PSU Deer Study

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From the Northern Veg Crew:

I want to preface this week’s blog by letting the readers know that this will contain potentially scary spider and raccoon latrine photos—proceed with caution if either of those things bother you! 

Week 3 was our most productive week yet! We somehow managed to finish all eight of our plots—despite the false claims from the weatherman that there would be storms all day Wednesday. As for the sites themselves, they were very tame compared to some of our previous sites. Nothing was extremely dense or incredibly steep.  Although we did have one site with pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia) seedlings so thick that our backpacks would cause us to get stuck! Luckily, we are all small people on the North crew. 

2018 VCA Wk3-n1

We apologize to the plant-nerds reading this, but this week we didn’t find quite as many new or incredible plants for you. We did see some flowering giant false-hellborine (Veratrum veride, pictured left) and another orchid: rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera sp., pictured right), which was new to this study! 

 2018 vca wk3-n2  2018 vca wk3-n3

We had two really great wildlife sightings this week! We came upon multiple ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) with chicks. This particular mother was quite aggravated with us… as you can see.  We really ruffled her feathers! 

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We also saw an American black bear (Ursus americanus) walking down the road — but he disappeared into the woods before we could get close enough for a good photo op. 

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We also found a raccoon latrine in the base of a tree (gross, I know). At first, I thought something was hording deer poop—then we realized it was just the bathroom for local raccoons. If you look closely (not that you’d want to) you can see some fungi growing out of it.

2018 vca wk3-n6

As promised, here are our spider photos. First, we have an orb-weaver eating a wasp-beetle! 

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Second, and arguably scarier since I was almost sitting on it and had quite a few exploring my shoes and legs: a very crowded cluster of young spiders getting used to their new world.

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To make up for the spiders and latrine photos, I will leave the readers with some flowers we saw this week! 

Forget-me-nots (Myosotis sp.)

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Northern wood-sorrel (Oxalis montana)

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Fleabane (Erigeron sp)

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Northern Veg Crew Leader


From the Southern Veg Crew:

This week’s schedule was going to be just as brutal as the others. Literally, we had many tall tasks ahead of us climbing the steep ridges of Rothrock and Bald Eagle state forests. The weatherman doubted that we could complete our mission but with some rain gear and some back up ponchos, the boys from the south were up for the task. 

Once we finished our work in Rothrock for the week, we began our plots in the always eventful Bald Eagle State Forest. Here, we met our new friends Steve and George.  Steve is a 5ft black phase timber rattlesnake that was hanging near one of our witness trees at plot center. We decided to give him plenty of space and work on the surrounding plots. 

In the meantime, George showed up. He is a 5ft Black Rat Snake. Apparently, George and Steve go way back and were enjoying plot center together. We came to the conclusion that Steve was better than the weather at slowing us down. 

For safety sake, we decided to come back the next day to finish. The next day, we found George lounging high off the ground in a bush and sunning himself at plot center. With enough distance from the nonvenomous snake, we surveyed the micro plot. However, Steve wasn’t far behind. He returned to his spot by the witness tree. So close to plot center, we decided not to continue our work. Luckily, we only had witness trees to measure. Although we had an exciting double visit to the ferniest and most open plot of the summer, it was time to move on. 

2018 vca wk3-s1  2018 vca wk3-s2

After the torturous climbs, precipitation, and snakes, we were all ready for smooth sailing. To finish off the week, we chose a plot not far from the road.  On our way over, we discovered another obstacle.  This time a locked gate. 

No problem, we have keys to the gates in Bald Eagle. Unfortunately, this one had a combination lock. Without the combination, we hatched a plan around the tailgate to send Mike and Jonathan up the steep hill for cell service while Curtis and I stayed behind in radio contact. 

If we got the combination, we could drive through the gate, pick up the rest of the crew, and take everyone the mile uphill. Mike and Jonathan got cell service but their messages and phone calls weren’t answered. 

After feeling brutal defeat, Curtis and I had to make the mile hike up the drivable trail. About half way up, we heard rustling and discovered a furry surprise of two black bears bounding up the mountain towards us. We spun around and wielded the seven foot long veg-sticks as our only defense. Intimidated by our impressive stick brandishing, the bears retreated. 

Upon completing the heart pumping ascent, we discovered that Jonathan was enjoying a can of his favorite beefaroni. Maybe, just maybe, those bears smelled the delicious scent of Chef Boyardee a quarter mile uphill and were eager for a meal. 

To top it all off, we arrived to our vehicle and noticed a female box turtle that was just smitten over Mike. After we admired her, we placed her safely in the woods and began our journey back to the fieldhouse.

2018 vca wk3-s3

Southern Veg Crew


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