Theft in Minnesota Threatens Deer Habitat Restoration Experiment

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The discovery of an equipment theft is threatening the continuation of a remote white cedar plantation designed to improve deer habitat in northern St. Louis County.

A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife employee reported the theft of solar panels, a wiring harness, and battery, used to create an electric barrier to deer and protect a northern white cedar planting experiment that began in 1997 as a partnership with the Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association (MDHA). The equipment was valued at $1,000.

The theft occurred between Jan. 5-10. Photos taken at the scene indicate an individual parked a highway vehicle at the gate on the Bulldog-Hanson State Forest Road off the Townline State Forest Road, drove by ATV to the fenced area, and used a homemade apparatus to disarm it and gain access to the equipment.

“The seedlings are not a size where they will survive without continued protection, said Larry Petersen, International Falls area wildlife manager. “This is the second equipment theft at the location, and with a remote site, relatively easy access, and limited security options, it could continue. It’s too bad one individual has to ruin a project that involved the hard work of so many people – including the MDHA volunteers whose fundraising efforts provided $7,500 for the initial project costs.”

Northern white cedar is a preferred deer thermal cover species, that once harvested, has a low rate of regeneration due to germination failures, unsuitable microclimates for seedlings, and excessive animal herbivory (over-browsing by deer, snowshoe hares, mice, etc.). It was hoped that by prohibiting deer herbivory, the cedars could be regenerated and improve the winter habitat for the deer population and other wildlife. The initial total project cost of $13,422 was funded in partnership with the MDHA, with DNR wildlife staff providing ongoing maintenance.

Persons with information relevant to the case are asked to call the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department at 218-749-6010.