HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AFFECTS MOOSE.
There are many ways human development affects moose populations. We can block or disrupt migration corridors and prevent moose from traveling to areas critical to them. We can eliminate--or create--food and cover. We can disturb moose with automobiles, snowmachines, ATVs, and dogs. However, we can minimize disruptions if we plan our development and identify wildlife needs. In doing so we can create an environment that benefits not only wildlife but people too.
No matter how large or small your property or plans, you can make a difference. If you like or dislike animals, if you want them near or far away, the development plan for your property can be just as important as the building plan for your house.
THE PLANNlNG PROCESS FOR MOOSE AND OTHER WILDL1FE: MAKE A NATURAL AREA MAP.
As you plan your home building or property development, it may be helpful to take these steps to map out your area.
Determine what wildlife lives in the general locale where you wish to build or develop. Do moose use the area! Are they there in summer or winter! What other animals are present! Don't forget rivers and streams, nocturnal creatures, and birds. Wildlife specialists and local residents can be a big help with this part of your plan. Determine what wildlife actually uses your property. Finding out what lives there offers a great way to become acquainted with your land. ldentify natural features and vegetation on your property that are important to moose and other wildlife.
Make a map based on what you have learned. The map should be to the same scale you would use for landscaping or site planning. Recommended scale is one inch to 200 feet for sites of one to ten acres, and one inch to 500 feet for property over ten acres. Topographic maps and photographs are likely available for your area. A simple sketch is better than nothing.
Make sure your map shows the topography of both your development site and the surrounding area. Hills, steep slopes, ravines, and water courses are important and all affect wildlife use of an area. A black bear may prefer an old bear trail at the bottom of a brushy ravine to open habitat on a ridge. Moose seek out sunny slopes in the early spring.
The map also should indicate existing trees and other vegetation, again both on your site and in the surrounding area. Preserving native vegetation is perhaps the most important contribution you can make to maintain wildlife habitat. Remember, in addition to eating vegetation, animals use it for resting and as protection from the elements. Native vegetation stabilizes steep slopes, and prevents soil erosion and mud slides.
Your map should show all nearby streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. These areas are all vitally important to wildlife. In Alaska, areas next to and under stream banks are often essential habitat for young salmon.
THE PLANNlNG PROCESS: MAKE A DEVELOPMENT PLAN.
Using your map as a guide, prepare a development plan for your property. It is important to know the natural limitations of your site. It is also important to know government regulations that may affect your plans.
I) Decide, before you disturb the land, what vegetation and features you wish to leave untouched for wildlife. In Alaska many trees and shrubs are extremely slow growing and very difficult to replace or re-establish. A home site or subdivision that incorporates natural vegetation and contours has proven to have more monetary value than one that doesn't, and is cheaper to develop and maintain. Stands of willow, alder, and birch can serve as privacy screens between buildings. They also can lower traffic noises and add beauty to an area.
Again based on your map, determine where your building site or sites should be. Keep building sites, utility lines, and roads as far as possible from the wildlife areas that you have identified. Can you avoid blocking or crossing a traditional wildlife corridor! Will you need to remove 200-year-old spruce trees to make fire breaks around your house! Are you eliminating more moose browse than necessary! This last question should be part of every construction decision made.
The water moving over and under your property is important to wildlife. Keep it clean. Using the elevations and natural features on your map, determine if runoff from your drive or roads will adversely affect wetlands. Siltation caused by erosion frequently causes damage at the bottom of the food chain. If your septic system fails--something very common in Alaska--will you be able to protect ponds and streams, as well as your downhill human neighbors! Minimizing road cuts and paved areas almost always benefits wildlife.
In general. the larger the undeveloped area that you leave, the more attractive it will be to wildlife. Cluster development in subdivisions, with natural areas held in common, can aid wildlife and directly enhance your quality of life.
THE PLANNlNG PROCESS: DESlGNlNG AND LANDSCAPlNG AT YOUR HOME S1TE.
You can create a beautiful landscape and home, and protect wildlife habitat, by careful site planning.
Respecting natural contours preserves habitat and is aesthetically pleasing. Less digging and disposal of spoils almost always benefits wildlife. Handclearing generally has less impact than mechanical means.
A multi-storied hame, with a daylight basement built into a hillside, may be preferable to a rambling single-story construction that takes up lots of room and requires extensive excavation. Sprawling outbuildings also can take up valuable habitat.
Stairways and board sidewalks can protect delicate ground plants that are important foods for wildlife. Elevated decks can keep moose out of window flower boxes and can give children a dry, snow-free place to play in winter, away from moose.
While common sense keeps most of us a safe distance from moose, attention to landscaping can help deter adverse encounters. A mountain ash or willow patch 10 feet from a back door can and will attract a hungry moose. However, the same vegetation 30 yards from a front window offers great winter viewing and a chance to get to and from your car without having to bother the moose. Moose may still come close to your house, as they habituate very quickly, but if food is not there, they probably won't stay.
Plans for fencing and exclusion of wildlife from specific areas should be an integral part of your site design. Some areas, such as vegetable gardens, will need moose-proof fencing. This fencing should be at least eight feet high. An open wire fence can be far less intrusive than a solid board fence. Moose quickly learn to respect a fence and almost never crash into it unless driven by panic. Concrete reinforcing wire which comes in 200x8-foot rolls is expensive but durable. It is also possible to erect seasonal, light-duty fences that provide a high visual barrier to moose. These fences ''bluff" moose away from vegetation you wish to protect. Individual trees can also be fenced or cloth-wrapped during winter months. Plastic bird netting wrapped around the outer branches of shrubs will often deter browsing.
Because most areas of human habitation are traditional wintering areas for moose, it is not recommended that moose be excluded from all food plants on your property.
Plan for winter on your site. In deep snow areas moose use plowed driveways as they search for food. Plans should be made so that approaching automobiles don't alarm moose. This can be done by providing escape routes through plowed berms. A moose cornered at your house is probably not going to let you leave your vehicle.
lf your future plans include livestock, especially horses, you will need a secure area for food storage, preferably a barn, and a moose-proof fenced area for feeding. Once moose get into livestock food they become incorrigible and very difficult to discourage.
If you hire a contractor to aid you with your project, it is important that he knows your wildlife plan and realizes that he is liable for environmental damage he causes. Areas needing special protection should be noted at the worksite. The responsibilities of the contractor should be carefully spelled out in the contract.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service are two agencies prepared to help you with your project. Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, which serves the Kenai Peninsula, and the Great Land Trust in Anchorage offer advice on land planning and suggest financial incentives for preserving wildlife habitat. Some landscape architectural firms offer expertise in wildlife planning.
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