The Basics of Wildlife Habitat Management
Managing your land for wildlife, like any type of management, should begin by answering five basic questions: what, where, why, when, and how.
What: What is to be addressed? Much of this basic information can be gathered during a timber inventory. If wildlife is to be a part of your management plan, it is important to look at the non-forested habitats as well as the forested habitats. Be sure your consultant is aware of your intentions. Good forestry is not always good wildlife habitat management.
What & Where: Identifying and quantifying the current resources and their health is the first step in developing a management plan. The next important aspect is locating and mapping the different types of habitat. The juxtaposition of two habitat types can be very advantageous to some wildlife species and not to others. A good area type map and inventory will provide you with most of the basic information needed to develop your plan. Since wildlife do not recognize political boundaries, it is important to note land uses around the management area as well. All of this information can be gathered by your consultant.
Why: The question "why" is answered by you, the landowner. Why do you want to manage for wildlife? Do you enjoy seeing certain species of wildlife or a variety of wildlife species? Are your goals for passive recreation or consumptive uses of wildlife? You may even want to discourage some species of wildlife because their habits conflict with your land management goals. Are there any obstacles or restrictions in the way of achieving your goals? Landowners must also understand why habit diversity is important to a management plan.
While developing your goals and objectives for wildlife or certain species of wildlife, it is very important to consider the four basic elements of habitat and their seasonal changes. The four basic elements to wildlife habitat are food, water, cover, and space. The first three elements relate directly to individuals; space is more closely related to species' population levels.
Wildlife require food, water, cover, and space (home and territory ranges) of different types and sizes of areas to support healthy populations. Home ranges vary by size and requirements for individual species. For example, the Eastern Chipmunk's home range is approximately 50 square yards, compared to the Black Bear with a 15 square mile average home range. With this in mind, it is therefore advisable to manage elements of habitat and types to suit a variety of wildlife, rather than managing for specific wildlife species. Successful wildlife management plans diversify the availability of more than one of the habitat elements.
When & How: You and your consultant will meet to develop a plan of action to achieve your goals. This process may be straight forward or may involve developing alternative strategies to overcome unforeseen obstacles. Some habitat management objectives can be accomplished immediately, but most objectives take years to develop. Nothing in nature is static, so it is very important to plan far enough ahead to perpetuate desired habitats. Long range planning, as well as short term goals, should be documented in the plan.
6 year old wildlife opening done to promote aspen root suckers.
This is excellent Ruffed Grouse habitat.
The last, but most important, basic step of the wildlife habitat management plan is implementation. Many management plans sit in the desk drawer far too long. You spent time and other resources developing the plan. Now is the best time to start improving your wildlife habitat.
- Tom Brule
Deerfield River Center Manager