The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 10 - 11/4/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Knocked over headstones, chewed up flowers, lead to new 6-foot fence.
by Jennifer Binning
The personal hygiene habits of the local deer and moose herds have forced the Upper Green River Cemetery District to erect a six-foot fence all the way around the Pinedale Cemetery.
According to Cemetery District Board Member Julie Early, the board has wanted to do something about the damage caused by deer and moose in the Pinedale cemetery for many years. This year they finally were able to replace the old fence with a new six-foot high wire fence designed to keep the large animals out of the cemetery.
Ms. Early said the deer and moose eat the caragana and honeysuckle bushes in the spring, stripping all of the leaves off the top of the bushes. Later in the summer, the tops of the shrubs die and send out shoots at the bottom, making for an odd looking and unsightly bush. The large ungulates have also been munching on the bark of the large old pines, potentially killing the trees.
The District tried to protect the younger trees by surrounding them with wire cages, but this was only moderately successful. District Saxton Don Schooley points to two young trees which have been repeatedly assaulted, even though completely surrounded by a wire cage, to illustrate this point.
Not only do the animals nibble on the trees, he says, but they also use the lower branches to rub off the velvet and polish their antlers to impress the ladies. Every morning he makes his rounds, picking up the branches which were knocked off the trees the night before. "We try to prune the branches up high enough to discourage them, but they will stand up on their hind feet in order to reach a good branch," Mr. Schooley said.
The damage is not limited only to the trees and bushes, but the grass suffers as well. Ms. Early notes the deer and moose bed down under the same stand of trees night after night, which eventually kills the grass. The amount of urine produced by the animals is also causing yellow spots to appear.
Mr. Schooley complains of something with a bit more substance. A Pinedale resident living near the cemetery enjoys feeding the moose and deer that live there. Unfortunately, the animals are unable to digest the rolled oats and corn he puts out for them, and the material winds up on the cemetery lawn in mass quantities. "Sometimes it looks just like we have had some Herefords in here," says Mr. Schooley with disgust, "I can tell exactly what they are being fed." The animals also push over some of the older grave markers, and eat the fresh flowers placed on the graves by loved ones.
A few animals probably would not have justified the $35,000 price tag for the new fence, but Mr. Schooley recalls that last year he arrived at work and chased 32 deer and 9 moose out of the cemetery first thing in the morning. On Monday, he spent his afternoon chasing 15 deer out through the gates.
Mr. Schooley estimates the project will be complete by the end of the week, then the hard work will begin; educating the public to keep the gates closed even when someone is in the cemetery visiting a loved one. Mr. Schooley asks that visitors please open the unlocked gates, drive in, and close the gates behind them, remembering to be certain the gate is closed when they leave. The gates in the Pinedale Cemetery have never been closed before, so it may take awhile before people get used to the idea.
Even though not all the gates have been installed, Mr. Schooley feels the fence will do the job, as he has watched the deer and moose walk the perimeter if the cemetery until they find a gate opening. Ms. Early sure hopes it works, so they can plant some flowers without the fear of them being devoured during the night, and families will no longer be unnerved by the sight of a vandalized bouquet placed lovingly on a gravesite.
Photo credits: Jennifer Binning
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