The Timber Buyers Network
Wildlife Habitat

Information to Educate and Inform the Forest landowner

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     Woodlands are remarkable resources capable of being managed for a wide variety of uses and purposes. Proper timber management will enhance a woodlands suitability for many forms of wildlife. Slight changes in management can make a considerable difference in the abundance and quality of wildlife habitat available on one's land. Woodland owners interested in increasing the number and species of wildlife for both hunting and wildlife observation will discover an increase in wildlife as they increase the diversity of vegetation on their land.

Below you can learn about some  things you need to know to manage your woodlands for wildlife habitat.

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     Wildlife species have three basic needs, Food, water and cover which the landowner can provide or enhance through wildlife management techniques. Food and cover are usually most critical. Woodlots with an abundance of herbaceous plants on the ground, shrubs, and trees of different heights, sizes and species, will provide food and cover for wildlife.

    Over-crowded and overgrown tree stands block out the sun and inhibit growth of ground cover and forage that wildlife need for food and cover. Forest management activities such as thinning, weeding out of undesirable trees and clear cutting (for certain species like aspen) allow the woodland to regenerate and produce plants that animals and birds can use. Cutting will break up single layer stands and allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor. The abundant sprouts and seedlings after harvests increase food and cover for game species, such as deer, grouse, woodcock, rabbits and many nongame species, such as songbirds.

    Understanding the necessities of wildlife and careful planning for an animal's "habitat", the local environment in which it lives, is important to a successful land ethic. Different wildlife species have different habitat requirements, which are supplied by certain vegetative characteristics and other features of the environment.

    Other habitat features should be considered when harvesting and planning wildlife treatments. Let's look at some of these habitats and their features.

HERBACEOUS OPENINGS- Herbaceous openings are areas where the ground is covered with a mixture of grasses and other herbaceous (non-woody) plants and where few or no trees are present. These openings are particularly important to woodland wildlife for nesting and rearing their young. They provide food in the form of herbs, grasses, and insects eaten by a variety of birds and mammals.

Whitetail deer and rabbits feed on grasses and legumes in openings, broods of ruffed grouse and turkeys feed on insects, and adult turkeys feed on grasses or berries. The dense vegetation provides nesting and escape cover for many other woodland wildlife and places for raptors to hunt prey. Roadways and trails with trees cut back along the edges make excellent dual-purpose openings. To maintain these openings, the regeneration of woody plants must be controlled by periodic cutting.

MAST TREES - Some trees produce mast, a general term for wild nuts and fruit. Fruit from oak, beech, and cherry trees is especially valuable for squirrels, turkeys, ruffed grouse, and whitetail deer. Trees start to produce mast when they are about 10 inches in diameter. Mast trees of mixed species should be maintained in woodlands to meet the food needs of these wildlife.

Selective cutting can provide firewood and timber, while at the same time sparing mast trees, den trees, and snags for use by wildlife in your woodland. Crop trees may be selectively cut -- trees that are valuable for timber and/or smaller trees showing poor growth and form (cull trees) for firewood.

SNAG AND DEN TREES - Snag and dead trees provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for wildlife. Raccoons, squirrels, and birds such as woodpeckers, screech owls, bluebirds, and house wrens nest in hollow trunks or limbs of snags. Woodpeckers and other birds feed on insects found within decaying portions of these trees. Dens can be found in mature trees of longer-lived species, such as oaks and beech, which have hollow trunks or limbs that provide cavities for nesting. Unlike snags, den trees are still alive and often produce considerable amounts of food.

EDGES - An edge has a blend of different vegetative conditions and is usually richer in wildlife than the surrounding plant communities. As the plants mingle along the edge, so do the wildlife species common to each adjacent plant community. Other wildlife may be unique to the edge. Edges provide both food and cover for wildlife.

DIVERSITY - A diversity of vegetation on your land will support the greatest variety of wildlife, particularly songbirds. The various features described in this brochure should be well mixed to make access between them easy for animals. A good mix of these key wildlife features and vegetative types in your woodland will improve both the wildlife habitat and the crop of firewood, pulpwood or timber.

SETTING WILDLIFE OBJECTIVES FOR YOUR LAND- Careful planning and priority setting for your land will help your management efforts bring the results you desire. You will need to decide which wildlife species are of greatest interest to you so you can plan forestry practices to favor them. If wildlife interests are secondary to your forest products needs, you can plan your woodland management to have the greatest benefit to wildlife.


Ball.gif (941 bytes) Forestry Forum

Ball.gif (941 bytes) Private consulting foresters,

Ball.gif (941 bytes) State wildlife biologists,

Wildlife habitat improvement Local Soil Conservation Service (SCS) office,

Ball.gif (941 bytes) Local Farm Service Agency (formerly ASCS),

Ball.gif (941 bytes) Local citizens' organizations such as game clubs or birding clubs,

Ball.gif (941 bytes) County Cooperative Extension Service offices.

The Timber Buyers Network 2000
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The Timber Buyers Network would like to thank the Michigan Forest Resource Alliance
for their help, and for the many information resources they have provided.