For landowners interested in wildlife and habitat management, a wildlife management plan is an important part of successful, long-term management of their property. Before getting too deep into management practices you may want to implement, determine your goals and objectives for the land. Then, begin the wildlife management plan by obtaining a map or aerial photo of your land. Aerial photographs are available at no charge to the landowner from many state wildlife agencies in addition to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
When looking at a photo of your property, note the different plant communities. Most properties have 3 to 5 plant communities, and it’s important to see how they fit together. Each type of habitat meets different wildlife needs, so for best results they should be intermixed on your property. Also, pay attention to areas that are isolated from other habitat types.
Some smaller animals, such as quail and rabbits require habitat types be close together. These species like dense brush adjacent to open grassy areas. Other wildlife species such as white-tailed deer and turkey can travel hundreds of yards to find food, cover, and water, so spacing is not quite as important. However, it’s important to plan travel corridors for these animals.
For your wildlife management plan, identify areas on the photo that can be improved for wildlife. Land can be improved for some grassland nesting birds simply by letting field areas grow up, or through grazing management. Or, you can build the habitat to suit a particular species. Make sure to learn about individual species habitat requirements before you go to work.
Typically, habitat enhancement will involve adding or removing certain plants. Truth be known, wildlife management is basically plant or habitat management. Landowners can change wildlife numbers on their property simply by changing the supply and arrangement of plants that attract, feed and shelter them. In short, if you build it they will come!
You can add plants that provide food for quail and other ground birds or mammals if your goal is to do so. Of course, you may also want to promote habitat for songbirds or whitetail or other animals that also eat taller growing shrubs, brush, and trees. In this case, your wildlife plan should ensure an high diversity of seeds, berries and plants. You may also want to plant food plots for deer, which can include plants such as soybeans, wheat, oats, clovers, peas, and a variety of other plant species.
Make sure to keep a notebook of your progress, including when, where and how the plantings and other improvements were carried out. Take photos of habitat changes. Before-and-after pictures of the land show whether or not you are getting results.
It is a common mistake for landowners to assume that large numbers of native wildlife will permanently remain on their property if they improve food and cover areas. Usually, the habitat improvements are easily witnessed, but animal numbers are less dramatic. Remember, your property may not gain a permanent flock of wild turkey or a huge herd of white-tailed deer, but it may become an important part of their range.
Wildlife sometimes respond slowly to changes in habitat, so the main thing is to get started as soon as possible, especially since some management practices take 5 to 25 years to pan out. A management plan is a must-have for any landowner interested in wildlife habitat management. The plan serves as a road map for the management of your property because if you don’t have a good plan, you will find yourself jumping from project to project with no overall goal.