Habitats naturally change over time. Take a farmer's field surrounded by forest land: if the field is not plowed on a regular basis, natural plant life will gradually inch its way back in to the cultivated areas. First grasses will appear, then shrubs, and eventually the field will turn back into the natural habitat that surrounds it. This gradual change in the environment is known as succession, a naturally-occurring process that happens in every habitat as soon as a disturbance to the natural balance has occurred. As long as a habitat is not permanently changed (as is the case with urban development such as building a highway or parking lot), over time the environment will always restore its balance.
Wildlife management practices are efforts by private landowners and conservation organizations to protect wildlife and its habitat. This work ensures that wildlife will be maintained at healthy populations and that the natural balance that is achieved through succession is not disturbed by human interaction. Through these practices, we are able to study and understand wildlife, as well as how humans interact with and utilize wildlife to ensure this balance to natural habitat is maintained.
Here are some common wildlife management practices:
Fires and selective burning
Controlled fires provide new growth in forests and open lands.
Selective cutting of trees opens the canopy of the forest, allowing the understory to grow. The understory then becomes food and shelter for a variety of wildlife. Clear-cutting opens large tracts of land and encourages browse to grow. These areas are also planted with small trees, which provide shelter for wildlife as they grow.
Edge control creates habitat for upland birds, small game and some big game species. Instead of cultivating right up to the edge of the woods, farmers leave a swath of land around the field to create shelter and food for the wildlife. This area is cut every two to three years.
Through the sport of hunting, we can manage the population of the wildlife. Hunting maintains the correct number of specific species for a given amount of habitat or area; hunting also provides wildlife biologists with valuable information on species and population numbers in a given area. Using this information, hunting regulations and daily bag limits are determined each year for the season’s duration. Bag limits are the maximum number of game animals a hunter may harvest in a given day or hunting season. Check with your local regulations to ensure you are aware of the bag limit for the specific game you are hunting to avoid prosecution and/or fines.
Trapping reduces the quantity of certain wildlife types in a given area. It is used for relocating specific game to areas that have known depleted populations.
Food plots create winter feeding areas for wildlife. These plots are small areas planted with a mixture of grasses and clovers in open areas in the woods and on old logging roads.
Private landowners sign contracts that agree their land will not be developed, creating conservation easements that maintain habitats for wildlife.
Wildlife refuges and wildlife management areas
Government agencies and private landowners purchase land to preserve its natural beauty and the wildlife present in these areas.