. As the birch ages, its moderate to large trunk is left standing on roots that wrapped around the pine stump and penetrate into the ground where they spread horizontally. 

Yellow birch by Joseph OBrien [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

The trunks do not attain the size of oaks or other large trees but may have a diameter of one to two feet. Larger trees are known. The spreading roots make it less secure and prone to wind toss but they have the advantage of growing in the interior of the forest where they are protected from strong winds by surrounding trees. 

Visit the Howard Christensen Nature Center on Red Pine Drive three miles north of M-46 (17-mile road) to walk the trails and scan the forest for root-stilted yellow gray barked trees. They grow most abundantly in the lowland wet swamp forest. Red Pine Drive is about six miles west of US-131.

New twigs are greenish with a light pubescence but become light orange to gray and lose the fuzzy pubescence. Somewhat unique are the lenticels that persist through much of the tree’s life. They are large celled light-colored horizontal stripes on twigs, stems, and trunks. Their function aids oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. Their presence on trunks helps identify the tree. Most trees have lenticels that do not remain obvious on large trunks. 

Narrow horizontally strips of bark with curled ends peel away from the trunk. It is not good to peel the strips because the attached portion is living tissue. One benefit of taking some peeling dead bark is to use as fire starter. It contains oil that burns easily even when wet. 

The paper birch, also known as white birch or canoe birch, will grow in large pure stands. They especially grow in large stands after a fire creates openings. Yellow birches germinate in most soils including mineral soils but does best in mossy moist soils. They grow on moss covered logs or old stumps in moderate moist locations. The farther one travels north in Michigan, the birches become more abundant. We are on the distribution border between habitats where the birch will thrive on moist lowland soils southerly instead of drier soils.

A reason I think the trees are frequently found growing on pine stumps is because they are not good competitors with other tree seedlings. Other trees struggle in the acid conditions on pine stumps. That is something I have not seen stated by forestry professors that study the trees but it my perception. 

The leaves are doubly serrate which means they have teeth along the leaf margins that alternate from a larger tooth to a smaller tooth and back to larger tooth. Pick up a leaf under the tree at this time of year to examine it. Feel the straight veins that served as fluid transport vessels during life. The leaf shape is oval and pointed.

At this time of year, next year’s new growth tissue is already formed and contained ready for expansion with spring’s fluid swelling. The new growth tissue is comprised of tiny dehydrated cells that will not burst their delicate membranes in freezing temperatures. The new tissues are concealed under protective bud scales in a false terminal bud. Examine the bud and notice it does project straight outward from the end of the twig. Like elm buds it buds grows at a slight angle from twig’s end. 

The wind pollinated spring flowers are formed in catkins with wind-blown seeds dispersed in fall and winter.

This tree has unique features to enjoy as you walk nature center trails. Continue enjoying the outdoors this fall.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Deer movement in the Upper Peninsula

Part 2 of an article on CWD and deer movement

A doe returns to the wild after being fitted with a GPS collar by researchers with the Upper Peninsula deer movement study. 

Since May 2015, when the first CWD-positive deer was identified in the Lower Peninsula, the DNR has been surveilling the Michigan-Wisconsin border for signs of CWD in free-ranging white-tailed deer.

In 2018, the DNR confirmed the first CWD-positive deer in the Upper Peninsula, in Dickinson County.

Wildlife managers responded quickly, planning a study to learn how deer movements in the U.P. affect the risk of CWD transmission, and how those movements differ from deer studied in the Lower Peninsula.

The U.P. deer movement study, a partnership between the Camp Fire Program in Wildlife Conservation at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the DNR, has three objectives: 

• Determine the frequency, distance and timing of deer movements, particularly between summer and winter range.

• Estimate population abundance.

• Develop models of probable deer movements for each population studied. 

To meet these objectives, researchers capture deer and fit them with GPS collars to track their movements.

Capture and collaring efforts were concentrated on four deer wintering complexes–areas commonly referred to as “deer yards” that provide food and cover for deer in winter conditions–in the western U.P.

Another study area was added in southern Dickinson County after the discovery of CWD there in October 2018. Four of these deer wintering complexes are located along the Michigan-Wisconsin border. Wisconsin is also home to CWD-infected deer, some which have been detected in neighboring border counties.

“Information on these movements helps us make decisions on identifying CWD management zones,” said Dean Beyer, DNR wildlife research biologist. “This is particularly important in the Upper Peninsula, where the combination of high deer densities in the wintering complexes and long-distance migrations to summer range increases the risk of CWD transmission across very large areas.” 

From the 190 deer collared in 2018, and the 97 collared in 2019, the researchers were able to track and observe the movement of deer from these areas.

Based on preliminary data, researchers observed spring migratory movements of up to 48 miles–demonstrating that deer move from these deer wintering complexes across vast areas. Researchers also observed some mixing of deer from different wintering complexes on their summer range. 

“Together, these observations suggest that there would be a risk of transmitting CWD across very large areas because of the migratory movements,” said Beyer.

Not only do these data support a comprehensive approach to disease management, they also help the DNR plan its overall deer management program in the Upper Peninsula.

Moving forward

While there is no cure for chronic wasting disease, wildlife managers remain committed to better managing its spread.
“Disease management means understanding the species affected. That includes their movement patterns,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer, elk and moose specialist. “If we hope to successfully mitigate the spread of CWD, coordinating our management response with local biology is important.”

Stewart said that with the results from both studies, the DNR will be able to better understand how free-ranging white-tailed deer populations move throughout the year in many areas of Michigan. Getting a firm handle on that movement data will help researchers see connections in how CWD is contracted in those populations and help inform plans to limit the spread of the disease. 

“This is Michigan’s biggest wildlife challenge,” Stewart added. “Deer hunting and wildlife watching are huge outdoor traditions in our state, enjoyed across generations and contributing so much to Michigan’s economy and very identity. A lot is riding on sustaining a healthy deer population on both Peninsulas, and we are in this fight for the long haul.”

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Compost or Burn?

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Burning leaves in the fall was a part of my growing up in the 1950s and has fortunately declined for several reasons. Composting colorful leaves, creating compost piles for mulch, or curbside pick up is available. Some communities ban burning. I recall enjoying the aroma of burning leaves as a five-year old. I did not realize the health risks that are greatest for children and people with lung or heart issues or additional pollution.

Chris Baer advised that using leaves as mulch around garden plants is better than woodchips. She reserves the woodchips for trees and shrubs. The withering of summer vegetation in fall is beautiful and provides resources ideal for gardens. 

Mulched leaves around plants two to three inches thick suppresses weeds, conserves soil moisture, and moderates soil temperature. Summer’s green has turned yellow, crimson, or brown and fallen on lawns. They can be diced with a lawn mower and left on the lawn if not too thick as a soil conditioner. 

Leaves used from a compost pile add nutrients to the soil. Worms and insects live in the compost and hasten recycling. Occasionally turn compost to enrich the air supply to help beneficial fungus and bacteria that fill a decomposition nature niche. 

In the woods, fall leaves will mostly disappear by early summer of the following year. Eastern Towhees among other birds flip woodland leaves when searching for insects. Towhees somewhat resemble robins. Their sides are orange but their central belly is white. They have black hoods and backs with some white flashes instead of a robin’s gray. Birds searching for food adds beauty to yards and forest but many migrate as fall advances.

Some leaves decompose more rapidly and provide better soil conditioner. Maple, ash, and apple leaves make better mulch than oak leaves. 

I allow a layer of leaves to remain under the sugar maple where grass does not thrive in deep shade. In the spring a carpet of violets make their way through dead leaves to green the ground three inches tall. Near the maple is a balsam fir that provides an evergreen shelter for birds all winter. Maple leaves have blown under the fir branches that hug the ground. There a towhee actively feeds during spring, summer and fall. 

Beyond the reaches of the maple tree’s canopy, leaves fall on the lawn and are moved to a compost pile. Some are mulched with the mower to feed the lawn before they get too thick. Small pieces do not smother grass. 

Green material like corn husks, apple cores, grape stems, and other kitchen vegetative waste promote compost decomposition. Create sections for a compost pile so one area is more decomposed and ready for use sooner. 

Compost used in vegetable and flower gardens improves soil nutrients, soil moisture, and maintains healthier soil temperature that reduces plant stress. It creates habitat for beneficial fungi, bacteria, insects, worms, and small wildlife. Compost does not release air pollutants hazardous to our health like burning leaves that reach deep into lung tissue, cause coughing, wheezing, chest pain, shortness of breath and sometimes long-term respiratory problems. 

At Ody Brook we work to maintain open field areas for sun-loving field plants, butterflies, and field birds. Removed shrub and tree stems are used to create carefully designed brush piles used by rabbits, birds, and other animals. For slow decomposition about 15 brush piles are scattered in the forest near cleared field areas. 

Burning leaves is not a best practice for our health or nutrient recycling. It is faster than allowing nature to go about its recycling business but it rapidly releases pollutants. Make a compost pile instead to benefit you, your gardens, and a healthy environment. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Deer movement studies provide insight into CWD spread

By Emma Kukuk, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

As part of its initial chronic wasting disease response plan, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources conducted a deer abundance survey of free-ranging deer in the southern part of the state.

Since wildlife researchers first detected chronic wasting disease in Colorado in the 1960s, it has emerged as a growing concern for the nation’s wildlife agencies and hunters. 

The disease is a fatal nervous system malady found in animals from the Cervidae family, which includes deer, moose and elk. It attacks the brain of infected animals, creating small lesions. There is no cure for CWD; it is 100 percent fatal in all animals that contract it.

Though the disorder affects several species, its impact on deer is of special concern. In states where CWD is established, it diminishes the health of deer and causes long-term population decline. 

In Michigan, this disease challenges not only the foundation of wildlife conservation, but the state’s long-standing hunting traditions.

Wildlife agencies investigating CWD have found that deer movement is key to disease spread. Understanding deer movement is therefore vital to making the most of CWD management strategies.

Deer movement and abundance can influence several factors contributing to CWD’s spread, such as the probability of the disease occurring, contact rates, transmission rates and the geographic extent of an outbreak. 

To better understand how this disease may be disseminated by deer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been conducting deer movement studies in CWD-affected areas in the state’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.

These studies are critical for the development of management efforts to help curb the effects of the disease. 

CWD in the Lower Peninsula

Understanding how deer move in a suburban environment helps the Michigan Department of Natural Resources create management plans to curb the effects of chronic wasting disease in those areas.

In 2015, when the state’s first CWD-positive free-ranging deer was found in mid-Michigan’s Ingham County. The DNR implemented a surveillance and response plan it had developed in 2002 (and updated in 2012) in anticipation of the disease being detected.

The response team conducted a survey of deer abundance in the area where the CWD-positive deer was found, identified the physical range of a core CWD area and CWD management zone, and collaborated with Michigan State University to design a study to track the movements and survival rates of deer in south-central Michigan. 

The Lower Peninsula deer management study, conducted by the Boone and Crockett Quantitative Wildlife Center at MSU, and funded by the DNR and other partners, is based on some unique geographical components of the initial detection of CWD in Michigan.

Though there have been more than 120 confirmed cases of the disease in free-ranging deer in Michigan since the disease was first found here, the initial nine cases discovered occurred within a relatively concentrated area in the central part of the state.

The initial detection of the disease in Michigan also was unique in that, when it was found in Meridian Township, a Lansing suburb, it marked the first time a state had identified the initial cases of the disease from a more suburban environment, rather than a rural area.

Along with responding to CWD in an area of greater human development comes the increased need to understand how deer movements in these areas differ from rural areas, and how human development influences deer behavior, space use and selected habitat.

These factors influence how disease may spread across the landscape. Understanding how deer behavior differs between urban and rural areas is important for developing informed CWD management strategies. 

The study area covers a diverse swath of terrain–from suburban neighborhoods to extensive agricultural land. 

Jonathan Trudeau, a doctoral student in fisheries and wildlife at MSU, is on the research team heading up the study in the Lower Peninsula. He explained that, because Michigan’s landscape is varied, deer in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula likely don’t behave in the same manner as deer in the western and central Upper Peninsula.

“We’re collecting data on deer across this developmental gradient, which really hasn’t been done before,” Trudeau said. “The factors that influence the spread of the disease are likely very different than those in the U.P.”

The MSU research team is looking particularly at how far and how frequently deer in these suburban environments disperse–meaning that they permanently move from one area to another–and whether certain habitat structures or landscape features facilitate or hinder those types of movements.

Long-distance movements have the potential to drastically impact the spread of CWD across a broad landscape, but researchers aren’t just looking at long-distance or long-term movements.

Short-term movements, called excursions, also can influence the potential spread of CWD. These excursions are temporary movements outside of the deer’s typical range.

“We’ve had some deer go 18 miles there and back within a nine-day period, with pretty much every (sex and age) demographic of the population making these excursions,” Trudeau said.

While excursions like these seem relatively harmless, deer may be exposed to chronic wasting disease during these short trips by encountering infected deer or contaminated environments. CWD-positive deer also may make these excursions and expose other deer to the disease.

“One really nice thing about the project is that we’re looking at CWD and disease spread in this multifaceted manner,” said Trudeau. “We’re not only looking at how deer move and interact with their environment, but also how different management strategies impact the spread of disease and how to predict where it may ‘spark up.’”

Identifying the portion of the deer population most likely to make long-distance movements helps wildlife managers determine where best to focus management efforts. These data give important insight into how deer move in and around human development and how that activity affects CWD transmission. 

Next week: Deer movement in the Upper Peninsula

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Migration starvation

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Recent migrants passing through Ody Brook include Hermit Thrush, Common Raven, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Two Dark-eyed Juncos (Slate-colored) arrived on October 16 and they might stay for the winter. I have been looking for species that migrate here from northern areas to claim the sanctuary as a winter residence. 

Many birds that spend the breeding season here have left for southern areas where food will be available to sustain them until next year’s breeding season. Some require active insects for their diet. Recently I saw an American Robin in the Big Field that appeared to have difficulty flying. Its right wing appeared to have a problem. As I walked on Ody Brook Trail, it flew about 50 feet at a time and worked its way into the big woods. 

Other robins migrated and left this one behind. Unless it finds a swamp rich with berries, it will likely perish unless it recovers from its wing problem. I found a Rusty Blackbird by one of our ponds with a broken wing. It was able to hop about and feed during the fall but once winter set in, I am sure it starved. The flock of Rusty Blackbirds continued migration without the bird. 

Witnessing isolated problems for birds occurs but we do not see those that starve during long migration flights. Frequently published are bird deaths caused by things we can prevent but starvation hazards birds encounter in route to a winter residence are seldom mentioned. 

A major cause of bird deaths is a result of domestic cat predators, collision with windows, and genetically modified seeds with herbicide tolerance. The genetically modified seeds can grow in fields where herbicide use is increased. Wild plants in crop fields and surrounding edges are killed. Fewer wild plants reduces insect populations. Bird populations depending on insects are more likely to starve on migration.

The use of neonicotinoids have raised concerns regarding adverse ecological effects, including honey-bee colony collapse disorder and of loss of birds due to a reduction in insect populations. Studies indicate there has been a nearly 50 percent reduction in insect populations since 1976. There are many causes for the reduction and it is not responsible to place the reduction completely on crop ready herbicides or the use of neonicotinoids. 

I mentioned in last week’s article that manicured lawn proliferation and wild habitat reduction for agriculture are likely major sources for insect and bird deaths. We can do some things that help birds by allowing portions of our yards to support native plants. This will support native insects that support migrating birds. 

Think beyond wildflowers. Without changing ordinances in some communities, people are not allowed to grow fields of native flowers. Some regulations do not allow tall plants and require yards to be cut short. Neighbors often consider wildflowers weeds. My brother allows milkweeds to grow in his backyard to help Monarch butterflies. His neighbor wants them cut because he thinks they look ugly. He says the name indicates it is a weed. The neighbor does not want my brother helping Monarchs survive. Removing milkweeds will cause Monarchs to starve during the summer and result in a reduced population for the fall migration to Mexico. 

Planting native shrubs and trees is one way to help insect and bird populations increase. Some people think all insects bite people, spread diseases, or destroy desired plants. The dangerous Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) frightened many of us. It was a real life-threatening concern but such diseases are unusual. The few insects that cause such problems are the ones we notice. Most insects that inhabit native shrubs and trees go unnoticed by us but are food for insect and bird predators. They help prevent migration starvation.

I have seen 132 bird species at Ody Brook. Depending on the size of your yard and how many native species you allow, will determine the number of birds that will share your property with you. Help reduce migration starvation by having a nature niche friendly landscape. Many ornamental plants do not support insects and birds. They are often quite beautiful, so plant some, but also maintain native plants to enrich your yard health. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Bat Week, Oct. 24-31, a great time to explore bat benefits

Close-up view of bats at the Tippy Dam bat hibernaculum in Brethren, Michigan. Learn more about this important wildlife species at Michigan.gov/Bats or the international Bat Week celebration Oct. 24-31 at BatWeek.org.

Whether people find bats spooky or spectacular—or both—there’s no denying that these amazing mammals are an important part of the Michigan landscape. Bat Week, Oct. 24-31, an international annual celebration designed to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation, is the perfect time to examine their many contributions.

Michigan is home to nine different bat species. These insectivores eat many insect pests, such as beetles, moths and flies. Michigan’s bats are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night, busily consuming tons of insects, which provides nontoxic pest control for agricultural crops.

Despite their benefits, bats are in decline nearly everywhere they are found.

In 2014, white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease affecting North American bats primarily during hibernation, was confirmed in Michigan. Infected bats prematurely awaken from hibernation, rapidly deplete their fat reserves and are unable to survive the winter. Bats with this syndrome often exhibit unusual behavior, like flying during daylight hours or gathering outside of caves in cold weather.

The DNR has been working with several researchers on different methods to lessen the effects of white-nose syndrome and protect many of the state’s hibernacula   places like caves or mines where bats seek shelter for winter hibernation.

Residents can give bats a boost, too, by conserving bat habitat (like forested areas near water), erecting a bat house, respecting mine closures and following decontamination guidelines to reduce the spread of white-nose syndrome.

Bats, like all wild animals, should be treated with respect and left alone. However, in situations where a bat has been in close contact with people, it’s best to safely confine the bat, if possible, and contact the local health department to determine if the bat should be tested for rabies. Learn more at Michigan.gov/Rabies.

Explore more bat resources and information at Michigan.gov/Bats.

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division, 517-284-9453.

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Lake Michigan to get nearly 30% more chinook salmon

A man fishing for chinook salmon on Lake Michigan in 2018 clearly is pleased with his catch! Anglers will get more opportunity to fish for this species in 2020, when the Michigan DNR ups the chinook stocking numbers by nearly 30 percent—jumping from just over 500,000 fish to 654,000 next year.

Starting next year, Michigan plans to increase chinook salmon stocking by 150,000, increasing the total statewide stocking from 504,000 to 654,000 fish. This move is in response to a recent recommendation of the Lake Michigan Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee to boost lakewide stocking levels.

“The Lake Michigan predator and prey balance has improved in recent years,” said Jay Wesley, the DNR’s Lake Michigan Basin coordinator. “The size of the salmon has also improved, with hundreds weighing more than 30 pounds caught at multiple ports.”

This marks the first salmon-stocking increase in Lake Michigan since 1999. The committee has worked continuously with stakeholders and resource agencies around the lake to bring balance to its ecosystem.

“Although some anglers would prefer a larger stocking increase, biologists are still concerned with the uncertainty of alewife year-class strength and how much wild reproduction of salmon to expect,” Wesley said. “Alewife are the main diet of chinook salmon.”

The Lake Michigan Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee and the DNR will continue to monitor Lake Michigan conditions and adjust stocking accordingly to sustain a healthy, diverse salmon and trout fishery. Visit Michigan.gov/Fishing to learn more about how the DNR manages the state’s fisheries.

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Bird and Insect Reductions

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

An article in last week’s Rockford Squire stated there has been a massive reduction in bird populations since 1970. We have witnessed a 25 percent reduction for most bird populations. Studies indicate insect populations have declined by 46 since 1976. The bird study stated the largest factor causing declines is likely widespread loss and degradation of habitat due to agricultural intensification and urbanization. 

It avoided stating the continuous growth of the human population from 3 billion to more than 7 billion since 1970 drives agricultural intensification and urbanization. Increasing human numbers drive increased agricultural use of land and the elimination of critical habitat essential for other life forms to survive.   

I previously wrote we could reduce the human population by 40 percent by waiting to bear children until we are about 33 years old. That would result in three generations being alive at once instead of five generations when we start families at age 20. That strategy does not include other population control methods. 

My sister-in-law finds it humorous that I advocate having two child families because I am a third child. If we use modern science to extend lives, we should also use acceptable methods that result in smaller family sizes to prevent excessive population growth. There was a time when families having 7 kids lost many before they reached adulthood. With vaccines and other life prolonging procedures, most of our children survive. That is good. The drawback is that we have not adjusted our procreation behavior to limit family size.

My sister-in-law also finds it interesting that I question whether I should be kept alive. Without modern medicine, it is likely I would have died by age 50 from multiple myeloma cancer. When diagnosed with the cancer at age 47, survival statistics indicated one to three years survival. I am now working on surviving year 22 with weekly cancer control advances. If we do not limit family size that pushes other life forms off the planet, should medicines be used to keep me alive? Balancing natality and mortality is important.

I am pleased to live to help other life forms. I tithe about 85 percent of Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary to enhance biodiversity to help insects, birds, plants, and a multitude of life. Groomed lawns do not support a large variety life. The yard around our home supports wildflowers and I mow infrequently to enhance biodiversity.

I frequently encourage nature niche readers to reduce lawns and maximize native plants that support insect populations so they can recover from the 46 percent reduction since I was 20 years old. Increased insect populations are essential for helping bird species recoup their population numbers. Such activities are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable best practices that protect future human generations.

President Trump gutting the Clean Water, Clear Air, and Endangered Species Acts is partly an effort to make it easier to eliminate natural habitats for human use. It makes sense if the goal is to continue to increase the human population for a short period rather than support a smaller sustainable population for thousands of years. 

I have a relative that thinks humans will not survive more than another 50 years. I think he is wrong. I encourage people to live in a manner that will support our species survival for tens of thousands of years. That demands “Creation Care” to maintain other life forms that ensure healthy ecosystems support our needs. 

I advocate a minimum of ten percent of all habitats be preserved as wilderness to allow species to maintain healthy populations and continue their vital functions. A way we can set aside 10 percent of all habitats to maintain global biodiversity is to limit our population size. Resource utilization is a function of population size. 

The fundamental question is, should I be kept alive or let the cancer take me if we are not willing to limit our population growth? Such questions and discussions are side stepped in articles like printed in last week’s Squire about bird population size reductions. Act now to return portions of our yards to native species.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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