1 Wildlife and Your Land a series about managing your land for wildlife Calling All Wildlife! Wildlife Management Basics It ’ s 6 a.m. and the dog ’ s whimpering to be let out. So, reluctantly, you stumble downstairs toward the back door, turn the latch — click — and fl re startled by a rapid ’ ap! You fl open it. WHOOSH, apping and fl ock of mourning doves fl ies off. And there, at whistling of wings as a the edge of the woods, stands a lone doe. She eyes you squarely in the ’ face and darts off into a thicket of dogwood. It s another good morning and the chickadees and wrens are singing all about it. The Wildlife and Your Land series is ou know the feeling well... designed to offer suggestions to you, the nothing quite compares with Y private landowner, on how to manage for the experience of watching a wildlife, whether you own a 160-acre farm, wild animal. Somehow, wildlife a small woodlot, a large rural homesite, a gives us all something we need: a suburban tract, or a tiny urban lot. Each connection with nature, a sense part of the series of wonder, peacefulness and focuses on manage- beauty. Whatever your specific ment practices that reasons, you are not alone. Over 85 percent you can apply to your of Wisconsinites participate in “watchable land. But s ’ rst, let fi wildlife” activities such as backyard feeding, start by getting to know bird watching, or wildlife photography, while some of the of basics hundreds of thousands enjoy the challenge of wildlife management. matching their hunting skills to the survival skills displayed by their quarry. In fact, just about everyone gets some kind of benefit or enjoyment from wildlife. If wildlife gives us so much, why not give something back to wildlife? As a landowner, you — as well as your are in the best position to help neighbors — wildlife survive and prosper. Did you know that about 74 percent of Wisconsin ’ s total land area is owned by private landowners like you? That ’ s a lot of land. If all of us work together, wildlife will flourish.
2 Wildlife and Your Land 2 and you will be able to make great strides What’s Wildlife? toward managing your land for wildlife. Let ’ s take a closer look at this important concept. ” When you hear the word wildlife, what “ re like most people, ’ comes to mind? If you you think of deer, bear, ducks, geese and Wildlife “ Becoming a — basically, the large mammals songbirds and showy birds. But that s not all. Snakes ’ ” Realtor are also part of the wildlife family, and so are ies, earthworms, salamanders, frogs, butter fl When you ’ re in the market for a new home, ants, turtles and more. In fact, wildlife your realtor asks many questions in order to includes all birds, mammals, reptiles, match your wants and needs to the available ’ sh and invertebrates. So, don t amphibians, fi housing stock. Some people prefer city life restrict your appreciation and observation to and will choose a low maintenance condo, the old favorites. while others yearn for a sprawling farm house. So, too, every animal has different housing needs. The ruffed grouse prefers aspen forests with dense alder thickets and Habitat is Where It s At! ’ scattered openings; the meadowlark is drawn to grasslands; and the garter snake loves to When a red fox vixen trots home after a long hang out on sunny rock piles. Remember, eld, where does she go? fi day in the what grows or exists on the land determines Furthermore, how does she survive? Well, what animals live there. think about what you need to survive: food to eat, water to drink, shelter, and space to live You can learn to spot habitat types by and roam. Not surprisingly, red foxes, and all looking at the plants that grow there. For wildlife, need the same things. The term eld or example, an alder thicket, a grassy fi wildlife managers use for this combination of pasture, a patch of prairie, an oak woodland, factors is called habitat . Habitat is where an a cattail marsh, and even your animal lives, eats, establishes and defends c backyard are all speci fi its territory, mates and produces offspring. In of habitat. types s the animal ’ short, it s home. The four ’ Although each of these components of habitat are food, water, habitats provides a shelter and space. home to a host of plants and animals, none of them can ’ s Wildlife What support all wildlife. Management All About? Each supports very speci fi c types of Wildlife management is really habitat wildlife. management ’ s what this Wildlife , and that and Your Land series is all about. To attract certain animals to your property you will need to manipulate the type, arrangement and availability of the four components of habitat on your land: food, water, shelter and space. How the four are arranged on your property is very critical to the success of your efforts. Habitat is the single most important concept in wildlife management. Master an understanding and appreciation of habitat,
3 3 Wildlife and Your Land etting to Know Your Land G Getting to know your wetlands, rivers, creeks, springs, ponds and land is like getting to other low, wet, areas on your property. For know a person; it ’ those of you living in urban areas, don t forget Food takes a little time birdbaths, garden sprinklers, fountains and Y and effort, but in the ponds if you have them. Maintaining existing Water end it pays off. So, water sources, restoring wetlands and Shelter put on your boots and building wildlife ponds may be your biggest get ready to take a wildlife management challenges. Space closer look at the four Y major components of Shelter: Split-levels For Wildlife G habitat on your property: food, water, Wildlife seek cover for the same reasons we shelter, and space. to protect themselves from predators and — do severe weather, and to provide a safe place for As you walk, note what ’ s there and what you rearing young. Wildlife shelter takes many think might have been there. Keep in mind forms, just like our housing stock of that it ’ s important to periodically walk your apartments, condos and split-levels. So, think property because not all plants are visible creatively as you walk along... during each season, and animals continually y, walk, or sprint across it. The more you fl Imagine standing dead trees, or snags, as ll get to know ’ walk your land, the better you apartments for woodpeckers, chickadees and it and its inhabitants. squirrels; piles of brush or rock as split-levels for snakes, chipmunks and rabbits; hollow logs as winter condos for bear and fox; ’ s Four Major Habitat downed trees as summer cottages for salamanders, and dense shrubs, clusters of Components hardwoods and conifers as winter havens for deer and countless birds. Y The Back 40 Food: Supermarkets vs. “ ” G Gravel pits, cliffs, cut banks, caves, ravines, We have supermarkets, wildlife has the fl sand ats, barren gravel bars, and abandoned land — ’ “ Back your land and your neighbors buildings also provide valuable cover for ” Make your land a 40. supermarket for special kinds of wildlife. Remember, what wildlife by creating food sources and appears brushy and unkempt, often makes enhancing existing sources. Some projects very good wildlife habitat, so resist the urge include: installing bird feeders or planting “ clean ” the wilder portions of your to trees, shrubs, crops, grasses and fl owers. But property. nd out fi before you make these decisions, what s already growing on your land. While ’ Remember that certain animals require every animal has its own food requirements, different shelter types at different times of there are certain . basic seasonal food types the year. Find out what animals are (See But what is it???, page 6.) Note these as appropriate for your location then start you walk your land. c habitat information about fi collecting speci these critters. Y The Fountain of Life : Water G We need water to survive, and so does every living thing. As you walk along, note the
4 Wildlife and Your Land 4 Y Space: Room to Roam The Big Picture G And speaking of your neighbor ’ s property, ” elbow-room Most of us need a little to live “ take a look around you. What do you see? comfortably. Animals are no different. Farmland? Suburbs? Small woodlots? Tracts Furthermore, the arrangement of that space of forest? Whatever you nd, your wildlife fi is important. For example, the average gray plan must and enhance the complement wolf pack requires a territory of 50 to 150 neighboring landscape. For example, if your square miles of northwoods wilderness land is in southern Wisconsin, chances are (that ’ s about one- fi fth the size of a typical you are surrounded by farm elds and small fi county). White-tailed deer need a habitat woodlots. It may make sense to manage for mix of woods and openings with young, pheasants, wild turkeys, bluebirds, red-tailed brushy growth to satisfy their food and cover hawks and rabbits. This could include a needs. While this arrangement of habitat is prairie or wetland restoration, oak available nearly everywhere in the state, management and nestbox placement. In your land may not be large enough to provide northern Wisconsin, where the landscape is ’ s all habitat components within the deer forested with aspen, birch, pine, spruce, and optimal range of one-square mile. On the maple and other hardwoods, think about ock prefers a mix fl other hand, a wild turkey enhancing shelter types and food sources for of oak/hickory woodlands interspersed with grouse, pileated woodpeckers or pine fi grasslands or farm elds. Wild turkey range martens, depending on the tree types and — is variable and is — about 500 to 2,000 acres ages, of course. The point is, complement generally restricted to the southern part of what already exists, grow plants within their the state. On a smaller scale, red squirrels natural ranges, and your success in require less than an acre of pines, spruces, or attracting wildlife will increase. rs which provide them with seeds fi balsam and den sites. s space needs and ’ Understanding an animal how your property fi ts into the equation is t large very important. If your property isn ’ enough to accommodate all habitat compo- nents for an animal, you will have to look at the surrounding property to determine which component — food, water or shelter — would t the animal you wish to attract. fi best bene The one thing you can ’ t change is space, unless, of course you have the resources to ’ purchase your neighbor s place...
5 Wildlife and Your Land 5 The Big Picture grassland pond cropland stream cropland wetland woodlot Complement the habitat that already exists on your land, grow plants within their natural ranges, and your success in attracting wildlife will increase. The Nitty Gritty of Soils and Topography As you look over your property, take time to notice soil type and land characteristics. Is your soil mostly clay, sand, or a mixture? Is your land high and dry or low and soggy? fi elds? If so, Are there steep hills or rolling what kinds of plants grow on the slopes facing north and those facing south? Is there a difference? These observations will help determine what kinds of vegetation to manage for or to plant. If you are unsure, ask for help before making a large investment in trees, shrubs, grass seeds or owers. Contact your county Natural fl prairie Resources Conservation Service of fi ce, ce for fi garden center or County Extension of more information about soil testing, planting, or county soil survey maps.
6 6 Wildlife and Your Land But what is it??? Not sure about that leafy plant with the red berries?? Not to worry. Many good eld fi guides are available at your local library or bookstore to help you. You can also clip a sample or note its characteristics and contact your county Extension of fi ce, DNR forester or wildlife manager for help. Throughout summer, wildlife nd an abundance of food: fruits, berries, grain, seeds, fi nectar-rich fl owers, grasses, legumes and aquatic plants. Many animals also feed on insects, fi sh, frogs, snakes, worms, small mammals and birds, so look for signs of these animals on your property: chewed leaves, cocoons, small tunnels in matted grasslands created by fi eld mice, and exposed soil rich with earthworms. During fall, nuts and acorns, late ripening berries and waste agricultural crops abound. In winter and early fi eld crops not covered spring, food is scarce. Woody twigs and buds, weed seeds, waste by snow, backyard bird feeders and, in some cases, food plots help keep animals alive. So seek out those oaks, hickories, walnuts, black cherries, blackberries, alders, blueberries, raspberries, hawthornes, sumacs, wild roses, red cedars, service berries, elderberries and a host of other wildlife shrubs and trees that may be growing in some corner of your property. Black Elderberry Cherry Foxtail Butternut Acorns Hickory Wild Rose Blackberry Brome grass
7 7 Wildlife and Your Land ife On The Edge L The Drawbacks of More Edge Where Two Habitats Meet But not all wildlife need edge. Many birds, edge Most people have lived on the at one ” “ some mammals, and a few reptiles, time or another in their lives. While it can be unpredictable, life on the edge also offers lots amphibians and invertebrates prefer the of variety and excitement. Wildlife interior of large (100 acres or more) tracts of edge is forests, grasslands or wetlands. For them, very similar. is where two or more Edge the edge means less space for breeding and different habitat types such as an old — eld fi nesting, greater threats from edge-loving — and woodlot or wetland and woodland predators and parasites, and more meet. disturbance from humans. s a wider variety of food At the edge, there ’ fi For example, goshawks, gray wolves, shers, and cover; this means that edge habitat will red-bellied snakes, pileated woodpeckers, attract more varieties of wildlife, especially ovenbirds, and solitary vireos prefer large, game animals, than either type of habitat mature, unbroken tracts of forest. They need alone. This is an important concept given the the seclusion of the woodland interior for amount of edge habitat in Wisconsin. raising their young, and some need mature trees for nest cavities. If this same tract of land were clearcut, aspen, birch and other sun-loving trees and shrubs would spring up. As a result, animals which prefer this habitat, such as deer, ruffed grouse, snow- shoe hares, indigo buntings, and humming- birds would move in, but the goshawks, wolves, red-bellied snakes and company would be forced to move on. The point is, any wildlife management activity you undertake will affect — wildlife for better or worse. Every action encourages or dis- courages wildlife. Keep this in mind as you develop your wildlife plans. Wildlife at the woodland/grassland edge is diverse, but risk of predation can be high for ground nesters such as the meadowlark and mallard.
8 8 Wildlife and Your Land oo Much Of A Good Thing T Carrying Capacity The maximum number of animals that can live comfortably on a given parcel of land is called the land ’ s . Too many carrying capacity individuals of any given type of animal can result in a lot of damage: trees, shrubs and other plants may be severely browsed, animals that are being crowded out of an area can cause collisions with cars, or water sources can become fouled and disease- ridden. When the land has too many animals ’ to support, we say that the animal s population has exceeded the land s carrying ’ capacity. The carrying capacity also changes from season to season, with late winter and early spring having the lowest capacity to carry animals. Within your geographic and soil limitations, s carrying you can increase your land ’ capacity for certain animals by manipulating the amount of food, water and cover on your property. For example, if you would like more cottontails, consider planting shrubs for winter food and shelter, or build a brush pile ’ d like to encourage herons, or two. If you frogs or salamanders, you ll need to enhance ’ Severe browsing is a sign that your land has or restore wetland habitat. But remember, exceeded its carrying capacity for deer. the one thing you change (without ’ can t considerable expense), is space. This means that you must consider the size of your property and surrounding property when setting your wildlife goals.
9 Wildlife and Your Land 9 Never-Ending Cycle A if not — time. Each stage grows into the next Succession re, logging or fi set back to an earlier stage by Nothing ever stays the same. The natural nal stage, or windthrow — until a fi “ climax, ” world, just as the human world, grows in is reached. Climax stage vegetation tends to predictable stages over time. While humans be stable and remains the same for long grow from infant, toddler, adolescent, periods of time. In Wisconsin, forest climax teenager, young adult, mature adult and vegetation includes sugar maple, hemlock fi nally elderly adult, so, too, do natural and beech. If disturbed by human or natural communities mature. A typical Wisconsin causes, parts or all of the climax forest will woodland, for instance, proceeds through return to an earlier stage, where the cycle these growth stages: grassland, shrub, begins again. sapling, young woods, mature woods and nally old growth. The whole process is fi Succession is a very important wildlife called succession . management concept. By manipulating the vegetation on your property through timber Succession occurs in all natural harvesting, mowing, or controlled burning, communities, including wetlands, lakes and you can set back or maintain your property fi ll with sediments ponds. As lakes age, they at a certain successional stage. By planting and turn into marshes which are invaded by trees and shrubs, you can speed up the alder, willow and other wet-loving trees such process. By doing nothing, you allow the as white cedar, black spruce or tamarack. natural, never-ending cycle of succession to How fast this occurs depends on the depth, move along at its own deliberate pace. Since width, and location of the lake or pond. different animals prefer different stages of succession, when you turn back or speed up fi Every acre of soil and water has a de nite the succession clock, you will be affecting the sequence of plant cover that occurs over nd on your property. fi types of animals you Forest succession is illustrated by a plowed field surrounded by a forest. The field is invaded quickly by annual weeds, then, in time, perennial flowers, grasses and shrubs. These, in turn, are replaced by saplings and pole timber until a mature stand develops. Adapted by permission from material provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
10 10 Wildlife and Your Land What to do? If you want a wide variety of common birds and mammals that prefer edge habitats, then you will need to encourage as many different stages of succession as possible. Creating openings and trails, improving fencerows and hedgerows are some techniques. If you are interested in managing for early successional animals, such as grassland fl ies songbirds, ground squirrels, or butter then you will need to constantly work against the forces of succession. Depending upon where you live in the state, you could manage for meadowlarks, bobolinks, upland sandpipers, or northern harriers by maintaining a regular schedule of burning, mowing or spot treatment of herbicides. Now that you know some of the If your interests and land lean toward important wildlife management managing for animals found in old ’ concepts and you ve looked your land woodlands, you may consider simply over to see what habitat components watching wildlife populations change as a exist, you ’ re ready to develop a wildlife result of natural succession or adopt a low- management plan for your property. impact timber cutting strategy.
11 Wildlife and Your Land 11 N otes
12 Wildlife and Your Land Staff: Mary K. Judd, Project Director; Diane Schwartz, Project Assistant; Todd Peterson, Agricultural and Rural Land Use Specialist. Graphics and layout, Kandis Elliot. Funding for this project was provided in part through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act and through the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, Inc., P.O. Box 129, Madison, WI, 53701. Published by the Bureau of Wildlife Management, Federal Aid Project funded by your purchase of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 7921, hunting equipment Madison, WI, 53707. PUBL-WM-216