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.
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.
You may have recently heard about joro spiders on the news. The gigantic yellow spiders are creepy enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies! The good news about these spiders is that they have not shown up in Mississippi yet.
In the South, there’s a legend that says rain is on the way any time you see a turtle cross the road. There’s very little truth to this myth, even though it does seem like rain is in the forecast after we see one of these creatures slowly making its way across the street.
Spring is when we see a lot of baby wildlife. You’ll likely start seeing young animals tagging along behind one or both their parents, and boy, is it cute.
Butterflies aren’t just beautiful. They are important pollinators for wildflowers and woody plants. But before they transform into the colorful, winged adults you see fluttering around your landscape, they are caterpillars hatched from eggs. Mississippi is home to more than 50 species of butterflies. Have you seen any of these three common butterfly caterpillars in your yard?
Purple martins are a real treat to have grace your landscape. They offer hours of bird watching entertainment with their musical chatter, beautiful colors, and aerial acrobatics. Each year, purple martins migrate to North America from South America to nest. They arrive at varying times, but most tend to show up in March in Mississippi. To help welcome purple martins to your home, make sure you have the right kind of habitats for them.
Hummingbird migration information reached more than 400,000 on Facebook, thanks to this post highlighting the featured Extension for Real Life blog post.
Extension connects landowner experts to identify fossils
The kids who dig in the dirt and rifle through the gravel do grow up, and many of them still keep their eyes on the ground whenever they’re outside. And, if they find an old bone or even a shell from an extinct oyster, they know they’ve found something special.
Four Extension experts named fellows in their disciplines
Four well-respected Mississippi State University Extension Service experts were recently named fellows in prestigious academic and service organizations.
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.
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.