Morse Wildlife Preserve
The Morse Wildlife Preserve was established in 1995 by a donation of land from Lloyd and Maxine Morse. Situated near the headwaters of the north fork of Muck Creek, the 238-acre preserve is a mosaic of conifer forest, wetlands, oak savanna, and prairie.
Forterra and Tahoma Audubon Society jointly manage the Preserve for wildlife and education, and a tremendous volunteer effort is underway to care for this beautiful property headed up by The Morse Force—a group of volunteers who help manage the Preserve.
The Preserve is Forterra’s premier site in Pierce County for outdoor education. We host a number of schools and community groups each month for activities ranging from bird watching to trail construction.
In 2008, Lloyd Morse donated an additional 48 acres for wildlife and education. The Maxine G. Morse Nature Conservancy property, located a few miles from the Morse Wildlife Preserve, is a forested preserve with pocket wetlands and a two mile trail system.
To visit the Morse Wildlife Preserve, check Tahoma Audubon’s calendar for upcoming educational programs.
PLEASE NOTE: Dogs are not allowed at the Preserve, so please leave pets at home when you come to visit.
It is our primary objective to manage the land to protect and conserve endemic wildlife species. For over fifteen years, Forterra and others have been restoring the property to its original state with the prairie and oak savanna that were once common in this area. Many species of mammals, birds and insects adapted to this type of terrain saw dramatic population decline as their native habitat was replaced by agricultural and urban development. Thousand of hours of volunteer work have been applied to seed gathering, tilling, planting, watering and shielding seedling oaks and indigenous prairie plants.
With several different types of habitats on the property, it is an ideal home for many bird species, from owls and other raptors to aquatic fowl and (as of 2007) the uncommon western bluebird. Erecting bird boxes and fostering vegetation to provide food and cover encourages the growth of bird populations on the property.
The wetland, covering about half of the Preserve, includes a large pond and several open channels. Both migrating and resident birds use the wetland, which changes configuration regularly because of beaver dam building. Other mammals, such as deer, coyote, bobcat, rabbits, and a variety of rodents live here or make foraging visits. Cougar, bear, and elk are more infrequent visitors, but are present in the area. Additionally, the Preserve’s excellent avian habitat makes it a prime monitoring site for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) Program.
As enhancements such as an observation tower, trails and an informational kiosk have been developed on the Preserve, and links with school personnel and programs have grown, the use of the Preserve as a unique site for outdoor education has blossomed.
Most of the education at the Preserve takes place in groups, with people young and old joining in! During the warmer months there are birding and plant identification outings on the property, and twice a month the general public is invited to walk the several trails, in guided groups and individually.
Student groups learn from a prepared curriculum that includes a comprehensive short-term course that imparts age-appropriate information about history, ecology, and species identification. It is keyed to markers placed throughout the trail system, which passes through five distinct habitat zones.
Rocky Ridge Elementary School Program
We have partnered with Rocky Ridge Elementary School for several years. It is one of our most innovative and successful youth programs. Students have joined us in restoring the preserve’s prairie to oak savanna, similar to its appearance prior to its conversion to cattle pasture more than 100 years ago. After extensive mowing and thatching, over 100 Garry oaks (from acorns and seedlings) were planted and meticulously cared for by volunteers. The Rocky Ridge students have contributed to our prairie restoration by conducting experimental treatments that use the scientific method to help us determine which method of removing the non-native pasture grass is most effective. Students also test the water quality of Muck Creek and learn skills in birding and nature observation.
The Historic Barn at Morse
Built circa 1910, the barn at Morse Wildlife Preserve is listed on the Washington State Historic Barn Register and the Pierce County Historic Landmarks Register. It is the centerpiece to the education program at the Preserve. It not only provides shelter from the weather for visiting school children, but also a location for storytelling and educational displays as well as storage for tools and materials used by the Morse Force volunteers for restoration projects. Unfortunately, the entire barn had to be closed to visitors in 2011 due to safety concerns with the shed roof, which covers the entrance to the barn.
June 2013, Forterra held a campaign to raise funds to leverage a grant from Pierce County to fix the barn. The campaign was run through crowdfunding website IndieGoGo, raised $520 from generous donors AND inspired several behind the scenes donations that got us to our fundraising goal. Thanks so much to the generous donors who supported the campaign to save the historic barn at Morse.
Morse’s Amazing Barn Supporters: Marshall Clement, Gene Duvernoy, Jodie Galvan, Diane Kerlin, Rosalyn Lueck-Mammen, Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, Brett Santhuff, Elsa Sargent, Hayes Swinney, Holly Taylor