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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

A black and white skunk.
Filed Under: Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife May 6, 2021

A skunk knows how to make its presence known. With their furry black and white coats and pungent odor, they’re hard to miss! Mississippi is home to two species of skunks: the spotted skunk and the striped skunk. The striped skunk is the most commonly found skunk in the state and are easily identified by, you guessed it, a white stripe on their back. 

An American goldfinch sits on a bird feeder.
Filed Under: Natural Resources, Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife April 22, 2021

Mississippians concerned about the number of dead songbirds being found near feeders can use this opportunity to learn best practices to follow when offering birds food and water.

A rabbit in a field.
Filed Under: Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife March 31, 2021

Did you know eastern cottontail rabbits are the most commonly found mammal in the United States? They have made themselves right at home throughout the eastern two-thirds of the country.

A wild gobbler turkey with brown and black feathers and a red head.
Filed Under: Wildlife March 19, 2021

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Nothing sends a charge of electricity up my spine quite like the boom of a gobbler sounding off in Mississippi woodlands. If you have ever had the privilege of hearing a male turkey gobbler announce his presence in Mississippi oak or hickory hardwood and pine forests, you’ll never forget it. 

Many hunters take to the woods during turkey season to experience this exhilaration and for the chance to glimpse the spectacle of a strutting gobbler in full display to attract turkey hens for mating.

An Eastern Wild Turkey in a field.
Filed Under: Natural Resources, Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife March 11, 2021

Spring is here, and wild turkeys are on the minds of many Mississippians. While there are five species of wild turkeys, Mississippi is home to the Eastern wild turkey, which is the most abundant. 

Success Stories

A man wearing a green collared shirt stands smiling.
Natural Resources, Wildlife, Chronic Wasting Disease
Volume 6 Number 1

Mississippi became the 25th state with a confirmed case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in February 2018. Since then, state agencies have been working together to protect the state’s deer population.

A white sign with dark green lettering reads, “Monarch Waystation: This site provides milkweeds, nectar sources, and shelter needed to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate through North America. Certified and registered by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation. Create, Conserve, & Protect Monarch Habitats.”
Wildlife Youth Education, About Extension, Master Gardener, Insects, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens, Places for Wildlife, The Story of Plants and People, Vegetable Gardens, Urban and Community Forestry, Urban and Backyard Wildlife, Wildlife Economics and Enterprises
Volume 4 Number 2

See what's new in Extension: a new monarch garden, a storytelling series will begin, the Garden Expo highlights Extension education, and Keep America Beautiful recognizes MSU Extension.

A smiling woman with blonde hair, a red scarf, a denim shirt, and black pants rests her arm on the side of a “Welcome to the Mississippi Gulf” sign.
Community, Natural Resources, Environment, Fisheries, Marine Resources, Waste Management, Water, Wildlife
Volume 4 Number 2

Kelly Griffin remembers when Harrison County began its recycling program.

“I was in elementary school when the county began curbside recycling,” she says. “My sister, brother, and I would argue every week about who was going to take the bin out to the road.”

Three men, all wearing orange life vests and baseball caps, hold a shark, and the bearded man in the center prods the animal’s side with an orange-handled instrument.
Natural Resources, Environment, Fisheries, Marine Resources, Water, Wildlife
Volume 4 Number 2

The Mississippi Master Naturalist volunteer group, trained and supported by natural resources experts with the MSU Extension Service, learned about marine life during a recent boating trip off Gulf Shores, Alabama. Marcus Drymon (center), assistant Extension professor, measures and tags a great hammerhead.

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.

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Portrait of Mr. Bill Hamrick
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