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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

Common nighthawk resting on cross post
Filed Under: Environment, Wildlife June 19, 2020

As we ease into summer, if you listen closely during dusk and early nighttime hours, you may hear the distinctive sounds of goatsuckers.

Yes, you read that correctly: goatsuckers. Despite the unusual name, these are not fictional creatures.

A close-up of a white-tail deer's face.
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Landscape Architecture, Landscape Resources, Smart Landscapes, White-Tailed Deer June 11, 2020

Oh, deer! White-tailed deer can be quite the nuisance in the garden. It’s disheartening to see deer ate the flowers in your back yard for a snack. 

four hummingbirds feed at two feeders.
Filed Under: Urban and Backyard Wildlife April 13, 2020

Hummingbirds are now out in full force. The arrival of these tiny acrobats marks the beginning of spring, and people love to put out feeders for them.

A red fox with a white neck.
Filed Under: Plants and Wildlife, Wildlife January 17, 2020

Encounters with wildlife are becoming more common in towns and neighborhoods.

Habitat loss to fragmentation, urbanization, and expanding agricultural production means urban and suburban areas will increasingly become options for wildlife searching for homes. Song birds, snakes, lizards, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, deer and even bears are not uncommon visitors to urban and suburban backyards.

Venison burger on a bun sitting on a white plate.
Filed Under: Food and Health, Food, White-Tailed Deer January 16, 2020

Video by Jonathan Parrish

You may not know that our “set” for The Food Factor is a real kitchen in the home of one of our team members. Her husband loves to hunt and share food, so while we are working on the show we often get to sample a variety of venison dishes.

We found this flavorful recipe for Spicy Venison Burgers in a venison recipe booklet from Cornell University Cooperative Extension and thought it would be perfect for The Food Factor!

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.

Watch

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Portrait of Mr. Bill Hamrick
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