Archive for October, 2011
THE BEST ARTICLE ON THE DEER CHALLENGE I HAVE EVER FOUND!
Brenda Jones: Deer with Fawn in Springtime
NJ WILD readers know I am blessed with fellow nature lovers who also take to the page and the internet to share discoveries. Steve Hiltner of Friends of Princeton Open Space is key among them. Also a vibrant jazz musician — hear him anywhere you can with his Sustainable Jazz Ensemble, Steve often leads nature walks everywhere interesting in Princeton. I have joined him in settings I’ve known since moving here in 1968, to discover settings, scenes, species and nature facts new to me, but not to gentle teacher, Steve.
He’s been kind enough to allow us to post his long-studied piece on deer management, which appeared in the Packet Publications this month (October, 2011). I am honored, and you will be as enlightened among his paragraphs as I am among familiar Princeton greenery with Steve heading the group.
MEANWHILE REMEMBER, DEER ARE IN RUT IN ALL MONTHS WITH ‘R’ IN THEM - EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED, WHERE DEER ARE CONCERNED. I was shown yesterday, as frenzied squirrels zig-zagged across #206 in morning’s Rush Hour:
“Ah!, when squirrels are crazy (for nuts), deer are crazier (rut). REMEMBER
Squirrel With Nesting Material: Brenda Jones
Here is everything you always wanted to know about the effects of deer management on nature in general and Princeton in particular, thanks to Steve:
Princeton’s Deer Harvest
DEER HARVEST RESTORING SOME BALANCE
At a time when America, both nationally and locally, is often paralyzed by division, it’s worth taking a look at instances where divisiveness was overcome and an effective policy was carried out. One program that has managed to successfully navigate Princeton’s opinion-filled waters is the township’s management of the deer herd.
When I moved to Princeton in 2003, deer were a common sight, even in the borough. Casually crossing the street in front of us as we walked to my daughter’s daycare, they were like rogue landscape crews making unsolicited house calls. Given enough time, they might have evolved bricklike patterns on their fur, the better to fit in while feasting on foundation plantings.
The next year, we were both flattered and dismayed to find them making frequent visits to our backyard on busy Harrison Street. Some had what appeared to be earrings, which we later learned were identification cards for an experimental contraception program. It seemed appropriate that Princeton deer should have special ornament.
Doe of Evening: Brenda Jones
There was pleasure in having such beautiful, iconic creatures walk among us, but the downsides had begun accumulating with the deer. Township records extend back nearly 40 years, and show a steady increase in deer-automobile collisions. 33 roadkill in 1972 grew to 342 in 2000. Incidents of Lyme disease, which deer help to spread, were increasing dramatically statewide.
A common explanation for increases in deer numbers is that land development is displacing them. “They have nowhere else to go,” one often hears, as if deer numbers would naturally stabilize if only development were stopped. But several factors undermine this explanation, one being simple mathematics. A doe can bear two young each year under favorable conditions. The suburban landscape, moreover, is not the habitat of last resort, but in fact serves the deer well, offering abundant edge habitat and evergreen shrubs to eat through the winter.
Deer become numerous because we have long since banished predators like wolves and cougars that once kept deer numbers in ecological balance. The consequences of this lack of checks and balances go beyond the most common grievances about increased collisions, disease, and garden depredation.
Ask land stewards what the biggest threat to biodiversity is in New Jersey, and the typical answer will be deer. Though habitat fragmentation, invasive species and historical factors like plowing all play a role, it is the capacity of overabundant deer to collectively decimate native plant species that has greatly reduced the ecological functionality, and beauty, of our woodlands. Deer literally eat the forest’s future, be it tree seedlings or wildflowers attempting to form seeds.
The void in the woods left by deer’s preferential consumption of native plants has been filled by largely inedible exotic invasive species, greatly diminishing food options for wildlife.
Having removed the predators that historically kept deer numbers in balance, we are left with the responsibility to step up and fill that lost link in the foodchain. Hunting is the usual approach, but though hunters were taking more than 200 deer each year by 2000, Princeton’s deer herd was still growing. The township finally made the controversial decision to hire professionals to increase the annual harvest. The increased killing, particularly the net and bolt technique used where proximity to neighborhoods precluded sharpshooting, elicited some passionate protests covered by NPR and the New York Times. The township persevered, however, and after ten years of professional deer management it’s possible to assess the results.
Most notably, consistent governmental action has led to reduced overall killing of deer. In the last year before professionals were hired, traffic accidents and hunting killed 555 deer. Over the next ten years, the combined annual total of hunting, professional culling and traffic accidents steadily declined to 290 in 2010. The annual cost of hiring professionals also declined as the deer herd was brought down to more ecologically healthy numbers.
As deer numbers have declined, Princeton’s open spaces have undergone a botanical and ecological renaissance of sorts. Native shrubs like spicebush, previously gnawed to the ground, have rebounded to once again provide food and cover for migratory and nesting birds. Wildflower species that had all but disappeared from our woods are now reappearing.
After 2010, the township ended the professional culling for one year to see if bow hunting alone could control the deer herd. The results were disappointing, with deer numbers quickly rising. The option of contraception, still discussed, has proven expensive and impractical, particularly given state regulations.
Fawn at Hobler Park: Brenda Jones
This year, professional management will resume. The cost, around $60,000, can be thought of as the cost of ecological services formally provided for free by natural predators. It is also one of the ongoing costs of protecting Princeton’s substantial investment in open space. The harvested deer are donated to local food kitchens, where the meat can be eaten knowing that the deer lived a better, free-range life than any cow or chicken for sale at the local grocery store. What little health data I was able to find show a significant drop in Lyme disease in Princeton, contrasting with increasing rates elsewhere. And while dissent can help insure that the harvest is as safe and humane as possible, Princeton can look with some satisfaction at having collectively and effectively confronted a problem that was collectively created.
Autumn 2011 Titusville Bridge, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers may or may not know that my favorite season is autumn.
Even this year, when that segment of the year holds my hip replacement in the wings… the miracle which will ultimately return me to the trails and to the kayak, where I belong.
But this autumn, in New Jersey, is bare, barren and sere.
Leaves did not turn color - not even poison ivy, woodbine or wild grape. The more or less tarnished, and wild winds took care of most - whatever hue.
I’m asking and asking, “Without color, how do we know it’s autumn?”
In my Michigan childhood, we never had that color problem. Sugar maples were the flags of fall, on every side, not only in the kaleidoscopic autumn forests of northern Michigan.
Even so, it was never autumn until our mother read us the following poem. What is autumn to you, Dear Readers? What WAS autumn, in your childhood, wherever…?
TO BE READ ALOUD, preferably to children…
When the Frost Is On the Punkin
James Whitcomb Riley
My dear NJ WILD readers know that I spend my weekdays at D&R Greenway, helping to call attention to the importance and urgency of saving nature in New Jersey.
One of our key programs is, somewhat uniquely, art in the service of preservation.
Our new Curator, Diana Moore, is a legend in her own time. She has gathered stunning images, particularly oil paintings by Joe Kazimierczyk and photographs by Vladimir Voyevodsky of the Institute for Advance Study, for the show opening Monday, October 24, through December 2. Walking through the Upmeyer Room, arrayed with Joe’s scenes of lands we’ve preserved, is like a stroll in the forest, even when it’s pouring outside. The Voyevodsky (iconic Institute mathematician) images of birds and animals of the Institute Woods leave me as weak in the knees as a day in the Brigantine (Wildlife Refuge, near Smithville).
Our Brenda Jones has four splendid photographs in the key position of the Evelyne V. Johnson Room, three of which include natural materials spilling from image over mat. Al Barker of Bordentown has works which stun, not only for their luminous precision, but for their exceeding low price as a favor to us. His work normally sells in the four-figure range.
The Art Opening is November 6, Sunday, from 4 - 6. As you will see, all are welcome and these festive receptions are always free.
The art may be seen business hours of business days at One Preservation Place, off Rosedale Road.
All art is for sale, 35% supporting our preservation and stewardship mission.
Please come see the art, and experience our 1900 barn, which belonged to Robert Wood Johnson.
Now it is a focus of art and preservation!
Canal and Alexander Road Bridge from Kayak - cfe
NJ WILD readers are well aware that I could wear a bumper sticker upon my being:
“I’D RATHER BE KAYAKING”.
And my site of choice, of course, is the D&R Canal.
What most of you do not know, however, is that I haven’t been in a kayak this year. On November 9, I’ll will be having replaced this hip that won’t allow me to enter nor exit (thought I could paddle forever!) a kayak. Hence, so few outdoor experiences in recent months. It’s nearly over.
Meanwhile, I send you this poem, written after a day of doing what I love best.
KAYAK FOR ME!
Blessings to all, Carolyn
The latest I was ever in a kayak was November 23 - there’s plenty of time for YOU!
Thoreau upon the Merrimack
it’s 3 p.m. and a Friday
I’m stroking with urgency
within my red kayak
upon the placid waters
of the Delaware & Raritan Canal
they let us out early on Fridays
from profane corporate halls
to honor summer weekends
but I honor Henry Thoreau
who counted the day lost
when he did not spend several hours
sometimes taking to his canoe
for day after endless northern days
I envy him both boat and brother
time, and strong arms for rowing
upriver all the way
from Concord to Concord
but most of all, I covet
his finding a “foundation
of an Indian wigwam
– perfect circle, burnt stones
bones of small animals
– here, there, the Indians
must have fished”
in my life at its best
I row with Thoreau
GREEN HERON, Brenda Jones
This bird adorned hats in the 1800s, before women began writing to honor & protect birds
Horoscopes for ‘my sign’ read, “A Sagittarian is either traveling or reading about it.”
We could personalize mine with equal intensity and possibly even more truth, “A Sagittarian is either birding or reading about it.”
Fall Migration, Geese Pass Moon, by Brenda Jones
Most people think migration season is only just starting. But many a species flew south even in what humans consider the height of summer. Birds leave according to photoperiod changes (amount of light per day). I am convinced that some, –purple martins for example–, speed up departure when their sensitive inner barometers register a hurricane in the wings.
Some people wait for migration to come to them. When I’m not watching migrants, I’m reading about it. Writers in one of the books I’ve borrowed from the D&R Greenway Land Trust nature library is Birdwatching With American Women, go seeking birds year-’round, globe-’round. Published by W. W. Norton in 1986, this lively volume is a compilation by Hopewell Editor, Deborah Strom, of first-person mostly non-fiction accounts of birding in America by women of enormous courage. The book opens with Olive Thorne Miller, born in 1831. Early images reveal that fashionistas of those years paraded Fifth Avenue and the like beneath hats adorned not only with feathers but with entire birds, many of them today’s rarities.
Pileated Woodpecker, Brenda Jones
Hat Adornment, 1800s
The editor includes (American Museum of Natural History Curator of Birds) Frank Chapman’s list of the species identified upon the heads of New York women on one day in 1886. The tragic tally includes brown thrasher, northern shrike, snow bunting, blackburnian warbler, assorted grebes and the green heron, saw whet owls and prairie hens. Quantities stun - such as sixteen bob-white, and twenty-one common terns.
Most sought-after Hat Decoration - Great Egrets, Brenda Jones
Most people realize it was the women who turned this ‘fashion’ tide, including (though not mentioned here) Lucy Audubon, wife of John James (not only our premier bird artist and early author, but also the man who invented banding at his exquisite home near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania.) At the mansion, in an upstairs room, to this day, visitors can see bird-bedecked hats catching late sunrays above Mill Grove’s fields, where John James found (and yes, shot) his specimens.
Most of the authors in this book adhere to journaling, with increasing scientific expertise, and legendary fortitude in the face of enormous extremes of terrain and weather.
Some, such as a favorite, Gene Stratton Porter, of Girl of the Limberlost fame, made her mark in fiction. Lines from her first best-seller, Freckles, say everything about why I keep urging NJ WILD readers to get out in the wild, see and save birds and their habitat:
“Nature can be trusted to work her own miracle of the heart of any [person] whose daily tasks keep him alone among her sights, sounds and silences.”
Short-eared Owl, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
“The Sound of Silence”
The solitude some of these women endured, even relished, is simply astonishing. They ‘hang out’ in the most remote stretches of the United States and Canada, making their way on foot and by canoe and occasionally by buffeted fishing boat in all seasons, all weather. I find this especially riveting, reading of their explorations and exploits with hurricanes in the wings and the closing of Canal Road (yet again!) already announced…
Some of these essays are simply prophetic: “in 1895, Anna Comstock was named to the Committee for the Promotion of Agriculture… sponsored by philanthropists concerned about the agricultural depression and consequent migration to cities. Nature study was viewed as a means to reintroduce children to the world of the outdoors.”
Doe With Fawn, Brenda Jones
“…introduce children to the world of the outdoors…”
The editor goes on to reveal that “the nature study movement petered out during the [Great] Depression and has never been revived. Do children today study birds in school, go for nature walks with their teachers, or grow vegetables in the schoolyard? The computer has replaced nature in the classroom. Anna Comstock would be horrified.”
Home-Grown Blessings of New Jersey, cfe
Thanks to Richard Louv and Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, however, nature is again tiptoeing into the classroom, and children are weaving vegetable planning, planting, growth and harvest into the entire array of their school subjects. Editor Strom penned her piquant question, above, back in 1986…
Louise De Kiriline Lawrence writes about the importance of nature in general, and birds in particular, to herself and to her husband, Len:
“Suddenly, a glimmer of better understanding came to me about the real meaning of the land that we had striven to possess for the realization of a dream, rather than as an end. It was real and this was the main point… The stars that penetrated the darkness of space were real, not just distant glitter. The shimmering snow sparkle was real, not tinsel. The bird was real, not an imitation nor a falsehood. The winter’s hard labor we had just experienced was performed for a real purpose, not just for gain. It had a salubrious effect upon our bodies and our minds. I had to do with life, — real life. It had to do with survival… Here, in our own wilderness, with its essence of actuality, we had a marvelous chance to probe into the meanings of this saner kind of life with its purer values.”
Louise Lawrence had been born in 1894. Even in her own lifetime, she and her husband were longing for “the saner life, with its own purer values.”
In today’s books and magazines of nature, I read similar longings.
In my experience, the only way to assure saner and healthier lives, purer values, for adults and children, for men and women, and YES, and BIRDS — is to preserve open land, preserve habitat.
What have you done for OPEN SPACE lately?
Pine Barrens Wild Water, cfe
It won’t surprise NJ WILD readers that, for this reader/writer, there is no such thing as too many nature books. The best gift yet arrived last week from sensitive friends, another book case… Most of the ones in my home, however, I have read and re-read, highlighted, underlined, quoted and read again.
For all these full bookshelves, there are never enough nature books for yours truly. One of the nice things about working at D&R Greenway Land Trust is that we have a nature library upstairs. You might think I’ve devoured every page between covers on nature subjects, due to both passion for and insatiable curiosity about Mother Nature in all forms. However, in the course of filing new books in our D&R Greenway library, I discovered two that have nourished me in recent rainy times. One is a compilation of early writings by women on what was then called “Birdwatching.” Report on that experience to come…
A Place in the Woods, by Helen Hoover, was new to me, although I’d read her The Gift of the Deer in the early years of my long-ago marriage. Helen and her husband, “Ade”, “took to the woods” without so much as a wilderness survival course, and precious little familiarity with cooking. They lived there in all seasons between the years of 1966 and 1973. This was not simply Minnesota (whose bitter winters, one entire month without thermometer’s ever rising above ZERO, daunted me as a bride and new mother), but NORTHERNmost Minnesota.
Tantalizingly near to my beloved Lake Superior, these two spent little enough time in or on the lake, most of it in their log cabin and/or summer house, surrounded by towering evergreens. Everything seemed to go wrong, including a bear in the cellar on Helen’s first day alone in the house while Ade made his way to a remote town for mail.
Interestingly, their spirits rarely flagged and their love evidently increased. As did their competency.
Her husband’s pen-and-ink drawings recreate that rugged Eden, even in this, another century time. Helen herself was driven to begin writing articles and books because everyone they’d left behind with their sophisticated Chicago professions kept asking when they were coming home.
For the Hoovers, the woods were home. As for me, here in this Princeton woods, –mostly deciduous but some white pines–. Unlike Helen and Ade, I don’t need all my Tom Brown’s Tracker School skills in order to thrive.
Reading the words of Helen Hoover reminds me why I work for D&R Greenway and why I write these blogs for the Packet and Princeton Patch.
The author declares that their challenges, –especially in winter–, “brought us deep awareness of the strength and courage to be drawn from the steady renewal of the forest.”
Keep preserving New Jersey lands so that we, ourselves, in this region, in this state, may be steadily renewed.
Helen Hoover goes on to reveal [as NJ WILD readers know from earlier posts about, for example, the fox whose snow-tracks delighted me in the worst of last year's ceaseless blizzards,] “helped us understand, within our human limitations, the living creatures who shared the land with us.”
Helen Hoover evokes the past which NJ WILD readers are accustomed to hearing me lament: “In those early days before the power line, lights went out and boats came in early, so that summer nights belonged to the murmur of wind in the pines; the patter of rain; or the booming of thunder; the lonely, lovely voices of the loon.” Even in daunting northern Minnesota, there was quiet summer magic to remember and to miss.
In New Jersey, there are still places where quiet reigns. I write to you about them as often as I can: Salem and Cumberland counties, always; back-bay Cape May; anytime on the Towpath, especially south from Quaker Bridge Road and over toward the Brearley House. The Pine Barrens even on major Holidays. Island Beach, Sandy Hook, especially in but not limited to winter.
Keep on supporting your local land preservation organizations, so that pine-clad, sand-drifted, bird-shadowed, water-blessed New Jersey can continue to exist.
We don’t have to go to northernmost Minnesota to find the wild. We have it right here. PRESERVE IT!
Coursing Waters, Brenda Jones
The most impactful response I have seen to Hurricane Irene comes from Jim Waltman, Executive Director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. Since 1949, this farsighted, crusading organization has assiduously and effectively taught us about the power, importance and threatened condition of water in our region. They have taken giant steps at every possible level to safeguard our waterways.
Now, due to accelerated climate change, it could be seen as ironic that Jim has to teach us how to protect ourselves from water!
I wrote Jim Waltman, immediately upon seeing his “Lessons from Hurricane Irene” in a number of print publications. He graciously gave me permission to share it with NJ WILD readers here and abroad. At the last tally, people are reading of nature in our region in ninety countries. Jim and the Watershed Association are masters at communication, so it is an honor to be able to extend their reach somewhat on this urgent issue.
With Jim Waltman’s kind permission. [bolds mine cfe]
Your water. Your environment. Your voice.
Lessons from Hurricane Irene
A message from the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association
By: Jim Waltman, Executive Director
By any measure, Hurricane Irene was a monster. Like much of New Jersey, our watershed was hammered by rain, wind, power outages and flooding. Damages from flooding occurred in almost every corner of our 265-square-mile watershed, and in all 26 towns within our region of central New Jersey. The boroughs were hit particularly hard, with large portions of Manville, Millstone and Hightstown under literally feet of water.
The Millstone River and Stony Brook both reached all-time record high levels in various places, each merging with the Delaware & Raritan Canal for a portion of their journeys, and numerous lakes spilled over their banks. Our hearts go out to the thousands of people who lost property, businesses or, worst of all, loved ones in this storm.
Normal Autumn Waters, Brenda Jones
As we near the end of yet another wet week, those of us at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, central New Jersey’s first environmental group, feel an even greater than usual urgency.
While Hurricane Irene was a true “outlier,” –an enormous storm that would have caused massive flooding and damage no matter what we did to prevent it–, climate scientists are telling us that our region is most likely going to continue to get wetter and wetter (except of course during periods of prolonged drought, which are also likely to become more severe). This means that, –unless we change our mindset, behaviors and policies–, we may be living our future.
However, hope is not lost. Together we can make a difference:
First, we need to stop making the problem worse. Ill-conceived developments near streams and within wetlands, not only damage our supply of clean water and destroy important wildlife habitat, they also dramatically increase the risk of flood damage to homes and businesses.
‘Our’ Towpath After an August Deluge cfe
Since 1949, the Watershed Association has sought to reverse that tide. In Cranbury, we are working closely with the Township Committee, Planning Board and Environmental Commission to secure a new ordinance to prohibit new development and [prevent] the clearing of native vegetation near streams. We are working with Hopewell Township to secure a new ordinance to protect our forests, which help absorb and slowly release rain and snow, and hold soil in place with deep root systems that stabilize streambanks and reduce erosion.
We also need to recommit ourselves to preserving open space along stream corridors and steep slopes as a means of both reducing floodwaters and keeping people out of harm’s way from future Irenes.
Water Fury, Brenda Jones
Second, we need to start fixing the mistakes of the past. Developments built before any significant regulation to contain stormwater can be retrofitted to retain runoff and allow it to percolate into our water supply. For example, the redevelopment of the Princeton Junction train station in West Windsor offers the opportunity to fix flooding issues there caused by acres and acres of impervious paved parking.
Peaceful Skies, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association Trail Walk, cfe
In nearby Princeton we are working to investigate what can be done to reduce the flooding of Harry’s Brook. It’s not too late to correct past mistakes.
We also need to recognize that it makes sense to move or remove some structures that were built near water bodies and have been repeatedly damaged by flooding. The state’s “Blue Acres” program, a cousin of the more familiar Green Acres Program, provides funding to purchase such flood prone properties. With bold action, we can prevent unmitigated development from contaminating and depleting our surface and ground water, and creating additional flood hazards.
We wish those still suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Irene a quick and full recovery.
Interviews with Executive Director Jim Waltman are available upon request.
email@example.com to arrange an interview.
The Hobbit Tree - Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association Trail Walk cfe
The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is central New Jersey’s first environmental group, protecting clean water and the environment through conservation, advocacy, science and education.