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April 17, 1981 - Image 28

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-04-17
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Page 10-Friday, April 17, 1981-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Frida

A summer on

N. Manitou

Isolated island
region site of
deer herd study
versity in 1980 he applied to several gradu-
ate schools to pursue a degree in wildlife
P'rof. Dale McCullough at the University's School of
Natural Resources wrote to Dave, asking him if he would
be interested in conducting a two-summer deer
management study on North Manitou Island, scheduled to
be made a part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National
IF DAVE ACCEPTED the offer he and his wife, Jane, a
registered nurse from S. Dakota, would spend two sum-
mers on an uninhabited island, with Lake Michigan at
their front door, gorgeous sunsets . . . a chance to really
get to know each other.
They also would be cut-off from civilization with no elec-
tricity, mail and supply delivery would be sporadic at
best. There was no laundromat on the island.
Dave and Jane accepted the offer.
* * *
In 1922, a group of Chicago businessmen bought the 22-
square mile northern Lake Michigan island from most of
its residents. Over the next few years William Angell, a
Michigan businessman, bought the island from the
Chicagoans. All but a few acres of the island are currently
managed by Angell's trusteeship, the Angell Foundation.
Five does and four bucks from Pennsylvania were in-
troduced to the island in 1925. In the late 30s, the Angell

Foundation began an extensive winter-feeding program
for the deer herd that continued until 1978. The program
initially was undertaken to produce more deer for hunting
by preventing them from starving to death during the win-
ter. Hunting began during this time, also.
Farming on the island gradually was abandoned, and
alfalfa was planted for deer food in many of the open
areas. Maintenance costs on the island were paid for by
logging and hunting fees.
The Angell Foundation has donated most of the island to
private colleges and universities, such as Calvin College
located in western Michigan. It still retains control of N.
Manitou, but hunting and logging profits go to the in-
'Last summer was the time to do every-
thing we always put off doing.'
Winter feeding ended in 1978 and the herd trimmed by
"harvesting" 500 deer. That year the island was turned
over to the National Parks Service for maintenance.
* * *
A combination of winter feeding and lack of natural
predators has resulted in a deer population the island
cannot support. This overpopulation is both harmful to the
deer and to the island habitat. By 1967, the size of the herd
was so large that 60 tons of deer food were used in the
feeding program. Despite those efforts it was reported
that between 1940 and 1970 6,000 N. Manitou deer were
hunted and another 2,200 died of starvation.
According to a 1970 report by the Michigan Department
of Natural Resources, the majority of the starved deer
were fawns that were found near the island's 34 feeding

stations. The larger deer prevented the smaller ones from
feeding, making the program ineffective for the fawns
who needed the food most.
BECAUSE THERE ARE more deer on the island each
winter than food for deer, they soon eat all of the browse
(twigs of trees and bushes) produced during the past
summer. The island forests are over-browsed as a result.
The only major new tree growth on N. Manitou is beech,
although biologists cannot explain why deer tend to avoid
this vegetation.
Once the island is purchased by the National Parks Ser-
vice, it will be given a wilderness designation, which
means that no habitat management will be allowed except
In anticipation of its takeover of N. Manitou, the Parks
Service has asked the University's School of Natural
Resources to come up with a "carrying capacity" (the
number of healthy deer that can bersupported throughout
the year) for the island. A deer management proposal also
has been requested to determine how many deer should be
hunted on the island each year to minimize deer loss by
If the proposal is accepted the Parks Service and the
Michigan Department of Natural Resources will examine
the deer herd each year and make management decisions
based on the information gathered through Dave's study.
The Parks Service supplied the Case's last summer with
living quarters, a motorcycle for island use, and a mon-
thly stipend. Dave, in return, will be giving the service an
estimate of herd size, the number of deer that died during
the past three winters, statistics on the production and
utilization of deer food, and recommendations for future
management of the deer population.
The Cases arrived on N. Manitou on June 3 and were to
stay until October 29. They took the first few weeks to get
accustomed to the island. They also planted a vegetable
The first day they decided to "go for a half-hour spin" to
look around, Dave said. They found their way back home
five hours later-cursing an inaccurate map. Dave said he

found his way around fairly well after a few months.
ALTHOUGH THlE PARKS Service supplied the Cases
with a house and transportationrthey did not give them a
working heater, electricity, or, for the first two months,
hot water. Their stove, refrigerator, and-eventually-hot
water ran off of bottled gas. They used Coleman and
kerosene lanterns and candles for lighting.
Jane said until they got the hot water heater working it
took an hour-and-a-half to heat enough water for a bath.
Since the island is 12.5hmiles by boat from the nearest
laundromat, Jane did the laundry using a scrubboard
donated by Dave's grandmother and Mexican lye soap
donated by their only island neighbors, Ken and Rita
The Cases ordered food by mail, which was delivered by
a ferry that ran on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays-weather permitting. Sometimes they would
wait for as many as ten days to get fresh food or supplies
wnen the weather was bad.
Jane said they always had enough food, "but what can I
make with just Bisquick?" She added that they always
craved food they did not have, but the store was a little too
far away to run to in those events.
"We learned how not to be an everyday shopper," Jane
said. The Cases changed their eating habits as a result of

ABOVE: A DOE is standing in a N. Manitou forest that shows the over-browsing on the islam
would be more bushy, new undergrowth. Left: This abandoned country home on the islo
Cases explored last summer.

last summer, switching from fresh foods to the longer-
lasting dried variety, she added.
The couple picked up their food, supplies, and mail from
a dock five miles south of their house. The Cases would
take the motorcycle down to the dock to wait for the ferry.
During a fall storm, the dock blew out, forcing them to

PICTURED BELOW IS the shoreline along N. Manitou. There is a symmetrical browseline along the trees
bordering Lake Michigan about six feet high, or just about deer reach. They will eat all the browse underneath
this point, preventing new tree growth. Right: Dave contemplates his jaw, skull, and antler collection. He is
gathering these fdor his study. The age of a deer can be calculated through the skeleton of its jaw.

Photos by
Dave and
Jane Case

wait on the shore for the fer
would toss out their supplie
lucky to get five out of 12 eg
The Cases were fairly sett
when Jane became ill w
weather was rough that da
out to get her. They had to c
service on a two-way radio I
The Coast Guard came to
took her to a hospital in Tra
pretty embarrassed by the u
Dave and Jane began th
of their stay. To determir
island, they began a seri
common wildlife managem
Three routes were select
the island. Three times a
routes by motorcycle, coun
and record the age, sex, ai
was seen.
and Jane concentrated on "
are about to die of starv
coniferous areas for protec
mapped areas where they
condition and counted the n
They also searched ha
When they found a dead de
Ages were determined by 1
there was a skeleton or par
determine the sex.
Other surveys were unde
position of the vegetation
plots and did a step-by-ste
each step he marked the typ
line that was marked on on
important in determining
island vegetation.
In their spare time, the
flowers and birds. Jane s
summer wildflowers last su
They also spent a great d
island and exploring old, a
quite a bit, and Dave contin
Last summer was the
always put off doing," Jar
other, too."

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