Maher Sanctuary News

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Maher Sanctuary News

Report by Chris Baer
John Chronowski asked me at the last board meeting to post a sign at the parking lot explaining (my interpretation) our deer management policies and to advise people walking the trails to wear orange during the hunting season.

In previous years, the deer ate everything in the sanctuary. We could not plant trees or see native plants bloom and produce seed for the birds because of their insatiable appetite. Two things happened to change this. We let hunters harvest the deer every year, and a disease called blue nose took many of the deer several years ago. We are now holding our own with the deer herd at manageable numbers. We do not completely extirpate the deer, as many of us, including me, like to see them.

The hunters we work with provide valuable services for us. They cut the enormous trees off the boardwalk and trail that fall down because of winds, tornados (this past spring) and disease (the emerald ash borer). The club physically and financially cannot do this. Mr. Durkee, with his son, mows the edges of the boardwalk and trail for a nominal fee, which is less than what the landscape company previously charged.

Winter is a wonderful time to visit Maher with all the visual complexities present. There are no mosquitos to bite you, nor leaves to obscure the wildlife.

If you do not see the wildlife, they leave signs in the snow of their coming and going. The wetland is a literal food magnet to all the visitors we host. The asters, sunflowers, grasses and other seed producers attract the large and small. The grouse patter down the boardwalk, their tracks looking like chickens. The seed eaten by finches leaves dustings of frass all along the edge of the trail. Our muskrat has not shown itself recently in the marle pond, eating its favorite food; the roots of the blue flag.

Deer tracks of both young and old ply the oak savannah, making their own trails while in line. Little post holes in the snow mark where fox have traveled looking for the mice and voles that wander from brush pile to brush pile (all those dead autumn olive!). Skunks and ’possums also wander the trails; the former showing wide/fat feet with no tail marks and likely digging holes here and there, the latter with thin feet and fine toes similar to a ’coon, a tail dragging behind. Pileated woodpeckers announce their presence by elongated holes in some of the dead trees, chips thrown everywhere attesting to the violence.

Nothing ever stays the same. The encroaching cattails and sedges along the boardwalk, the enormous oaks that fell during a spring storm to leave just as enormous root balls for generations of Auduboners to wonder at. How many wildlife happenings can you see at Maher?


The high winds in March 2017 blew down the the Maher Sanctuary sign. In April Chris Baer, Jim McMaster, and Ed Bolt resurrected the sign and raised it 15” higher. The angle of the sign was adjusted so it more visible from the intersection of Baker Rd and 108th St. Click on thumbnail left.

Maher Details

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Location Map

The Maher Sanctuary is located on the southwest corner of Woodschool Rd. and 108th St. on the border of Kent and Barry Counties.



From Grand Rapids take I-96 east to Lowell. Exit at the Lowell exit and take Alden Nash Ave. south to 100th St. Proceed east 1/2 mile on 100th to Baker Ave. Turn right and go one mile south on Baker, which becomes Woodschool at 108th St. This is the Barry County line. The Maher Sanctuary is located on the southwest corner of Woodschool and 108th. Turn right on 108th and look for the parking area on the left (south) side of the road about 1/4 mile west of Woodschool.