Wildlife for your Woodlot

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A popular reason for owning woodlands is recreation, including hunting and wildlife watching.  The wildlife that is found in woodlot is based on specific wildlife needs.  In order for landowners to manage for wildlife, they need to take these into consideration.  Wildlife have four basic requirements for life: water, food, shelter and space.  Landowners have some ability to adapt their property to fit these needs based on what wildlife is desired.

The first step in managing for wildlife is to inventory the forest.  The main questions to answer are:

-What wildlife and forest types are on the property?  Knowing this will provide an insight into what other wildlife it may be able to support.  For example, some wildlife may prefer younger aspen trees for one stage of life, and more open, older stands for another stage.  In this example, the wildlife manager may suggest keeping a patchwork of aspen ages on the property.

- What are the primary interests for wildlife: bird watching, hunting, exploring tracks?  This does not mean that the land can support everything on the list, but it is a starting point when considering managing for wildlife.

-What types of wildlife, tree and plants will the forest support?  Knowing whether there is a water source on the property will assist with wildlife’s need for water.  The soil type and existing vegetation will indicate what else can grow there.  As an example, the property may not currently have oak, but could be successfully introduced to attract wildlife.

-What type of habitat borders the property?  One property may be too small to support a large variety of wildlife or even all the needs of one type of animal.  Knowing what surrounds the property can help complete the puzzle.  For example, if the property doesn’t have water, but there is a lake or stream within the animal’s range, the water aspect may not be necessary on this property.

To attract wildlife to a property, some management may need to occur.  This may include harvesting trees, planting trees or shrubs, increasing the number of snags, and creating brush piles.  It is best to get the assistance of a wildlife professional and possibly a forester.  Both can be found at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  There are also organizations   (Ruffed Grouse Society, Wild Turkey Federation and Trout Unlimited, etc.) that can provide advice and assistance.  Before contacting these organizations, landowners should identify some measurable objectives for their forest.  Increased population of certain species, increased diversity of wildlife or habitat, or increased traffic through the property are examples.

For more reading on wildlife, check out the Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin-Extension publication series titled Wildlife and Your Land. A good publication to start with is Putting Pen To Paper.