What is Wildlife Management?
Wildlife management is often described as the manipulation of either one or more populations of specific wildlife, their habitat, or both. This is done to achieve one or more goals. Nature has its checks and balances, wildlife management is truly the science and study behind it.
How do we manage wildlife?
By creating diverse habitats and smooth transitions from prairies, to savannas, to woodlands and wetlands, we can establish an effective and manageable method of maintaining a healthy wildlife community. Proper wildlife managers often need to assess the pros and cons of each action that may need to be taken, and what methods of management are available.
For example, if a small wooded area was to be cleared to make way for a more established prairie area, would we likely lose the woodpeckers in this area? Probably. Would we lose certain insect species here? Absolutely. When the insects are gone, could the birds and bats lose a food source? Possibly! Each animal has what conservationists call its "niche", this is the important role that a species may have in its ecosystem. Removing a very specific habitat for one species may have adverse effects on other species as well.
One good example is between woodpeckers, wood ducks, and other burrowing nesters; like owls. Did you know that many retired woodpecker cavities make for great wood duck and owl nesting sites? Its true, and they often nest in the same area each year. While wood ducks and burrowing owls don't only seek empty woodpecker cavities, they are convenient options. If you remove tree sought after by woodpeckers, like dead elms and ash, then you lose nesting habitat for more species in the future while also eliminating a food and nesting source for the woodpecker.
Hypothesis for small game species:
If a conservationist in Hardin County wanted to see a noticeable increase in small game species, there are several habitat aspects which can be easily manipulated to achieve that goal. Most of Iowa's small game species like rabbits, pheasants, and other gamebird species rely on habitat edges where prairies, forests, or roadsides meet. In most cases, our habitat edges are nice and square with linear borders. Straight edges between habitat transitions can be a major benefit for predators. For example, pheasants and rabbits like to spend a lot of time on prairie and cropland edges, which makes them an easily spotted targets for predators like foxes and coyotes. If a land manager establishes rough edges, in other words edges with curved borders, this would provide those game species with a safer pocket to hide in; out of a predator's direct line of sight. Hardin County's Natural Resource team also works to establish a food plots every year which provide specific food types oriented to help specific species, like game birds and deer.
Get the Gist?
Many factors play into successful wildlife management, but each scenario is different. We at Hardin County Conservation hope that these two very different scenarios helped you to learn. For any questions, please feel free to visit our Calkins Nature Area nature center, cultural museum and live wildlife display. Our staff would love to help.