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
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.
WHO TO CONTACT FOR HELP-
Soil Conservation Service (SCS) office,
Farm Service Agency (formerly ASCS),
citizens' organizations such as game clubs or birding clubs,
Cooperative Extension Service offices.