To attract wildlife to your property, you must provide suitable habitat. Habitat consists of food, water, shelter, and space.
Food: Most often, wildlife select food sources that provide the best nutrition while also being the most abundant and easiest to find. Seasonal variations in diet occur based on food availability (such as insects or fruits and berries), so the more food you provide on your property in all four seasons, the more wildlife the land will support year-round.
Water: Nearly all wildlife species in the Midwest satisfy their water requirements by drinking from standing water or through their diet. The drier the food an animal eats, the more water from external sources it needs. For example, birds that eat seeds need proportionately more water than do carnivores (meat-eaters). Providing an available and open water source, especially in times of drought or extended periods of below-freezing temperatures, will ensure that wildlife have enough water.
Shelter: All wildlife species require shelter, sometimes to escape from predators, sometimes to stay warm and dry during winter storms. Shelter comes in many forms, and may consist of a hole in the ground, a cavity in a tree, the space under an evergreen tree?fs drooping branches, or your attic.
Space: Consider not only the size and shape of your property, but also the food, water, and shelter that are contained within your property?fs boundaries. To manage for species such as wolves and bears that require large areas of habitat (that is, 50 to 150 square miles), you may need to cooperatively manage your forest property with neighboring landowners to create a larger block of habitat than you or a neighbor alone could provide.
As a general rule, the more diverse the habitat that is available, the more diverse the wildlife that that habitat has the potential to attract and maintain. The increased plant and animal diversity of mature forests has a price, however. Abundance of any particular species often declines as diversity increases, resulting in a lower potential yield to humans, whether they are hunters, berry pickers, or loggers.
Figure 11-2. Wildlife find food, water, shelter, and space in forests. Photo courtesy of Scott Craven
If your management objective is to increase biodiversity (maximize the number of species on your property to the extent possible), you?fll need to maximize habitat diversity on your property. This could entail managing for mixed species forests (for example, a variety of hardwood or softwood species, or a mixed hardwood and pine habitat), different aged stands, or stands that are both mixed species and mixed age. Alternatively, you may want to manage for one or a few wildlife species and indirectly benefit many other species that share the habitat. Be aware, however, that while some species may benefit from a particular set of management actions, the same wildlife management practices may not benefit?\and may actually harm?\other wildlife species.