A team of biologists are keeping an eye on small mammals in cut blocks around Golden and four other sites in the province.
What they’re looking for is the impact of logging on small mammal habitats. They have seen the how disruption affects species like the short and long tailed red-backed voles, deer mice, fishers, martens, weasels, and more.
For instance, the voles have been known to leave an area after it has been logged for more than a decade before returning.
Tom Sullivan is a small mammal biologist with UBC who has been working with silviculture forester Scott King at Louisiana-Pacific Corp. on a site just east of Golden. He and his team have preserved slash piles (woody debris left over and stacked after logging), and have set live traps to see if these piles are used as a habitat by small creatures.
The answer is yes. Rather than burning up the piles and discarding them, the piles are acting as a “marten hotel,” or a mouse mansion.
“These animals colonize the piles,” Sullivan explained. “We should be thinking about all of the forest resources.”
These small mammals are critical to the environment. They feed off insects, and are healthy prey for birds and other animals.
“If we could keep them on these sites, that’s good for voles and their networks,” Sullivan said.
Creating the habitats and corridors between cut blocks has helped to keep the animals in the ecosystem.
“It has been a wonderful project. It is well worth keeping the habitats on site,” Sullivan said, adding that foresters have even witnessed black bears using the piles for dens in the winter. “There’s always these debris piles that are left.”
The small mammal study began 12 years ago, as biologists monitored the activity of the small fur-bearing creatures before and after logging operations. Sullivan and his team are working on five different habitat locations across the province, using small and large slash piles, and tagging the mammals they catch before releasing them to study their habits.