(StatePoint) Whether your home rests on a small lot or a large woodland, there are steps you can take to create a thriving ecosystem for local wildlife. And if you live on woodlands, you may even consider turning your property into an ideal game habitat.
Deer, for example, could use more healthy land, say experts. There are roughly 15 million white tailed deer in this country, according to Cornell University Statistics -- and this explosive population is always looking for a good habitat.
With a little foresight and planning, it’s possible to attract and maintain a healthy deer herd -- complete with mature, trophy-class bucks -- on relatively small woodland tracts.
“The key to success is providing for a herd’s four basic needs -- food, water, cover and space -- throughout the year, by actively managing your woodland with deer in mind,” says Mike Burns, a forester who uses My Hunting Land Plan, a website from the American Forest Foundation that has free land management resources, such as a mapping tool that can be used to mark out features on your land.
But landowners need to be proactive. Without a hands-on approach, woodlands tend to evolve into low-quality wildlife habitats. With that in mind, the experts at My Hunting Land Plan are offering some tips for creating a thriving home for deer and other creatures.
• Discing: Also known as strip disking, discing is disturbing the soil through shallow tillage to stimulate the growth of native grasses and the resprouting of many woody species. It also helps control brush.
• Creating openings: Depending on the surrounding landscape and size of your woods, about 10 percent of your forest acreage should consist of openings. Create them by clear-cutting one- to five-acre patches throughout larger forests.
• Monitor your wildlife: Trail cams can be a great way to see what you have in your woods and track them throughout the year. Place your trail cams on larger tree trunks in areas where you have seen signs of animals. Be sure to mount it at the height of the animal you want to track.
• Managing trees: Removing undesirable trees and cultivating mast-producing ones can help nourish and attract wildlife. Ideally, 20 to 30 percent of your woodland should consist of these fruit- and nut-bearing trees.
• Share: If your land is really thriving, show it off by uploading trail cam photos or pictures from your woods, or answer the questions of others within the community “ask a forester” section on the My Hunting Land Plan website at www.MyHuntingLandPlan.org.
• Plan: Advance planning is crucial. Use free resources, such as My Hunting Land Plan’s journal to log your projects. The site’s mapping feature is easy and intuitive to use and can be used to mark out the locations of trail cams, as well as your deer hunting stand.
Anyone with land can create a healthy ecosystem by being proactive -- whether the intention is to attract trophy-class bucks to your woodlands or hummingbirds to a small garden.
Photo Credit: (c) Tony Jewell