Eroded forest road due to poor planning
Non-Harvest Best Management Practices

Improving a woodlot for wildlife

This section explains how forest owners can increase the abundance and diversity of wildlife habitats in their forests.

The enjoyment of wildlife and contribution to habitat enhancement are major reasons why people own forestland. There are lots of projects that will attract wildlife to your woodlot. Before making decisions about which wildlife projects you will work on, consider the following best management practices for attracting wildlife:

Inventory the woodlot for habitats and evidence of existing wildlife.
Forest owners should have a good understanding of what species of wildlife already favor the habitats found in their woodlots. Create a small map that indicates what kind of forests, trees, streams, ponds, brushy areas, and unique features are available. Make notes of wildlife signs, tracks, and other evidence. Many woodlot owners are surprised to find that their woods are richer in wildlife that they had believed.

Protect unique habitats.
Woodland pools, rock ledges, snags, and tree cavities are important wildlife habitats that have become scarcer. Make an effort to identify and protect these natural features. If you suspect that you have a special woodland habitat and want to be sure, contact a nature center, Cornell Cooperative Extension, a regional NYS DEC office, or other qualified wildlife educator.

Develop the woodlot for a variety of indigenous wildlife.
Your wildlife projects should create habitats that will benefit a wide array of wildlife rather than focusing on one or two species, like deer and turkey. For example, a woodland pool benefits songbirds, turtles, frogs, insects, deer, game birds, and many animals. In general, woodland habitats benefiting insects and amphibians are also beneficial to many other species.

Reduce human-dependent wildlife feeding projects.
Avoid projects that require the placement of feed in the woods. These projects are often abandoned or attract nuisance species. They require a great deal of effort and expense to maintain. Put more effort into establishing native plantings for birds, mammals, and insects. As of summer 2003, feeding white-tailed deer is illegal in New York.

Maintain cover and complexity around coldwater streams.
Forest streams, even dry washes, should be shaded. This keeps the temperature of stream water naturally cooler. Add logs and rocks to water bodies to maintain ecological complexity. Pools and riffles attract a wider variety of insects and the fish and wildlife that consume them.

Learn tracks and signs to better understand evidence of wildlife.
Attracting wildlife is more satisfying if you can recognize the songs of birds, the tracks of mammals, burrows, and other evidence of wildlife. Many forest owners are surprised at the abundance of wildlife signs they start finding.

People interested in this topic should also read the Cornell Cooperative Extension bulletin, "Wildlife and Timber from Private Lands: A Landowner's Guide to Planning," available through your local county Extension office as #147-IB-193.

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Please cite source: Cornell Cooperative Extension, 2004
Written by James Ochterski, CCE - Schuyler County