On the May 6 work day led by Gerco Hoogeweg, 14 volunteers returned to the oak-hickory forest at JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary to begin work on the third deer exclosure. The 16-acre mature forest has been documented back to the mid-1850s, but has been adversely impacted by deer. In spring hundreds, if not thousands, of small tree seedlings can be seen throughout the forest. By fall, however, all have been eaten.
As part of the forest restoration efforts, we started our most ambitious deer exclusion project to date: a 460-foot fence around one of the vernal pools and its catchment area. Since there is no road near the work site, the first order of business was for volunteers to haul the required tools and materials through the forest to the site, including 10 foot wood and metal posts.
We started by determining where the posts needed to be installed, dug holes for the wooden posts, and used an auger drill to create pilot holes for the metal posts. After two hours of hard work, all of the holes were dug, and the metal ground sleeves for the metal posts were in place. After a well-deserved break, we hammered the metal sleeves into the ground and secured the wood posts with cement.
While work on the fence poles was underway, the tree cage team got to work in the picnic table area, producing 26 tree cages from rolls of fencing. Once the cages were ready, they were walked over to the area in the forest where tree seedlings had been marked for protection. The tree cages were installed leaving a gap of approximately six inches at the bottom to allow small animals to pass under the cages. The gap will also make it easier to remove invasives that will undoubtedly grow inside the cages.
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is working with the Society for Ecological Restoration and Microsoft’s Datacenter Community Development team to implement the JK Black Oak Ecological Restoration and Biodiversity Enhancement project.
To protect the environmentally sensitive habitat and rare species, JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary is not open for general public access.