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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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Publications

News

A man in a conservation officer uniform stands looking down at a large bird held under his arm.
Filed Under: Wildlife March 15, 2019

Mississippi turkey hunters should reflect on the wild turkey’s history in our great state and never take this majestic bird for granted.

Filed Under: Agriculture, Crops, Farming, Forages, Livestock, Natural Resources, Fisheries, Forestry, Wildlife March 4, 2019

Central Mississippi agricultural producers and industry professionals met with Mississippi State University personnel to discuss research and education priorities at the 2019 Producer Advisory Council meeting on Feb. 20.

Regional map of Mississippi and Tennessee counties with cases of chronic wasting disease.
Filed Under: Wildlife, Chronic Wasting Disease March 1, 2019

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- A year after chronic wasting disease was found in Mississippi, my deer season was very different than those in the past.

While I still considered management and hunting strategies, I could not escape the disappointment I would feel if the disease we call CWD had progressed to my cherished hunting spots. Luckily, it was not detected where I hunt, but other places in Mississippi did not fare so well.

A mature turkey walks to the right through low grass as it examines the ground on a sunny day.
Filed Under: Wildlife February 8, 2019

Each spring, wild turkeys -- the largest gamebirds in the state -- begin their annual mating rituals and behaviors. The season attracts thousands of hunters into Mississippi woods for hunting opportunities every year.

Four deer graze in tall, lush clover with thinned pines in the background.
Filed Under: Wildlife, White-Tailed Deer December 28, 2018

Many hunters and landowners plant wildlife food plots these days, but this practice has become common only during the last 30 to 40 years in the Southeast.

Success Stories

Wild hogs caught in a trap.
Nuisance Wildlife and Damage Management, Operation HOG
Volume 3 Number 3

Trevor Garrett stays busy. He divides his days between farming soybeans with his father, Johnnie Ferrell Garrett, and working as a research associate at Mississippi State University's Pontotoc Ridge–Flatwoods Branch Experiment Station.

Watch

Farmweek | Entire Show | February 22, 2018
Farmweek

Season 41 Show #34

Friday, February 23, 2018 - 7:30am
Venison Stroganoff January 14, 2018
The Food Factor

Venison Stroganoff

Sunday, January 14, 2018 - 7:00am
Farmweek | Entire Show | August 10, 2017
Farmweek

Season 41 Show #6

Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 2:30pm
Farmweek, Entire Show, January 26, 2017
Farmweek

Season 40 Show #27

Thursday, January 26, 2017 - 10:30am
Farmweek, Entire Show, Oct 23 2015
Farmweek

Season 39 Show #16

Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 7:00pm

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Your Extension Experts

Senior Extension Associate
Wildlife & Fisheries
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Urban Wildlife Wildlife and Fisheries Enterprises Mississippi Master Naturalist Program
Extension Professor
Wildlife Management