Category Archives: Wildlife

Nitrogen fertilizers in boreal forests and their effects on plants and animals

Gardeners often apply extra fertilizer to their wild berry patches to increase yields in wild stands. This paper summarizes research on the effects of applying nitrogen fertilizer on large and small animals as well as plants. It is an interesting survey of forest systems and not just the wild berry we have in mind.

Influence of nitrogen fertilization on abundance and diversity of plants and animals in temperate and boreal forests

Thomas P. Sullivan, Druscilla Sullivan

Published on the web 26 July 2017.

Environmental Reviews,


Aerial and land-based applications of nitrogen-based fertilizers to enhance forest growth makes nutrients potentially available to all trees, plants, and wildlife in a given ecosystem, and therefore may have direct and indirect effects on wildlife and biodiversity. A scientific review of these potential effects was conducted with 106 published studies covering vascular and non-vascular plants, amphibians, birds, mammals, terrestrial invertebrates, and soil animals associated with fertilization in temperate and boreal forests, primarily in North America and Scandinavia. In terms of direct effects, amphibians and domestic mammals appear to be the most sensitive to urea used in fertilization programs. The avoidance behaviour and/or mortality of amphibians in laboratory studies was species-dependent. Ruminant animals, including wild ungulates, rapidly convert urea to ammonia and are susceptible to toxicity following ingestion of large amounts of urea. Feeding on urea pellets by small mammals or gallinaceous birds appears to be minimal as granules are unpalatable. In terms of indirect effects, the majority of responses of understory herbs to nitrogen fertilization showed an increase in abundance. Some shrubs in repeatedly fertilized stands eventually increased in abundance in long-term studies, whereas dwarf shrubs and abundance of bryophytes (mosses and terrestrial lichens) declined. In general, species richness and diversity of understory herbs and shrubs declined, or were unaffected, in fertilized stands. Response in abundance and species richness-diversity of vascular plants to a single application of nitrogen showed either an increase or no change. Repeated applications (2-5 and > 5) usually resulted in declines in these responses. Relative abundance of mule deer (Odocoileus Rafinesque spp.), moose (Alces alces L.), and hares (Lepus L. spp.), and forage quantity and quality were usually increased by fertilization. Small mammal species generally showed increases or no change in abundance; decreases may be related to fertilizer-induced changes in food sources. Forest fertilization may provide winter feeding habitat for coniferous foliage-gleaning insectivorous birds in some cases. Six species of forest grouse showed no response to fertilizer treatments. Responses of soil animals to nitrogen fertilization appeared to be species- and dose-specific and ameliorated by surrounding micro- and macro-habitat characteristics.


Bears and Berries

Bears and Berries

Bears are of serious concern for many Alaskan berry pickers. With many berries ripening around fall in the interior, both black bears and grizzlies are gearing up for winter hibernation and need to consume as many calories as possible. I have encountered many bears while out berry picking and not only is safety an issue of concern but so is the bears need for nutrients. While we know as nature harvesters that we are not alone and we are not dominant we also need to know how to be safe while in “bear country”.

A few safety tips while berry picking; make noise so not to startle nearby animals, be aware of your surroundings and aware that surroundings can change quickly. It is safe to go with another person or in a group, but that is not always possible. Depending on your comfort levels and the location in which you choose to berry pick, a bear bell, bear spray or even a large caliber gun may be recommended. It is also important to have a basic understanding of the animals you may encounter.

Bears are massive wild animals that can weigh anywhere between 200lbs (black bear) and 800lbs (grizzly bear)(National Geographic). They can be nearly as small as a large dog or taller than a full grown man and are almost pure muscle. Berries are important to bears livelihood because they provide a major source of nutrients and are abundant in the wilderness. Bears are also very important to the propagation of berries. A black bear can consume over 30,000 berries in one day and the seeds pass through the bear’s digestive system unbroken and able to germinate (Berries). They can be distributed miles always from the original site and encourage more growth in the following years. These berries contain high amounts of antioxidants and the seeds of some species can contain vitamin B-17, these are both considered anti-cancer compounds by some scientists, and although captive bears have been found to have cancer, no wild bears have ever been reported to have cancer (Berries).

As we know, berries are important to us for our own personal consumption, we also know how important they are to bears. Be safe while you are berry harvesting but also be respectful.

Here is a video of a couple bears eating berries. You can see how fast and efficiently they can consume them, probably better than a berry rake. (VIDEO)  LH Fairbanks


“Berries – a Critical Food.” North American Bear Center -. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Society, National Geographic. “American Black Bears, American Black Bear Pictures, American Black Bear Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Society, National Geographic. “Grizzly Bears, Grizzly Bear Pictures, Grizzly Bear Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Beauty berry

Beauty berry

The link above talks about beautyberry propagation. For those who do not know what a beautyberry is (I sure didn’t), it is a berry that is bright purple, it grows in bunches, and it is definitely a beautiful plant. It will shed its leaves and that is when the beauty of the plant really stands out. It blooms tiny pink flowers and is known to attract different types of birds, and then grows into the bright purple berry. It also acts as a perennial so it grows back on its own every season. It grows mostly in the southeast area of the United States. The article gives you step by step direction on propagation of the beautyberry. It seems like a very interesting process and a careful one as well. AK Wasilla

Honeyberry, haskap pests

During this week’s lecture we learned about the Honeyberry aka Haskap aka Sweetberry Honeysuckle aka a plethora of other names. Two pests of this plant were mentioned but some important ones I’ve personally encountered the past two years were not. These pests are robins (Turdus migratorius) and leaf rollers (Archips rosana).

I find the Latin species name for the robin very appropriate, Turdus. Once the robins have located your Honeyberry patch, they will visit every day until the berries are close to ripening and will devour them before you get a chance to even taste them for readiness. The devious little creatures will visit your patch every year once they know you have them. The best way to battle these pests is to build a net cage around the patch. Just laying netting on top and around does not prevent thievery. Robins will sit on top of the net and slip under the net. The net must be several feet away from the berries and securely attached to the ground to prevent any sneaking below the net. I constructed a cage around my small patch using the smallest size of bird netting available and some old fence posts. Ground staples are excellent for securing the netting to the ground. I was able to harvest nine pounds of berries this year compared to the previous year of nothing! Next year, I intend to make a sturdier structure using ¾ inch PVC pipe, zip ties and bird netting. This will make for easier harvesting and look a little better.

The second pest I’ve dealt with is a leaf roller which for the last two years have attacked the growing tips of my honeyberries. The first year I encountered them I was not able to get a positive identification. This year, I captured a few samples and brought them to our local Cooperative Extension Service Office. The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technician identified them initially as the Spear-Marked Black Moth (Rheumaptera hastate), however, a later identification was made as the Rose Tortrix Moth, (Archips rosana). The recommended control method was the use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which I used but did not find very effective. I resorted to the best known method for insect pest control which is both effective and satisfying – pick and squish. I pruned my bushes this fall and removed all the leaves under the shrubs which could harbor overwintering pupae. Hopefully this next summer, I will see diminished problems with both the mentioned “pests”.

Attracting wildlife with berries

Give a Bird a Berry

This National Wildlife Federation site describes the importance of berry bearing trees and shrubs as a food source for birds and other wildlife and encourages people to consider adding them to their gardens to feed the birds.  Why not add a bush or two for our feathered friends.   Berries and Birds

Fermented fruits and wildlife

This article from National Geographic examines anecdotal reports of birds getting drunk on fermented berries. Links to climate change are suggested. If you come across a bird that appears drunk, but is not otherwise injured, put it in a cardboard box that has airholes and give the bird a few hours to sober up before releasing it. Birds