WildLife Wednesday: Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day!

Drew YoungeDyke, Field Manager Drew YoungeDyke, Field Manager
Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Seriously, apparently this is a thing. So to celebrate, I'm making plans to hunt them this weekend on my day off in between a Saturday On the Ground project making horizontal cover for snowshoe hares and a Monday meeting in Grayling. Squirrels, like all wildlife, require habitat. Squirrels like trees upright to hide in. Snowshoe hares can't climb, so they like their trees on the ground, which is exactly where we'll be putting them on Saturday.
Enhancing wildlife habitat - especially game habitat - on public land is what MUCC's On the Ground (OTG) program is all about. This Saturday, we're meeting at 9am in the Grayling State Forest, on Townline Rd south of Lewiston, to cut (and maybe hinge-cut) some trees that will provide that horizontal ground cover that snowshoe hares need. And, as with most habitat projects, more than one species benefits. That will also provide horizontal cover and bedding areas for white-tailed deer. Special thanks are deserved by Outdoor Life's Open Country program and Yamaha, which are providing an ORV through Gaylord PowerSports that we'll be able to use to haul chainsaws and equipment where needed on this project. Sign up here if you'd like to join us!
Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day! Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day!
We realize, of course, that cutting trees can be dangerous business. That's why we had Chuck Oslund of Bay College at the MUCC office this past Saturday. He provides chainsaw safety seminars as part of a MiOSHA grant. And it might have been one of the most instructive one-day classes I've ever attended. I learned more about chainsaw safety in that one day than I have over many weekends of sawing over the years (and one seasonal job). Based on this training, we've revamped MUCC's chainsaw safety protocol. Our new Wildlife Volunteer Coordinator, Sarah Topp (through Huron Pines AmeriCorps) will have more on that later, but here are some key points:
  • Chainsaws are the most dangerous tools in the world, and a comprehensive safety system is the best (but not full-proof) way to guard against injuries.
  • Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a helmet with faceguard, ear and eye protection, kevlar pants or chaps, protective boots and gloves, and long sleeves.
  • When felling a tree, keep in mind potential hazards, the lean of the tree, your escape routes, your hinge and your cutting plan.
  • Always use a face cut and hinge to control the tree's fall. The hinge is your only control.
  • Using a bore-cut with a backstrap can help maintain your hinge and hold the tree until it's safe to release.
  • Always saw with a partner/swamper/spotter.
Steve Waksumuski at Fulton State Game Area Steve Waksumuski at Fulton State Game Area
These are just a few of the many important points taught by Oslund, which we've adapted into MUCC's Chainsaw Safety System. One thing that Sarah and I can verify from practicing in the MUCC woodlot is that it will take practice to get this system down right. But make sure you have a spotter even when you practice.
So why go through all of this? It's a simple concept. We have a lot of public land to hunt in Michigan, so just as the owner of private land stewards that land to improve game habitat on it, those of us who hunt public land have that same stewardship ethic to improve habitat on the land we hunt. And Governor Snyder even recognized that stewardship ethic during his State of the State speech last night when he encouraged "more hunters out there in the woods doing good work."
What better way to appreciate the game we hunt than by volunteering to improve its habitat? Whether for snowshoe hares or squirrels, they'll taste that much better when you're cooking them up using one of Chef Dan Nelson's Wild Gourmet recipes if you hunted it off public land you put your sweat into to improve. And then you'll really appreciate them!
Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day from MUCC!

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