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MADISON — This fall, hunters may inadvertently be taking home more than deer and good memories. The Department of Natural Resources is asking hunters to be aware of a few steps that can be taken to help keep invasive plants from hitching a ride on their gear or their vehicle.
To help keep Wisconsin’s forests and lands healthy for both deer and hunters who access them, the DNR invasive plants program suggests the following four tips for hunters heading to the field this fall:
• Start a new hunting tradition this year. Check yourself for seeds and soil and clean your clothes, boots, and vehicles. Have you ever had those annoying burs that get stuck on your clothes and socks? Those are perfect examples of invasive seeds hitching a ride. Remember, even if you don’t see them, they can still be there.
• Know what to look for. When you’re getting ready for the hunting season this year, learn one common invasive species that is identifiable in fall. For example, common buckthorn is easily identifiable now; its green leaves hang on the trees into late fall and its abundant black berries can even be seen against winter snow.
• Once you know what to look for, avoid invasive plants when possible.
• Burn it where you buy it. Get firewood where you will burn it or use Wisconsin certified firewood, which is inspected to be free of invasives.
“There are benefits both for wildlife and for hunters in keeping Wisconsin’s healthy forests filled with native vegetation. For one, deer prefer to feed on native plants,” said Tom Boos, DNR invasive species coordinator. “In fact, research shows they leave behind the less-appetizing non-native invasive plants like buckthorn and garlic mustard. Plus, if you’ve ever tried to access a good hunting spot through a thorny thicket of invasive multiflora rose, for example, you’ve probably come to prefer native plants too.”
As deer browse native plants and leave behind invasive one, those invasive plants quickly out-compete native plants, leaving fewer of the native plants essential for a healthy wildlife habitat. Additionally, invasive plant infested woods can harbor substantially more ticks than healthy forests. According to Boos, Japanese barberry, an invasive plant becoming widespread across the Wisconsin landscape, creates a more humid environment perfect for breeding and harboring ticks.
“So remember when you’re hunting this year, the deer may not see your blaze orange but invasive seeds sure can. When you’re taking home your deer this year, be sure you aren’t taking home invasive buckthorn, or other invasives too,” said Boos.
More information is available by going to the Best Management Practices for Recreational Activities on the Wisconsin Council on Forestry website. A Common Invasive Species brochure available on the DNR website can help people identify invasive plants.