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Porcupine Feeding Damage in Precommercially Thinned Conifer Stands of Central Southeast Alaska

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This study describes feeding damage by porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum) in precommercially thinned young growth stands of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) on Mitkof Island in central southeast Alaska. We examined 641 trees from 54 sampling plots along transect lines in three 12 to 20 yr old stands. Porcupine feeding was monitored each spring and fall from 1985 to 1987. Four categories of feeding damage are described: complete girdling of the bole, partial girdling (bole scars), branch clipping, and "tasting wounds" (small basal bole scars). Sitka spruce, the primary crop tree in these thinned stands, sustained significantly higher damage (52% of trees affected) than western hemlock (26% of trees affected). Porcupine feeding was greater on taller than shorter Sitka spruce. Although only 8 of 59 trees initially girdled in 1985 were killed, many later sustained additional feeding damage. Following the 1987 season 3 yr after thinning, nearly 30% of the spruce and 14% of the western hemlock crop trees had been partially or completely girdled. Issues deserving future attention include the role of thinning in predisposing stands to porcupine damage, methods of population assessment, and mechanisms of host selection by porcupines. West. J. Appl. For. 12(4):115-121.
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Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, 2770 Sherwood Lane, Suite 2A, Juneau, AK 99801-8545

Publication date: 1997-10-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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