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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Arb Notes

    <lass="MsoNormal">Many students going into the Arboretum consider it something of a place apart; a place where the human hustle-and-bustle of campus fades into the distance. It is easy to consider the Arb the preserve of plants and animals and forget the very large human presence there. The ease with which human activity is forgotten was demonstrated last Friday when, pointing to various places on a tree where the bark had been scraped away the Arboretum Director, Nancy Braker, asked a group of Naturalists “What animal made these?” the naturalists expressed confusion. “Ummm…,” said one, noticing the height at which the scrape marks ended on the tree “beavers don’t climb trees.” After receiving many wild suggestions Ms Braker finally said “I will give you a hint: they walk on two legs.” It turns out that the marks were made by humans. They were testament to the recent end of the deer hunting season and a particular kind of hunting stand called a “climber.”

    Hunting is one type of human presence in the Arb which sometimes gives rise to some skepticism. Many people find it difficult to understand why archery hunting is allowed in the Arb, a place which is dedicated to the preservation of natural habitats and species. However, deer hunting is by no means inconsistent with this goal. Although the deer is a beautiful animal and an important part of the ecosystem in Minnesota, its role has recently become imbalanced.

    The Deer population has exploded due, at least partially, to the impact of humans on the environment. Deer’s’ traditional predators, such as the wolf and the cougar, have been forced from the area while deer remain and multiply. In fact, deer often benefit from human settlement because agricultural fields provide a new ready source of food. The resulting deer overpopulation has negative affects on indigenous plant communities. By browsing on small woody plants, such as young trees and shrubs, deer can completely change the under story of a forest, which in turn affects the canopy when old trees die and are not replaced. Certain species of wildflowers and other types of forest groundcover are also reduced significantly as a result of deer overpopulation. The effect of deer overpopulation on plant communities can also have a detrimental affects to local animal populations. Birds used to nesting in a forest’s under story might no longer find proper nesting places because of deer’s impact.

    Not only is what deer eat significant, what deer do not eat also has an impact on the environment. Deer often avoid many types of invasive species, giving them an unfair competitive edge. Deer even foster the growth of those invasive species which they do eat because they suppress the growth of native plants with which the invasive species would otherwise have had to compete for space. Buckthorn and garlic mustard are two invasive species which spread into the niche deer have opened up among native communities and which pose an unending challenge to the Arboretum Crew involved in fighting their growth and spread. Archery hunting, as a carefully regulated method of thinning the deer population, aids the Arboretum in this struggle, as well as providing a welcome form of recreation for local people, as well as some Carleton students.

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