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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

Buck.
Filed Under: Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife, White-Tailed Deer September 30, 2021

The white-tailed deer is one of the most popular game species in Mississippi. We have over 2 million white-tailed deer in the state, and we rank second behind Texas for the densest population of deer in the nation.

Bird feeder, bottle of bleach and cleaning brush.
Filed Under: Plants and Wildlife, Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife September 29, 2021
RAYMOND, Miss. -- After an active year for disease-related wild bird deaths in the U.S., people should follow best practices when providing backyard feeders and water sources for wild birds this fall and winter.
 
Disease in wildlife populations is normal and is one of the many mechanisms that regulate wildlife populations. Many things can cause diseases in wildlife, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, along with exposure to toxic substances. 
 
Nine-banded armadillo
Filed Under: Wildlife Youth Education, Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife September 2, 2021

Armadillos are one of the most unique looking critters out there. These animals are covered in silver, armor-like plates that protect them The word “armadillo” actually means “little armored one” in Spanish!  

An adult male turkey is in a field.
Filed Under: Wildlife August 24, 2021

It seems that wild turkeys don’t like humidity any more than people do. That is a finding of a study conducted by the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center, or FWRC, in response to concerns that Mississippi’s turkey season was not timed properly.

Raccoon.
Filed Under: Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife August 2, 2021

The Northern raccoon, also known as the backyard bandit, is no stranger to Mississippi. Known for the black bandit mask on its face and its striped tail, these raccoons can be found in a variety of environments. They easily adapt to their surroundings, whether that be in forested areas or cities. 

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