WildLife Wednesday: Vols Build Homes for Rabbits, Then Eat Them

Drew YoungeDyke,  MUCC Field Manager Drew YoungeDyke,
MUCC Field Manager
In learning about conservation, perhaps there was no better lesson for the Midland Dow High School Conservation Club than Saturday. Along with other volunteers, first they built homes for rabbits by cutting trees and stacking them into brush piles, and then they ate rabbit sliders. The only thing missing from the day was the rabbit hunting, but now the students know exactly where to go for that, too!
Saturday's On the Ground (OTG) wildlife habitat project took us back to where it all started for the program, the corner of Fowler and Marion Roads in the Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area east of Marion Springs. Fittingly, volunteers from that first project in March of 2013 returned on Saturday, too: James and Lacy Snyder, Wayne Hanson of the Saginaw Field & Stream Conservation Club, and Douglas Reeves, who is the Assistant Chief of the DNR's Wildlife Division but, like two years ago, was here as a volunteer and area rabbit hunter.

Joining them, as I mentioned earlier, were members of the Midland Dow High School Conservation Club including Bo, Kris and Ben Brueck, Nolan O'Connell, Andrew Kaiser, Michael Dill, Sean Pumford, Carter Musselman, Chad Wasco, Max Muessig and Morgan Zoeller.
Jake Bennett, District Representative for Congressman Dan Kildee (and my old friend from high school and college) volunteered as well, with Jeff and Melanie Ross from the Detroit Sportsmen's Congress, Diane Reeves, Mary Isaac, Matthew Niemiec, Cody Eaton, Seth Gibson, Shane Orchard, Teresa Phillips, Rich Phillips, Kimberly Crowe, Keith Phillips, and Peace Von Arx.
DNR Wildlife Division biologist Chad Fedawa and technician Chad Krumnauer joined Huron Pines AmeriCorps member Sarah Topp and I in organizing the project.
We cut mostly dead and leaning trees, including multiple ash afflicted with emerald ash borer, from fence rows between corn and soybean fields on the game area, then stacked the trees into brush piles within the fence rows to create "rabbitat" (rabbit habitat), which will provide them with cover and shelter from predators like hawks and coyotes close to food sources.
Multiple very large brush piles were built throughout the workday, and their spacing along the field edges close to food sources should make excellent habitat. James Snyder reported that he regularly takes rabbits out of the brush piles we built two years ago. Most of those piles have shrunk over the past couple years, though, so were were diligent to build them even bigger this time so that they last longer.
Everyone worked very hard, though, and it was much appreciated. Volunteers who worked with the Midland Dow Conservation Club students reported that they worked very hard, so their sponsor, teacher Brent Chambers, should be very proud. James Snyder's crew was also impressive, taking on a whole fence row on their own and building piles with military-like precision, as James is an Army artillery veteran. He talked with DNR biologists about building more brush piles at the Maple River State Game Area in the future.
After the workday, we all met back at the abandoned Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area Field Headquarters (it's now managed out of the Rose Lake office). The old headquarters gave volunteers a place to get out of the wind and warm with a space heater while Stephanie Rustem of Gourmet Gone Wild served rabbit sliders to the crew cooked by Chef Dan Nelson.
It was an incredible day of conservation, from building rabbitat to eating rabbits. The students learned the most important aspects of rabbit hunting without firing a shot: wildlife habitat and free-range organic food. They know too, now, where to go to kick brush piles and complete the cycle by becoming active participants in nature by hunting.
The only way it could have gone better is if I didn't get the truck stuck, but that's for another time! Thank you to everyone who volunteered, to the DNR biologists who spent their Saturday with us, to AmeriCorps member Sarah Topp for doing an excellent job, and Outdoor Life for helping us purchase the chainsaw safety equipment, and to the hunters and anglers whose license dollars fund wildlife management in our state, including the Wildlife Habitat Grants used to fund projects like these.
Oh, and for those of you keeping score for the Spartan-Wolverine Challenge, the count after this project is 25-3 Spartans! This means that 25 volunteers chose the green and white tee, versus only three for the maize and blue. You can get your own by volunteering at our next project at Fulton State Game Area on March 21, which you can sign up for here. #SpartansWill #Volunteer4Wildlife!

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.