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Deer hunting allowed in Hemlock Ravine SNA as part of Jay Cooke hunt (September 30, 2008)

Deer hunting will be an allowed use in Hemlock Ravine Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) beginning this fall, as part of the special five-day muzzleloader deer hunt at Jay Cooke State Park, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Jay Cooke State Park has held a special hunt for the last few years with the goal of reducing deer browsing. Beginning this fall, Jay Cooke hunt permits will also allow hunters to hunt in most of the Hemlock Ravine SNA in addition to the state park. Applications were due Sept. 4.

Hemlock Ravine SNA covers 48 acres in Carlton County, separated from Jay Cooke State Park by the Willard Munger State Trail. The SNA protects a rare grove of Eastern hemlock trees and a relatively undisturbed native plant community. Although state law prohibits hunting in SNAs, it can be allowed following a public hearing if the hunt will not harm or would benefit the SNA. A hearing on the Hemlock Ravine SNA hunt was held July 23.

Deer browsing is preventing hemlock seedlings from growing more than a few inches tall in the Hemlock Ravine SNA. This is changing the makeup of the forest. In 1995, the DNR fenced a small area of the SNA to exclude deer.

The fenced in area shows regeneration of red oak, basswood, white pine, red maple, Eastern hemlock, and black ash; unfenced areas have far less regeneration of these species. Two additional deer exclosures were erected in the SNA this past summer to protect more hemlock regeneration, but it isn’t practical to fence more than a small portion of the SNA. Allowing deer hunting should reduce the number of deer and browse impacts.

For the 120 either-sex deer licenses available for the Jay Cooke State Park hunt, successful applicants should consider the Hemlock Ravine SNA this fall as an expanded opportunity. Successful applicants will have an option for additional antlerless-only permits. They must attend an orientation session that outlines where they can hunt and special circumstances associated with a state park/SNA hunt. The 2008 hunt will run from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3.

About 13 acres of the SNA will not be open to hunting, except for retrieval of downed animals. This area includes the ravine where most of the hemlock grow. The ravine has steep slopes highly vulnerable to erosion from foot traffic.

Future deer hunts may be adjusted so they are consistent with changes in the Jay Cooke hunt, or to further protect the resources of the SNA.

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