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Program helps fatten up Wayne’s deer herd

Wayne Conservation District Director Robert Muller
TRR photo by David Hulse

By David Hulse
July 9, 2014

HONESDALE, PA — Wayne County’s white-tail deer herd is benefiting from a “no-till” seeding program being offered by the county’s conservation district.

Robert Muller, director of the conservation district, appeared before the commissioners on July 3 with his annual report.

The no-till program was designed to prevent farmland left uncultivated from reverting to shrubs and woods, to keep the soil fertile and at a usable pH factor, Muller said.

With reimbursement offered to full-time farmers for the purchase of seed, the district’s seed driller was rented to 21 users, who seeded 188.5 acres, which in many cases were forage fields for soybeans, food plots and cover crops, according to the report.

Spring and late-season forage is included: buckwheat and soybeans in summer, while turnips stay green late into the year, for cold weather forage, Muller said.

Muller said of deer that, similar to other livestock, “Without the nutrients, antlers don’t get any size.”

Muller said the impact on the deer herd has been larger animals and larger antler racks.

Commissioner Jonathan Fritz commented that, 10 years ago, PA hunters traveled cross-country to find the larger deer that “are now in the backyard.”

As to forestry, Muller reported significant numbers of Colorado spruce trees are failing, many with a fungus infection. “It could be climate, but I don’t want to use that word.”

Norway spruce has not been affected.

Muller said numbers of gypsy moths are building, and spraying will probably be required next year.

Working with a $250,000 grant, the district began a baseline water quality study last fall. Some 70 sites county-wide will be tested this year, beginning on July 14. Tests are being done by a Chambersburg lab, Muller said.

Experimenting for best-management actions to control knotweed, the district is continuing to manage a test plot on the Lackawaxen River, near Stourbridge Mall.

Muller said that increased state funding ($5 million to $28 million) for dirt and gravel road maintenance has increased the district’s funding from $98,000 to $603,000, which will translate to increased efforts on gravel and low-use paved roads. Ranking for road maintenance work is based on proximity to water and water-quality impacts.