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spruce beetles and grouse population

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  • spruce beetles and grouse population

    So the Matsu area spruce trees are being decimated by spruce bark beetles and that is the source of food for spruce grouse and others, especially in winter. A fish and game officer was just telling my buddy that they expect the population of birds to decrease dramatically in the near future. It is written in many articles that the beetles only attack the larger trees, allowing for thinning and regrowth, but I can say for a fact that isn't true. It is amazing the dead standing trees of all sizes right now.... I have lots of birds out at my place,
    just wondering if y'all have noticed any decline in the birds yet.

  • #2
    No change in birds at our place in Willow yet.

    Well our smaller spruce trees must have not gotten the memo. We have beetle kill trees that are about four inches across and less than 10 feet tall.
    “Move that fat ass Henry!”
    “Don’t swing your balls or you’ll swamp the boat!"

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    • #3
      That is bunk that they only attack large trees, they attack all the spruce trees. My understandings that colder winters weather impacts the spruce bark beetle larva survival cycle. I rarely see grouse in the woods. If I hunt grouse it is in the powerline ROW or the Powerline access trails. Or gavel pits, when they are getting grit for digestion. No grit in the forest here, just deeeep moss.
      "Life Is Either a Daring Adventure or Nothing" - Helen Keller

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      • #4
        Are you all sure that it's the beetle killing your trees and not the aphids? If the inner needles are going yellow/brown but the outside needles, the new growth, are still green and undamaged then it is the aphids getting to your trees.
        “I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” Physicist ― Richard Feynman

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        • #5
          Originally posted by AKBEE View Post
          It is written in many articles that the beetles only attack the larger trees, allowing for thinning and regrowth, but I can say for a fact that isn't true. It is amazing the dead standing trees of all sizes right now....
          What I heard is that they attack either already unhealthy, or beyond their prime trees. I've seen plenty of smaller spruce threes that weren't healthy for one reason or another. Maybe the beetles know this somehow and why they attack them as well? And no, they don't attack all the spruce trees, obviously, because if they did there wouldn't be one live spruce tree around anywhere.
          Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by 4merguide View Post
            What I heard is that they attack either already unhealthy, or beyond their prime trees. I've seen plenty of smaller spruce threes that weren't healthy for one reason or another. Maybe the beetles know this somehow and why they attack them as well? And no, they don't attack all the spruce trees, obviously, because if they did there wouldn't be one live spruce tree around anywhere.
            I know they don't attack all the trees, but it is strange to see how they pick some and leave others. I had some beautiful 80 footers a year ago.....now we will at least put them to use in the saw mill. Looking from atop a knoll seeing all the brown is just strange looking. It is bizarre to hear the beetles when cutting the trees. At least the woodpeckers are happy.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by 4merguide View Post
              And no, they don't attack all the spruce trees, obviously, because if they did there wouldn't be one live spruce tree around anywhere.
              They can and do kill "ALL" the spruce trees in a "Given" area. North shore of Kenai Lake is a perfect example. Another example is Cripple Creek back of Hope, AK.. Back in the 70's the Kenai Peninsula would have long cold winters, with temperatures down in the minus 30's, now we have wet fairly warmish winters.
              "Life Is Either a Daring Adventure or Nothing" - Helen Keller

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              • #8
                Originally posted by AGL4now View Post
                They can and do kill "ALL" the spruce trees in a "Given" area. North shore of Kenai Lake is a perfect example. Another example is Cripple Creek back of Hope, AK.
                Well then why didn't you say "a given area"...??? Because from where I sit there still are a lot of healthy spruce trees out there.....
                Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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                • #9
                  Under "normal" conditions, when beetle populations are at low levels, they typically target stressed trees (trees might be stressed because of drought, overcrowding, mechanical damage, etc.). But when conditions are right, beetle population can grow to epidemic proportion and then they hit a much larger percentage of the available trees...

                  I would think that, perhaps even more than affecting food supply, a loss of canopy will affect grouse winter survival by allowing more snow to reach the ground, more wind to affect the snowpack, significantly reducing extreme cold weather shelter habitat afforded by treewells...
                  ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
                  I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
                  The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It

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                  • #10
                    i had to take down nine old spruce trees this summer due to beetle infestation. The best spruce tree on my property is a 25' tree with an 8" trunk (approximately). My youngest son and I transplanted this tree when he was in grade school. Why would this be the only tree that wasn't attached? **** sure does depend on trunk diameter, USUALLY!! Just saying but I've talked with Joel at Valley Tree Service (He knows what he's talking about believe me) and he said the same. Beetles don't attack the smaller trees, normally, but hey, what is normal?
                    Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

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                    • #11
                      The new succession growth after the thinning of the spruce might help the ruffed grouse in some areas of the valley.

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                      • #12
                        Last week I went grouse hunting to one of my most consistent spots for spruce grouse in the Valley. I've hunted this spot for the last decade. Last year the spruce trees looked perfectly normal. This year, EVERY single spruce tree in all directions as far as I could see were dead from spruce beetles. It looked like a bomb had gone off. Very disappointed to see that and obviously no spruce grouse to be found. Although, there are some ruffed grouse in this area as well, so this may help their populations.
                        Your bait stinks and your boat is ugly

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                        • #13
                          One problem for me is the "Blow'Downs". I hike/walk in the woods here nearly everyday (weather being reasonable) and it is a nightmare, and often impossible after the dead spruce are blown down, to go to my favorite spots.
                          "Life Is Either a Daring Adventure or Nothing" - Helen Keller

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                          • #14
                            So....around my Mat valley cabin (wherein I've hunted ruffed and spruce grouse more or less for 30 years) what I've noticed is the following:

                            - Obviously beetle kill is affecting larger portions of the spruce trees in the valley than before, but.
                            - While I can see lots of brown while flying over, within the walking/ATV accessible areas near the cabin, the beetle kill is not overly predominant
                            - Last winter (FWIW) was much more "snowy" than many previous (e.g. in '15 and '16, I took a Jeep Wrangler into the cabin as late as Thanksgiving, had to use sno-go's last year)
                            - So far this year, my limited empirical evidence indicates that there was perhaps a harder winter kill on both ruffed and spruce than in the recent past
                            - I wouldn't tend to think the beetle kill was impacting the birds in my neck of the woods, although again beetle kill can be seen from the air.
                            - Takes 3 hours of tramping to see 5-10 birds in the woods and maybe covering 3 miles of gravel/dirt trail this year vs. 1-2 hours and 2 miles in recent years.
                            - The beetle kill has not caused increased spruce blowdown...but either the winter or age or my aged perception cause a much higher level than usual of new cottonwood and birch blowdown.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by pa12drvr View Post
                              - The beetle kill has not caused increased spruce blowdown....
                              Maybe not as far up north it hasn't, but in my neck o' the woods it has...big time! Dead trees are gonna fall over sooner or later....right? The KP has been suffering from the beetle kill plague for quite a few years now.....what, close to 30? I can remember moose hunting a ridge years ago not far from my house where I had no problem walking it. Fast forward a few years and lots more beetle killed spruce up on that same ridge, and it was a real chore to walk it after a big windstorm that finally took down those now rotting, standing dead, beetle kill. It was like the kids game Pickup Sticks up there. In many, MANY, areas on the Kenai now it can be a real chore to walk through where the beetles have done their thing. No doubt about that.
                              Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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