08-30-13 Field Note

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08-30-13 Field Note

August 30, 2013

Jeff Clarke's Field Note details stategies to limit ungulate browse, a dead procupine, and the removal of a new invader.

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08-30-13 Field Note by Jeff Clarke

In March, we erected a buck and rail fence (30+ sections) around an aspen grove adjacent to the river. This fence kept ungulates at bay, and the aspen trees had a brief chance to begin to grow root systems to stabilize the riverbank. This spring, we lost 2 1/2 feet of land when the roots were unable to hold back the Bitterroot River. The fence survived, but some spots flirted with disaster. This week, the crew pushed the fence back 3 feet.

Buck and rail fences keep most ungulates out. Hungry, pesky beavers can slip under the fence and wreak havoc! To keep these aspens alive, we will also add a beaver fence to the buck and rail’s base.

base. Elk damaged the metal exclosures that surround the alfalfa field by running into them at night. This week we fixed the broken exclosures and added one foot strips of house siding to the top of each exclosure to increase visibility. I checked on the exclosures 3 days later and not a single one is damaged. For the next month, I'll regularly monitor the state of these exclosures. I boosted the darkness in the bottom photo to represent night.

Elk consumed the wedge of crested wheatgrass adjacent to the alfalfa field. I’m not sure why elk would eat dry brown grass when lush green alfalfa grows a few feet away.

More elk arrive on the ranch every day. They have already figured out that we recontoured the steep slope in Tongue Creek.

The re-contoured slope that we seeded with a wildflower mix and covered with jute bloomed! In a quick survey, I counted at least 15 different flower species.

Here is a small representation of flowers that grow on the slope.

We erect more buck and rail fences to protect native trees. This fence wraps around the outside of an aspen grove in the Clubhouse Floodplain. Protected trees should expand outward from the forest’s edge.

edge. This unprotected chokecherry was a nice spot to for a buck to shed some velvet.

This spring we built two large metal exclosures on the North Floodplain to see what would grow without ungulate pressure. Several wild rose and cottonwoods have popped up. Ponderosa pine seedlings are nowhere to be found. I hypothesize that their seeds need a deeper duff layer to germinate. We will continue to monitor what saplings emerge.

Aspen and cottonwood saplings grow all over the north and south ends of Northern Floodplain. There are so many that the ungulates can’t browse them all. As a result, we have dense forests of 3-4 foot tall, browsed, trees. With a few years of protection, groves of 10 foot tall trees (background) could result.

I’m sad to say that a small porcupine perished inside one of the exclosures we built. I wonder if it was sleeping in a cottonwood hollow while we worked?

The botany crew discovered a yellow flag iris in the Clubhouse Floodplain. This flower is rhizomatous and extremely invasive. PW The field crew removed it right away!

Longnosed suckers help keep the Bitterroot River clean.

Recent Tasks Completed • Collect and release the rest of 5,000 weevils • Weed wh_a_ck koshia and other weeds • Assist MPGN for a week • Collect and clean seed • Remove invasive iris • Build buck and rail fences • Fix exclosures • Paint Orchard House • Cap re-barb • Mat experimental garden

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