Tag Archives: wildlife

Wildlife Habitat–General Requirements

Wildlife has a certain requirement for cover.  Cover provides a sense of security from disturbance and protection from inclement weather and predators.  The amount and kind of cover vary with the species.  A stand of herbaceous plants may provide adequate cover for some bird species and small mammals, while other species require woody cover (trees and shrubs) in lieu of or in addition to herbaceous cover.  The best cover for a large species such as white-tailed deer is a pattern or mosaic of woody brush and trees interspersed within open areas.  Clumps or strips of brush should be wide enough so that an observer cannot see through them from one side to the other during the winter months when deciduous species are bare of leaves.  Cover strips should be as continuous as possible to provide travel lanes.  A habitat that provides several different types and arrays of cover benefits more species of wildlife than a habitat that has limited types, amounts, and distribution of cover.  Management of vegetation, whether it be deciduous post oak woodlands, ashe juniper woodlands, mesquite brush land, or open grasslands, requires long-term planning.

Any vegetation manipulation practice will have an impact on resident wildlife species, either good or bad, depending on the type of treatment used, the degree of use, and location.  Before implementing vegetation control techniques, determine what the long-term effects will be for each concerned species and minimize the negative impacts.  Consider the location and size of sensitive wildlife habitats that provide important nesting or roosting sites, feeding areas, desirable wildlife food producing plants, cover, water, and space needs.  Wildlife can be displaced by disturbance from an area without adequate escape or security cover, especially on small properties.

 

The long-term goal should be to maintain a very wide variety of browse plants (trees, brush, and vines).  They are important food sources for white-tailed deer and quail, and a source of cover for many species of wildlife, game and nongame.

The more “edge-effect” you can create, the more diversity you create.  The more diversity you create, the higher quantity and quality of wildlife you will attract and hold.  The old adage, “measure twice, cut once” is never truer than in brush manipulation practices.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Tips to Aid Aerial Helicopter Surveys

For those choosing the aerial helicopter survey this year, consider the following tips:

  • Begin the survey soon after daylight or in the evening for optimum visibility and animal observations. Avoid mid-day surveys unless absolutely necessary.
  • Experienced pilots know how to fly game surveys, but some less experienced may need to be reminded to fly low and slow during the entire survey.
  • Transects may be required on larger tracts, while complete coverage can be used on mid to smaller tracts.
  • Most helicopter companies require a minimum charge to cover basic costs. On small tracts, make certain you understand what the minimum costs are compared to how long the actual survey will take.
  • Helicopter costs are based on the size of the machine on a per-hour basis. The larger machines cost more than the smaller ones.
  • The larger machines can haul more passengers (more eyes in the sky) and therefore, may increase your visibility and overall numbers of animals observed.   Care must be taken to not double count animals. Communication among passengers is paramount.
  • Smaller machines are more flexible, agile, and responsive than their larger counterparts.
  • Observers should be kept constant, if possible, over time to keep the data more consistent.
  • Very few people (or video cameras) can take good video footage from a helicopter survey. Vibrations and jerky movements are very hard to overcome with a video camera.   Photographs are easier and can be taken quite successfully with a moderate zoom lens and a very fast film speed. Multiple photos need to be taken of each animal so that a select few may turn out well.
  • On large tracts, individual pastures may need to be flown individually and treated as individual management units.
  • Visibility will decrease along creeks and rivers with tall tree canopies. You may need to slow down and give the animals more time to “flush” where they can more easily be seen as they cross openings.
  • It is recommended to count only those deer that are within 100-125 yards from each side of the helicopter. Avoid counting deer as they cross the horizon or are in the far distance.
  • As an observer, watch straight out and back over your outside shoulder for deer. Avoid looking straight ahead and directly under the machine. The noise and motion will flush the animals as you pass over them.
  • A clipboard, with data sheet secured at both ends, with large and wide data entry columns allows the observer to quickly record the required data with minimal effort. You need to keep your eyes in the brush and not on the data sheet.
  • As with any survey, record everything possible—deer, turkey, coyotes, bobcats, stray cattle, feral hogs, javelina, etc. Helicopters are not cheap and the more data you can gather about a piece of property, the better your management will become.
  • Be observant to overall range condition, brush distribution, water distribution, fencing (condition of, needs of, etc. ), and terrain while in the air. It will amaze you what you can see and learn from a brief helicopter ride.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Prescribed Burning for Better Wildlife

Wildfire and prescribed fire are similar to illegal drugs and prescription drugs. The first can destroy your home and possibly kill you while the second will improve your wildlife habitat and cure your ailments. Wildfires and illegal drugs carry heavy negative impacts while prescribed fire and prescription drugs carry positive and healing impacts.

Popular throughout the last century, Smokey the Bear had a major influence on many young lives. His overall message was well-meaning but often misinterpreted. Children grew up fearing fire of any kind because Smokey said fire was bad. In wildfire conditions, he was correct, but under controlled conditions, fire can be the best tool used to help turn a property around– to increase the overall herbaceous production, to add weight gain to the animals, to rejuvenate new growth, to remove thick layers of thatch that prevent forbs/weeds and new grasses from growing, to even encouraging new plant species to grow and prosper. Prescribed fire is the answer to old, tired, rangeland that has become stale and stagnant and in need of a shot of production. Prescribed fire adds fertilizer—thru the combustion and restructuring of nutrients—back into the soil where it belongs and becomes usable again. Prescribed fire “opens up” the short herbaceous canopy, thins out invading brush and grass species, removes the young, old, and dead plants and improves sunlight, rain and nutrient penetration at ground level. Prescribed fire stimulates soil micro-organisms and begins the natural food chain from the earliest of stages and thereby creating a much more stable, vigorous and healthy habitat.

Prescribed burns generally occur during two times of the year–summer reclamation burns and fall cool season burns. A summer burn is considered a “hot” fire used to kill large trees (cedars, huisache, mesquite) primarily to reclaim overgrown pastures that need to be returned back into long-term production. A summer burn is very aggressive and destructive and extreme care must be used when using it. A winter burn is considered a “cool” fire and is used primarily to top-remove any debris, set back (not necessarily kill) invading brush species and encourage a quick regrowth response. The fire temperature is hot enough to do the job yet not so hot as to kill large trees or mature brush species — targeting primarily the short brush and grass canopies. Cool season burns are best used to generate browse plant regrowth and forb/weed production—forages that wildlife highly prefer.

Obvious safe-guards need to be in place before any burn: suitable fireguards around the perimeter of the area to be burned, a low humidity/low wind day with a favorable wind direction in order to direct the fire and smoke as desired, and ample experienced help on hand to assist. Heavy equipment such as water spray rigs, dozers, or a tractor and disc are always wise. A game plan for the actual burn and a backup plan should something go awry is also needed, not to mention contacting local neighbors, sheriff office and fire departments to let them know your intentions.

Burning is not for the weak of heart. It required much planning and coordination and weather forecasting, but the benefits of a successful burn outweight all the troubles and stress involved. A burned area is the first to green up and animals will walk great distances to feed on the new lush growth. Fire removes the thorns and needles found on aggressive plants, so many animals enter the burn area even before the smoke clears in order to feed on such delicacies.

Tame pastures, rangelands and even brushy pastures can benefit from prescribed fire. Use fire as a tool just as you do with heavy equipment, responsible cattle grazing and selective harvest. It is one of the cheapest and quickest forms of habitat management available today and it will make a believer out of you once you give it a chance.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Livestock Management for Wildlife Production

Grazing management is the planned manipulation of livestock numbers and grazing intensities to increase food, cover, or improve structure in the habitat of selected species. Grazing management includes kind and class of livestock grazed, determination and adjustment of stocking rates, implementation of a grazing system that provides planned periodic rest for pastures by controlling grazing intensity and durations, and/or excluding livestock from sensitive areas to prevent trampling, allowing for vegetative recovery, or eliminating competition for food and cover. Planned deferments can be short or long term, depending on the conditions. Seasonal stocker operations may also be appropriate to manipulate habitat.

Livestock should be considered as “tools” that can be used to maintain good wildlife habitat. A well-planned livestock grazing system is one that allows adequate rest periods for plants to recover after grazing. Most domestic livestock are selective grazers and consume the most nutritious and palatable plants first. Whenever a plant is eaten, there is not only a reduction in top growth but also a reduction in root growth. This reduces the plant’s ability to rapidly regrow following defoliation. During the growing season, herbaceous plants need at least 30 to 60 days of rest to recover from grazing. Woody plants need as long as 4 to 6 months of rest to allow for regrowth. The recovery period depends upon the severity of defoliation, moisture conditions, and temperature.

Several livestock grazing methods and systems have been developed which provide adequate periods of rest and allow vegetative recovery. There are many variations of these systems and the land manager needs to select the one that fits his particular situation. Some commonly used deferred-rotation grazing systems are: Three pasture/one herd rotation, four pasture/one herd rotation, high intensity/low frequency, short duration, and four pasture/three herd rotation. Regardless of the type of deferred-rotation grazing system used, the length of time that an individual pasture should be grazed and the length of time that it would need to be rested before being grazed again would be dependent on the size of the pasture, its grazing capacity, the time of year (growing season versus non-growing season), the amount of rainfall received since being grazed, and the class of livestock. Grazing schedules and livestock stocking rates for pastures within a grazing system need to be flexible and continually re-evaluated based on rainfall patterns, seasons of the year, and the local range conditions. Knowing how long to graze and how long to rest is more an art than a science, dependent more on environmental factors and the on-site conditions than on the calendar.

Determining cattle stocking rates in can be tricky. As mentioned earlier, the quality and quantity of forage and rainfall are most important considerations; however, so is the class of livestock, soil and brush types, and past and current condition of the range. For optimum wildlife production, however, any cattle stocking rate determination should fall on the conservative side of things. Cattle are a great compliment to wildlife management when incorporated correctly.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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