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Habitat Management

Wildlife species require suitable or healthy habitats to help maintain or increase population numbers. Habitats provide the food, cover, space, and water needs of different animals. Management of native vegetative species, from forbs (weeds) to mature trees, will impact habitat quality to a much greater extent than will any foodplanting or supplemental efforts. Also, for many wildlife species, habitat management must be incorporated with proper protection and harvest management.

Management Tools

Soil quality determines wildlife habitat and population potential. Soil disturbances, such as timber harvest, disking, mowing, and prescribed burning, can improve wildlife habitat, and, if done correctly, can reduce the need for food plantings. However, to maximize vegetative habitat diversity and to help in wildlife harvest and viewing, you might want a mixture of both.

Disking can prepare seedbeds for planting and change the natural composition of plants by removing thicker, undesirable grasses and creating space for more desirable legumes and seed producers. Disking also increases insect production. The best method of disking is "strip disking." This technique works best with fields (pastures or agricultural) and rights-of-way but may also be used in stands of open timber. The key is to disk strips that are 30 to 50 feet wide to leave similarly undisked strips in between them. Do this alternately across the length of the field or area. You should disk strips every 3 years or so for quail.

Strip disking is excellent for providing nesting and broodrearing habitat, insect production, and important seed (food) production for quail and turkeys. As an example, blackberries, an important food to deer, turkeys, and quail, grow on an average 3-year rotation and can be promoted on a 3-year disking schedule. Aquatic plants (e.g., maidencane and smartweed), which are important duck foods at certain times, can be encouraged by spring and summer disking in drawndown ponds or marshy areas. Legumes (e.g., partridge pea, beggarweed, vetches), forbs (e.g., croton, ragweed), and large seeded grasses can be encouraged with winter-to-spring disking of fields and plots. Always disk on the contour to prevent or to minimize soil erosion.

Mowing is used primarily for the bobwhite quail and wild turkey. Late-winter (February) and late-summer (August) mowing of grasses attracts insects that are critical in the diets of juvenile birds. Late-summer mowing of grassy plots and fallow fields can increase nutrient availability of plants by providing fresh, green growth. The highest nutrient availability in grasses is in the first 8 inches of growth. Mowing can also help provide browse for deer.

Prescribed burning is the "skillful application of fire to natural fuels, under conditions that allow confinement and obtain planned benefits to forest or wildlife management efforts." Prescribed burning often is the most economical and beneficial tool used in wildlife management. It is also a controversial issue in forest and wildlife management due to potential for landowner liability and smoke management health concerns. Prescribed burning is often used in pine or upland mixed pine hardwood stands to reduce dry fuel hazards, to control hardwood competition, and to prepare sites for replanting of trees. In addition to those timber management benefits, wildlife benefits encouraged through prescribed burning include ground exposure, seed scarification, legume dispersal, hardwood butt sprouts, and the growth of nutrient-rich forbs, vines, and browse. Prescribed burning should be conducted by responsible, trained, experienced persons only! Report all unattended fires to state forestry personnel.

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News

Spring is the best time of the year to hang purple martin houses, such as these found at the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge on March 23, 2017. Place houses 15-20 feet in the air on a pole in an open space, preferably near water. These birds will be happy to help reduce the mosquito population from the area. (Submitted photo by Vicki Maples)
Filed Under: Urban and Backyard Wildlife March 24, 2017

RAYMOND, Miss. -- The purple martin is one of the most appreciated and desired birds in the state. It is a summer resident found wherever multi-celled or multi-roomed housing is available.

While they lack the notoriety of the colorful and acrobatic hummingbird, purple martins are by far the most beneficial of the backyard birds. One purple martin can consume thousands of mosquitoes in a single day. Since they are heavily dependent on humans for their shelter, purple martins seem to enjoy being around people, as well.

Filed Under: Wildlife Economics and Enterprises March 23, 2017

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Landowners and hunting clubs eager to earn extra income while improving land management for wildlife are invited to attend a Natural Resource Enterprises Business Workshop.

The May 16 event will take place at Pecan Hill Farms in Raymond. Daryl Jones, a Mississippi State University Extension Service instructor, is director of the MSU Natural Resource Enterprises program.

Now that it is legal to feed corn all year and hunt over grain on private lands during deer season, hunters may see fewer deer moving around after sunrise. (File photo by MSU Extension Service)
Filed Under: Wildlife March 17, 2017

By Bill Hamrick and Chad M. Dacus
MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Some hunters complain about a lack of deer every year, but the concerns this season seem to be more widespread. Since early January, radio programs, newspapers and online forums have featured much discussion about hunters statewide seeing and harvesting fewer deer during the 2016-17 season.

Turkey season in Mississippi takes place from March 15 to May 1. The fourth, fifth and sixth weeks, collectively, have been reported as having the most gobbles heard in seven of the last 10 hunting seasons. (File photo by MSU Extension Service/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Wildlife March 10, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- With spring comes turkey season and the countless hours spent listening for the chill-inducing gobble of a big tom.

Bill Evans, a Mississippi State University researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, discussed research and education priorities with representatives of the fruit and nut commodity group on Feb. 22, 2017. MSU Extension Service specialists and agents also took part in the annual MSU Central Mississippi Producer Advisory Council meeting in Raymond, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Susan Collins-Smith)
Filed Under: Commercial Horticulture, Commercial Fruit and Nuts, Forages, Beef, Beekeeping, Dairy, Equine, Forestry, Wildlife February 24, 2017

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Agricultural producers and industry professionals in central Mississippi met with agents and research scientists of the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Feb. 22 to share input and give feedback.

The Central Mississippi Producer Advisory Council meeting was held in conjunction with Hinds Community College and the Alcorn State University Extension.

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