by Clint Rasmussen IDFG
Getting out early in the morning trying to beat the late July summer heat, Region 4 Sr. Wildlife Technician Ed Papenberg and his small army of volunteers literally hit the slopes of the South Hills to collect bitterbrush seed. Thanks to the Jerome Recreation District, 80 kids ranging from 9-11 years old got the opportunity to have an outdoor experience, learn a little bit about ecology and wildlife management, as well as doing something good for our resources. The crew was split into 2 groups, one beating the brush to collect seed, the other getting a crash course in radio telemetry with Biologists Regan Berkly and Ross Winton. The groups then switched half way through giving everyone the full experience.
Armed with small tennis rackets and large paddles, the volunteer group was able to collect about 20 pounds of seed, which after being processed, netted 8 pounds of clean bitterbrush seed. Papenberg said that it takes approximately 5000 seeds to make one pound. After figuring in a seed viability of 60-75%, this batch of seeds could produce over 24,000 bitterbrush seedlings. Papenberg says the seeds will be germinated next spring and will be ready to plant as bare root stock in the spring of 2015. Only 12-15,000 plants are grown each year at Lucky Peak Nursery near Boise, the extra seeds are stored at the nursery and will be saved for years when extra seed is needed.
The excursion not only produced bitterbrush seed to help grow mule deer habitat, it also has the possibility of growing a couple of future mule deer biologists.