Volunteers have improved over 150 acres of snowshoe hare habitat in various locations throughout the Grayling State Forest with MUCC’s On the Ground program over the last three years. In January 2018, OTG will host the fourth snowshoe hare habitat improvement project in collaboration with the areas DNR Wildlife Biologist, Brian Piccolo and DNR Wildlife Technician, Tim Riley. Over 600 trees have been cut to provide horizontal cover for the hares in these areas. Piccolo and Riley scout out a large, mixed-conifer swamp to complete the habitat work in because this area provides ideal cover and is surrounded by aspen trees- a preferred food source for hares.
In an interview with Bob Gwizdz during the January 2015 event, Piccolo stated “When we think of doing habitat work in an area, we make sure we are covering multiple needs for that species, specifically making sure food and cover are available. These mixed-conifer swamps with nearby aspen are where most snowshoe hares concentrate and where we can have the biggest positive impact on the species.” Tree species such as black spruce, balsam fir, and occasional cedars are targeted because their branches are dense and brushy, providing ideal cover for the hares.
The DNR has identified snowshoe hares as a featured species, an animal that is highly valued but is limited by habitat. Although habitat is just one of a number of different factors that affect survival, the lack of habitat is the primary cause of wildlife declines worldwide.
The horizontal cover being restored along the outer edges of the stand and in any gap areas will benefit the hares the most since that is where they are likely traveling to adjacent aspen stands to browse on any buds or foliage. The interior of the stand is already providing fairly dense cover with the canopy alone. Volunteers at these habitat events start the day at the Grayling State Forest Field Office at which Piccolo and Riley go over the project location, hinge-cutting technique, safety, and split volunteers into groups appointed to specific locations. It’s all habitat work from there on out.
If you would like to be involved this event or others with MUCC’s On the Ground Program, please RSVP for the event listed at www.mucc.org/on-the-ground.
MUCC’s On The Ground Program is supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division