Calling All Wildlife - Wisconsin Department of Natural ...dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/wm/ watching,...

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  • You know the feeling well...nothing quite compares withthe experience of watching awild animal. Somehow, wildlifegives us all something we need: aconnection with nature, a senseof wonder, peacefulness andbeauty. Whatever your specificreasons, you are not alone. Over 85 percentof Wisconsinites participate in watchablewildlife activities such as backyard feeding,bird watching, or wildlife photography, whilehundreds of thousands enjoy the challenge ofmatching their hunting skills to the survivalskills displayed by their quarry. In fact, justabout everyone gets some kind of benefit orenjoyment from wildlife. If wildlife gives usso much, why not give something back towildlife?

    As a landowner, youas well as yourneighborsare in the best position to helpwildlife survive and prosper. Did you knowthat about 74 percent of Wisconsins totalland area is owned by private landownerslike you? Thats a lot of land. If all of us worktogether, wildlife will flourish.

    The Wildlife and Your Land series isdesigned to offer suggestions to you, theprivate landowner, on how to manage forwildlife, whether you own a 160-acre farm,

    a small woodlot, a large rural homesite, asuburban tract, or a tiny urban lot. Eachpart of the series

    focuses on manage-ment practices thatyou can apply to yourland. But first, letsstart by getting to knowsome of the basics ofwildlife management.

    Calling All Wildlife!Wildlife Management Basics

    Its 6 a.m. and the dogs whimpering to be let out. So, reluctantly, youstumble downstairs toward the back door, turn the latchclickandopen it. WHOOSH, flap! Youre startled by a rapid flapping andwhistling of wings as a flock of mourning doves flies off. And there, atthe edge of the woods, stands a lone doe. She eyes you squarely in theface and darts off into a thicket of dogwood. Its another good morningand the chickadees and wrens are singing all about it.

    Wildlife and Your Landa series about managing your land for wildlife

  • Whats Wildlife?

    When you hear the word wildlife, whatcomes to mind? If youre like most people,you think of deer, bear, ducks, geese andsongbirds basically, the large mammalsand showy birds. But thats not all. Snakesare also part of the wildlife family, and so arebutterflies, earthworms, salamanders, frogs,ants, turtles and more. In fact, wildlifeincludes all birds, mammals, reptiles,amphibians, fish and invertebrates. So, dontrestrict your appreciation and observation tothe old favorites.

    Habitat is Where Its At!

    When a red fox vixen trots home after a longday in the field, where does she go?Furthermore, how does she survive? Well,think about what you need to survive: food toeat, water to drink, shelter, and space to liveand roam. Not surprisingly, red foxes, and allwildlife, need the same things. The termwildlife managers use for this combination offactors is called habitat. Habitat is where ananimal lives, eats, establishes and defendsits territory, mates and produces offspring. Inshort, its the animals home. The fourcomponents of habitat are food, water,shelter and space.

    Whats WildlifeManagement All About?

    Wildlife management is really habitatmanagement, and thats what this Wildlifeand Your Land series is all about. To attractcertain animals to your property you willneed to manipulate the type, arrangementand availability of the four components ofhabitat on your land: food, water, shelter andspace. How the four are arranged on yourproperty is very critical to the success of yourefforts. Habitat is the single most importantconcept in wildlife management. Master anunderstanding and appreciation of habitat,

    and you will be able to make great stridestoward managing your land for wildlife. Letstake a closer look at this important concept.

    Becoming a WildlifeRealtor

    When youre in the market for a new home,your realtor asks many questions in order tomatch your wants and needs to the availablehousing stock. Some people prefer city lifeand will choose a low maintenance condo,while others yearn for a sprawling farmhouse. So, too, every animal has differenthousing needs. The ruffed grouse prefersaspen forests with dense alder thickets andscattered openings; the meadowlark is drawnto grasslands; and the garter snake loves tohang out on sunny rock piles. Remember,what grows or exists on the land determineswhat animals live there.

    You can learn to spot habitat types bylooking at the plants that grow there. Forexample, an alder thicket, a grassy field orpasture, a patch of prairie, an oak woodland,a cattail marsh, and even yourbackyard are all specifictypes of habitat.Although each of thesehabitats provides ahome to a host ofplants and animals,none of them cansupport all wildlife.Each supports veryspecific types ofwildlife.

    2 Wildlife and Your Land

  • Getting to know yourland is like getting toknow a person; ittakes a little timeand effort, but in theend it pays off. So,put on your boots andget ready to take acloser look at the fourmajor components ofhabitat on yourproperty: food, water,shelter, and space.

    As you walk, note whats there and what youthink might have been there. Keep in mindthat its important to periodically walk yourproperty because not all plants are visibleduring each season, and animals continuallyfly, walk, or sprint across it. The more youwalk your land, the better youll get to knowit and its inhabitants.

    Habitats Four MajorComponents

    GY Food: Supermarkets vs. The Back 40We have supermarkets, wildlife has thelandyour land and your neighbors Back40. Make your land a supermarket forwildlife by creating food sources andenhancing existing sources. Some projectsinclude: installing bird feeders or plantingtrees, shrubs, crops, grasses and flowers. Butbefore you make these decisions, find outwhats already growing on your land. Whileevery animal has its own food requirements,there are certain basic seasonal food types.(See But what is it???, page 6.) Note these asyou walk your land.

    GY Water: The Fountain of LifeWe need water to survive, and so does everyliving thing. As you walk along, note the

    wetlands, rivers, creeks, springs, ponds andother low, wet, areas on your property. Forthose of you living in urban areas, dont forgetbirdbaths, garden sprinklers, fountains andponds if you have them. Maintaining existingwater sources, restoring wetlands andbuilding wildlife ponds may be your biggestwildlife management challenges.

    GY Shelter: Split-levels For WildlifeWildlife seek cover for the same reasons wedoto protect themselves from predators andsevere weather, and to provide a safe place forrearing young. Wildlife shelter takes manyforms, just like our housing stock ofapartments, condos and split-levels. So, thinkcreatively as you walk along....

    Imagine standing dead trees, or snags, asapartments for woodpeckers, chickadees andsquirrels; piles of brush or rock as split-levelsfor snakes, chipmunks and rabbits; hollowlogs as winter condos for bear and fox;downed trees as summer cottages forsalamanders, and dense shrubs, clusters ofhardwoods and conifers as winter havens fordeer and countless birds.

    Gravel pits, cliffs, cut banks, caves, ravines,sand flats, barren gravel bars, and abandonedbuildings also provide valuable cover forspecial kinds of wildlife. Remember, whatappears brushy and unkempt, often makesvery good wildlife habitat, so resist the urgeto clean the wilder portions of yourproperty.

    Remember that certain animals requiredifferent shelter types at different times ofthe year. Find out what animals areappropriate for your location then startcollecting specific habitat information aboutthese critters.

    Wildlife and Your Land 3

    FoodWaterShelterSpace

    Y

    Getting to Know Your Land

  • GY Space: Room to RoamMost of us need a little elbow-room to livecomfortably. Animals are no different.Furthermore, the arrangement of that spaceis important. For example, the average graywolf pack requires a territory of 50 to 150square miles of northwoods wilderness(thats about one-fifth the size of a typicalcounty). White-tailed deer need a habitatmix of woods and openings with young,brushy growth to satisfy their food and coverneeds. While this arrangement of habitat isavailable nearly everywhere in the state,your land may not be large enough to provideall habitat components within the deersoptimal range of one-square mile. On theother hand, a wild turkey flock prefers a mixof oak/hickory woodlands interspersed withgrasslands or farm fields. Wild turkey rangeis variableabout 500 to 2,000 acresand isgenerally restricted to the southern part ofthe state. On a smaller scale, red squirrelsrequire less than an acre of pines, spruces, orbalsam firs which provide them with seedsand den sites.

    Understanding an animals space needs andhow your property fits into the equation isvery important. If your property isnt largeenough to accommodate all habitat compo-nents for an animal, you will have to look atthe surrounding property to determine whichcomponentfood, water or shelterwouldbest benefit the animal you wish to attract.The one thing you cant change is space,unless, of course you have the resources topurchase your neighbors place....

    The Big PictureAnd speaking of your neighbors property,take a look around you. What do you see?Farmland? Suburbs? Small woodlots? Tractsof forest? Whatever you find, your wildlifeplan must complement and enhance theneighboring landscape. For example, if yourland is in southern Wisconsin, chances areyou are surrounded by farm fields and smallwoodlots. It may make sense to manage forpheasants, wild turkeys, bluebirds, red-tailedhawks and rabbits. This could include aprairie or wetland restoration, oakmanagement and nestbox placement. Innorthern Wisconsin, where the landscape isforested with aspen, birch, pine, spruce, andmaple and other hardwoods, think aboute