DNR Seeks Input on Allowing Deer Hunting in Hemlock Ravine SNA

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Minnesota DNR Seeks Input on Allowing Deer Hunting in Hemlock Ravine SNAThe Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold a public hearing on whether to allow deer hunting in the Hemlock Ravine Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) on Wednesday, July 23, at the Carlton Fire Hall at 100 Forth St. N., Carlton, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. or until all testimony is heard.

Hunting would decrease the deer population that is consuming Eastern hemlock and other tree seedlings. State law prohibits hunting in SNAs. Exceptions may be made following public hearing, when hunting would not harm or would benefit the SNA.

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 relatively undisturbed native plant community. Deer browsing is preventing hemlock seedlings from growing more than a few inches tall, changing the makeup of the forest. Also a small area of the SNA (fenced to exclude deer in 1995) is seeing severely reduced regeneration of red oak, basswood, white pine, red maple and black ash. Two additional deer-proof enclosures will be erected this summer to protect some hemlock regeneration, but extensive fencing is impractical.

If the public approves deer hunting, the DNR proposes to include Hemlock Ravine SNA in the special Jay Cooke State Park five-day muzzleloader deer hunt, with 120 either-sex licenses available, each with an option for additional, antlerless-only permits. This year’s hunt would run from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3. About 13 acres of the SNA would be closed to hunting, except for retrieval of downed animals. This area includes the ravine where most of the hemlock grow, and has steep slopes highly vulnerable to erosion from foot traffic.

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

At the July 23 hearing, a hearing official will record testimony. That official will review comments and make a recommendation to the DNR commissioner on whether the SNA should be opened to deer hunting. Hunts may be limited as the commissioner deems necessary for the protection of site values.

Comments, which will be accepted until July 23, should be sent to SNA Administrator, Minnesota DNR, 650 Highway 169, Tower, MN 55790; e-mail to steve [dot] wilson [at] dnr [dot] state [dot] mn [dot] us; call (218) 753-2580, ext. 270.