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Paul Kortebein, manager of forestry and horticulture for Three Rivers Park District.

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Three Rivers parks tries to outfox deer in Bloomington

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • December 8, 2012 - 9:13 PM

In the latest example of people trying to outsmart wildlife, foresters in Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington have erected a six-foot electrified fence around 30 acres of parkland. Their aim is to teach deer to avoid an area that next spring will be planted with 55,000 seedlings in a reforestation project.

"Fences are really meant to be more of a psychological deterrent than anything else," said Paul Kortebein, manager of forestry and horticulture for Three Rivers Park District, which owns the 2,500-acre park reserve. "We hope to train the deer with an electric fence that this is not an advantageous area for them to be."

Kortebein said the Park District chooses one area to reforest each year from among 21 parks and park reserves. It is usually about 30 acres, he said, that need new trees because the area has become infested with non-native trees, shrubs and grasses.

At Hyland, conservation workers clear-cut the area and removed common buckthorn, Russian olive, and other vegetation that might hinder growth of next year's seedlings. They left a few volunteer white pines, but most of the area looks stark and barren.

Public is curious

Walking around the perimeter of the fence last week, Kortebein pointed to the bike trail that parallels it on three sides, making the area highly visible.

Bikers and walkers saw most of the vegetation being removed last fall, he said, and then they saw the cleared area enclosed by eight strands of electrified wire, secured tautly between wooden fence posts.

Signs on some of the posts warn about the energized fence and explain the project, but Kortebein said he still receives plenty of phone calls.

"People have a vested interest in parks and really want to know what's going on," he said.

Kortebein said that the fence is electrified by a solar collector and energizer and that it delivers a stinging jolt to deer that touch it. "It's on a millisecond pulse, so it's not continual," he said. It's definitely unpleasant but not life-threatening to wildlife or people.

Next spring, workers will plant the area with a mix of 28 tree species and 11 kinds of shrubs, most of them raised at the Park District's nursery in Crow-Hassan Park Reserve in northwestern Hennepin County.

Cost: $95,000

Kortebein said the fence will remain for about 10 years as the one-foot seedlings get a healthy start on life and grow large enough to survive if deer nosh on them.

The total project cost is $95,000, he said, including about $15,000 for the fence, $25,000 for seedling production and the rest for labor and equipment. A special grant from the state's Conservation Partners Legacy Program paid $15,000 for a Minnesota Conservation Corps crew to prepare the site.

Pointing to the solar panel and its storage battery, Kortebein said he knows from past experience that the electric fence will keep out most of the deer, but there are always exceptions. "Deer, if they want to, could easily jump this fence," he said. "We've already gotten a few reports of deer inside."

They likely will be taken by sharpshooters hired to keep the park's overall deer population under control, he said.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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