Thoughts on a Bio-blitz and More

Small-Game Hunting

As a dozen students from the University of Michigan’s Biological Station in Pellston laid traps in the forest, they speculated about what their mammal census would reveal. Previous trappings had captured chipmunks, voles, and mice. This time around, the students—many of whom were first time trappers—would be happy to catch anything at all.

But Phillip Myers, a professor at the Biological Station and organizer of the census, was eager to capture one species in particular. When Myers began trapping surveys in 1989, he regularly caught woodland deer mice. Not long after, though, the number of deer mice captured dropped sharply, and in recent years not one has been caught. The species has apparently vanished from the forest.

The most likely cause for the decline of the deer mouse is climate change. Historically, northern Michigan has been common ground for both the deer mouse and the white-footed mouse, a closely related species. The deer mouse, a cold weather specialist, would dominate the forest floor in years with harsh winters, while the white-footed mouse would thrive in mild years. Myers speculates that as the area’s climate warms, white-footed mice are permanently replacing deer mice.

Myers’s suspicions were confirmed by the results of the trapping; of the 27 live traps that had captured a rodent, every one contained a white-footed mouse. It is uncertain what ecological consequences this evident change in species will bring.

Although disappointed that no deer mice were captured, the trappers made the best of their catch, and students enthusiastically posed for photos with the frisky beasts after Myers had weighed and measured them. Upon release, the mice demonstrated their ability to lay claim to new habitat as they scampered onto heads and up pant legs in their quest for shelter.

By Kyle Anderson

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

    What a treat to know the Biological Station is still alive and well. My father, David S. Shetter, B.S. Biology 1932, M.S. 1933, Ph.D. Zoology, 1937, enjoyed many summers there and until recently we had a scrapbook showing the activities and the friends he met there. Unfortunately, the storage space in Florida retirement homes dictates that some things have to be cleaned out. Wish I had known where to send it. This was definitely a seminal experience for a city guy from Cleveland. He loved everthing and had a hard time deciding what to do for his advanced degrees – ichthyology, entymology or herpetology.

    Dad subsequently went on to become the director of the Hunt Creek Fisheries Experiment Station in Lewiston from 1943 until his death in 1969. This is now under DNR management. My brother and I grew up at the “Lab”. A wonderful place to learn about the out of doors – many students and scholars coming and going. All summer there were folks camped out on the property observing or collecting. We learned VERY early not to disturb anyone or anything in jars, nets or collecting trays.

    There were no data bases established for many things we take for granted today. Hunt Creek has one of the longest data bases in existence for a freshwater trout stream. I certainly hope the current budget crises does not put that in jeopardy.

    Call Andy Nuhfer, the current director and have him show you the scrapbook I did on the history of Hunt Creek last year. I think you could do a good article on that and what the Lovells Historical Society is doing for the fishing lodges on the North Branch and the Main Stream. All of this was tied together in the beginning.

    Keep up the good work!

    Sincerely,

    Alice Shetter Hoelzer-Hawthorne
    3808 Doune Way
    Clermont, FL 34711