What habitats exist on your property?


Do you recognize the habitat or habitats that your property holds? How about the needs of that habitat for wildlife species?

Your habitat may be a forest, a wetland, a prairie, or a combination of these. Management of your property can involve increasing, decreasing, or maintaining the different species of wildlife.

Observe the habitat components needed by the species to be managed and identify the required habitat components that are in poor condition, missing, or in limited supply.

Where to start

The first step is to identify what sources of food, water, and shelter makes up your habitat.

If your habitat is a forest, it may have streams, vernal pools, invasive species, grapevines, different species of trees and plants, and wildlife.

Making the most of woodland

Here is a list of some recommendations on improving this habitat.

— If there are grapevines, they need to be cut because they will smother your trees.

There may be other invasive species in your forest — pests like the emerald ash borer or the gypsy moth, or a plant or tree like the ailanthus, Japanese honeysuckle, or autumn olive.

These invasive species can take over your forest and not allow other species to grow to their maximum potential. Invasive species can be treated using certain techniques and practices.

— Your forest may need a silvicultural practice done to allow future growth and health. There are several different silvicultural practices, to decide which one would improve your habitat, you should contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District.

If a silvicultural practice is recommended, you must be aware of other habitats in or surrounding your forest. If you have any streams, a portable bridge would be recommended to minimize soil erosion. If there are any vernal pools or wetlands in the area, a buffer zone is recommended due to what species might be living or growing there.

— Some other techniques in improving your forest might be putting in some trails for recreational activity, prescribe burns, a pond next to the wood line for wildlife, or planting some trees your forest may not contain that would be beneficial to wildlife.

Wetland options

If your habitat is a wetland, it consists of special species of plants and wildlife that you will not see anywhere else. Wetlands are a home for wildlife such as the great blue heron, chorus frogs, spotted salamanders, and migratory birds like mallards.

Your wetland has plants that are a source of food or shelter, like cattails, milkweed, duckweed, alkaline bulrushes, and bull thistle.

Wetlands can have invasive species like purple loosestrife that will need treated to ensure flora and fauna. In order to keep this habitat remaining, leave a buffer strip around it and build some bird boxes for migratory birds.

Native grasslands

If your habitat is a prairie, it will consist of grasslands, savannas, and shrublands that are based on temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and grasses, herbs, and shrubs as dominant vegetation. Prairies can have wet soils, mesic soils, or dry soils.

The grasses and wildflowers found in prairies serve as food, cover, and nesting for wildlife. This vegetation attracts hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, birds, and insects.

Pay attention to invasive species that will grow here, like the Canada thistle or Queen Anne’s lace, which will affect and threaten the habitat if it is not treated.

Some animals like the red fox, coyotes, rabbits, meadow voles, and reptiles spend there time in the prairie for food and cover.

Some techniques to improve your prairie might be planting some more wildflowers, different grasses, or building some bird boxes.

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