Wildlife Wednesday: For Rabbitat, Bigger Is Better

Sarah Topp Sarah Topp
Another successful OTG event is in the books! This rabbitat event was split up into two phases at separate locations of the Fulton State Game Area.
The first weekend brought volunteers from areas near and far.  Returning volunteer, Emily Caretti, traveled over 140 miles from Warren to represent MTPCA and dedicate her Saturday to a hard day’s work of habitat improvement. From the Metro Detroit area, Adam Schroeder and Dustin Trotter represented Urban Redneck Archery by volunteering for wildlife.  From Galesburg, local high school student Noah Reifert volunteered for rabbitat in hopes of improving his hunting grounds.
Although there are various motivations for our volunteers to come out to OTG events, there was one common goal for this event; to construct large brush piles for rabbitat.  After hours of tough work moving and stacking large tree trunks and limbs, 8 truck-sized brush piles were constructed.
Boy Scouts work together to move trunks as big as they are to construct the base of the brush pile Boy Scouts work together to move trunks as big as they are to construct the base of the brush pile
Another Saturday calls for another OTG rabbitat event.  Again at the Fulton SGA, but a separate location from the previous weekend.  This project was coordinated primarily by high school sophomore Tyler Borden, along with DNR wildlife biologist Mark Mills and me, to complete one of his Eagle Scout project requirements. Tyler did a great job preparing his volunteers for the project; he adequately described the purpose of the brush piles for rabbitat and how they should be constructed.
In addition to a site visit weeks prior to the event, Tyler also went to the project site with his parents, Nancy and Kevin Borden, and a few others the evening before the project date and got a majority of the tree felling done to make the event go much smoother. I was very impressed with the work ethic of Tyler and his 15 recruits! After three hours of hard work on a brisk morning, our four groups constructed 12 brush piles.
Urban Redneck Archery
Collectively from the two events, 20 brush piles were constructed in the Fulton State Game Area.  Volunteers from MUCC’s On the ground program in 2013 previously constructed 10 brush piles; that puts us just 20 brush piles away from the area’s management plan quota of 50 within ten years!
Projects like this benefit much more than the rabbits; other small game and bird species will utilize the brush piles too.  That’s not the only benefit, though.  Like I stated earlier, volunteers have various motivations to volunteer for wildlife. Adam and Dustin of Urban Redneck Archery wanted to get outside and volunteer their time to strengthen the cause for their organization.  One of their focuses is to encourage youth living in urban areas to get interested in outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, and bowfishing; stressing the importance of getting today’s youth away from urban pressures of drugs and gangs.
Volunteer Jim Bruce throws large tree limbson the pile as brush cover Volunteer Jim Bruce throws a large tree limb on the pile as brush cover
Other motivations to get out to the event included acquiring volunteer service hours for a college course, local hunters volunteered to improve odds for the next small game season on the public land they grew up hunting, representing an organization association, or just the simple desire to get involved and enjoy the outdoors.
Whatever your motivation may be, there are many more opportunities coming up to volunteer for wildlife with MUCC’s On the Ground program. Volunteers enjoyed hot pizza after a hard day's work and made great new connections. The variety of conversations surprise me every time; there's always more to learn from fellow volunteers. Check out www/mucc.org/ontheground to find an upcoming project near you and check back next week to read about this weekend’s OTG event at Point Mouillee State Game Area!

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