Jason Keller, Lake County wildlife officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, January 17, 2012: “Standing on the edge of a healthy wooded area, we should be able to see no more than 10-15 yards into the woods. “
MENTOR MARSH IN MENTOR HEADLANDS
Aerial Survey: 33 deer/sq mi Recommended: 10-15 deer/sq mi Deer have about a 300% survival advantage over the survival of the area’s natural habitat
This is a photo of a deer exclosure in the Mentor Marsh. A deer exclosure is an area fenced in with tall fencing to keep deer out for the purpose of determining what effect the deer are having on the natural habitat of an area.
Becky Donaldson, Marsh Naturalist, and I studied the 50’ x 50’ foot deer exclosure on the Marsh Zimmerman Trail last spring. We focused on an 8-foot wide swath running inside one 50’ side of the exclosure and counted the seedlings and wild flowers within the swath.
The seedlings we found within that 400 sq ft of the exclosure:
5 Sugar Maple
1 Red Maple
2 Red Oak
The seedlings we counted within the 400 sq ft adjacent to the 400 sq feet we’d examined within the exclosure:
5 Beech, badly chomped down by deer. That’s all. The deer had destroyed all other seedlings.
The wildflowers found within the 8-running-feet inside the exclosure:
Copious amounts of White Trillium, Wake Robin and Trout Lilies with sprinklings of Yellow Mandarin, Spring Beauty, Cut-leaf Toothwort and Purple Cress.
Wildflowers outside the exclosure? Nada. Just clumps of Ramps.
As a matter of ugly fact, nowhere in the 800+ acres of Mentor Marsh will you find Trillium or the lovely Wake Robin except within the 2500 sq. ft. of the exclosure. Elsewhere, deer have chewed them into near-extinction.
Becky and I counted 5 deer during our walk.
VETERANS PARK IN MENTOR
Aerial Survey: Between 70-230 deer/sq mi, average of 120 deer/sq mi Recommended: 10-15 deer/sq mi Deer have about a 1000% survival advantage over the survival of the area’s natural habitat
My hiking buddy (buddies don’t let buddies veg out on a couch) and I walked through Veterans Park last spring and saw a floor similar to that of the wooded section of the Mentor Marsh: a monoculture of skunk cabbage in some places; a monoculture of fern in other places. There are no wildflowers of significant number blooming anywhere in Veterans Park.
It’s very different from the variety of wildflowers I saw in Veterans Park just 15 years ago when I first moved back to Mentor from Concord.
I took the above photo from Hopkins Rd looking west into the park. The section is bare of seedlings and saplings and lower branches on the mature trees. There are no wildflowers of significance blooming on the wood’s floor.
That’s why you can see clear through to the parking lot from Hopkins Road.
The absence of lower branches on the mature trees means that there is no habitat for birds that nest in those low branches. When’s the last time you saw an Indigo Bunting in Mentor?
Without thriving seedlings and saplings, in 50 years, when the mature trees die off, there won’t be any woods, any park. Maybe a baseball field.
Or perhaps we’ll have Veterans Meadow.
And the Mentor Lagoons? Another Paradise Lost.
We counted 11 deer on our walk.
NORTH CHAGRIN RESERVATION IN WILLOUGHBY HILLS
Aerial Survey: See below Recommended: 5-20 deer/sq mi
I took this photo on the edge of the woods in North Chagrin Reservation. I couldn’t see into the woods beyond Jason Keller’s recommended 10-15 yards.
Notice the mixture of seedlings, saplings and mature trees. This is a healthy forest.
Why? Because Cleveland Metroparks has been culling deer for 15 years.
In 1978 they began exhaustive studies of what and how much deer were eating and the resultant damage to parks’ areas. By 1998, Metroparks had determined deer density varied from 49-125 per square mile. Their goal was to reduce deer density to about 20 per square mile and to 5 per square mile where damage was severe.
We are all the beneficiaries of Cleveland Metroparks’ stewardship of their parks. My hiking buddy and I saw an abundance of Trillium and Wake Robin scattered throughout the park and blankets of Quaker Lace in sunnier sections. We also saw Wild Phlox, Wild Geranium, Colt’s Feet, Pussytoes, Jack in the Pulpits, Yellow Violets, Purple Violets, Spring Beauties and about a dozen flowers we couldn’t identify.
Not surprisingly, we didn’t see any deer in North Chagrin. Only their tracks and droppings here and there. Interestingly, I’ve never heard anyone in the area complain that there weren’t enough deer around.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words aren’t adequate to describe the beauty of North Chagrin and the poverty of Veterans Park and the Mentor Marsh.
Go see for yourselves.
And then let’s DO something to restore the beauty of our natural areas in Mentor, Mentor Headlands, and Mentor-on-the-Lake.
We can take the first step by appearing at the deer population Mentor City Council Work Sessions scheduled for January 31st and February 7th, 5:30 PM, City Hall, third floor in Council Chambers.
We can listen to what the experts have to say and then make sure our city government listens to what we have to say.