Wildlife Biologists Give Hope To Habitat
A distinct “bob white” whistle is heard in the distance, its melodic rhythm teasing your ears. Rabbits race through shrubs and grass prairies, stopping to dine on native plants.
A feeling of accomplishment comes over you, knowing that the work put into habitat restoration and management on your land created this symphony of sights and sounds.
This is happening now on a small farm in Crawford County where five hunters help the landowner manage habitat for upland wildlife. A habitat management plan, created by the DNR district wildlife biologist, steers the restoration that includes a hodgepodge of habitat types close to one another. Shrub/scrub areas, annual grain plots, perennial legume plots, fallow/weedy areas, and all important grasslands meet up to create the ideal habitat. These management practices grouped together closely resemble farming practices from days gone by, when quail thrived.
Grassland habitat – large open areas with mostly grass species – is one of the most imperiled habitat types in Indiana. The decline in grasslands was identified through the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) with a drop of nearly 9,800 acres statewide.
What does that mean?
- Less ground to hunt and watch wildlife.
- Less habitat for important wildlife species.
- Less opportunity for wildlife to thrive.
Wildlife species in Indiana, both game and nongame, are dependent on the right habitat to survive and thrive. Grasslands offer homes to species such as Henslow’s sparrow, bobwhite quail, common nighthawk, sharp-shinned hawk, Eastern box turtle, barn owl, cottontail rabbit, ring-necked pheasant, and Eastern meadowlark. With open expanses of grass declining, these species decline right along with it.
So how can you help?
About 95 percent of land in Indiana is privately owned. As a landowner, you can make a difference by planting and managing wildlife habitat on your property.
Some private landowners aren’t interested in creating habitat solely for game species. They simply want to enjoy nature. Bob and Ellen Mulford in Ripley County wanted to provide a wildlife haven for game and nongame species.
A flash of bright red and emerald green from a hummingbird whizzes past, crawfish frogs call, and bobwhites whistle on their 400-acre farm. A wetland complex has been created as well as multiple fields for native grasses and wildflowers to attract diverse wildlife with the help of DNR Private Lands wildlife biologists.
“Whether management objectives are targeting upland wildlife such as quail or rabbits, trophy deer management, or urban wildlife such as hummingbirds, Private Lands biologists can help landowners manage wildlife on their property,” said Josh Griffin, Private Lands Unit program manager.
How can you improve habitat on your property?
Private Lands biologists have several cost-share assistance programs to help. The gamebird habitat development, urban wildlife cost share, and wildlife habitat cost share agreement programs all allow landowners to get financial and technical assistance for improving habitat.
Partnerships also play a vital role in creating habitat on private lands. Private Lands biologists partner with other agencies, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture, to implement Farm Bill programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). In addition, wildlife biologists also team up with such conservation partners as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and Soil & Water Conservation Districts to help establish habitat on private properties.
“Assistance programs can be used to turn back the clock to achieve habitat similar to that found in the heydays of upland wildlife,” said Jeff Thompson, a DNR district wildlife biologist. “Programs can be used to reestablish all-important hedge rows and brushy field edges, grow pollinator-friendly grasses and wildflowers, and create areas with disturbed soil that improves quail broods.
“Putting all these habitat patches together in a quilt-like fashion mimics the farming practices of days gone by when quail, rabbits and other upland wildlife species were in their prime.”
Many private landowners may have an objective for their property to benefit specific wildlife.
No matter the objective, the Private Lands Unit can help landowners implement those practices benefiting wildlife. Find more information:
Lead Ammo Can Fragment
Lead ammunition, especially when fired from rifles, can fragment into tiny pieces which spread throughout big game such as deer.
These fragments cannot all be removed during processing, and ground venison can have higher lead concentrations than whole muscle cuts.
Lead exposure has a well-documented negative impact on both humans and animals, affecting multiple organ systems. Lead exposure can cause health effects in both adults and children.
Lead levels in venison may not impact adults, unless lead-tainted meat is eaten frequently. Children are at a much higher risk to the effects of lead due to their developing bodies. Even low levels of lead in children, or in women who are pregnant, have been associated with decreased IQ, behavioral changes, and learning disabilities.
Hunters concerned about lead exposure for themselves and their families may want to follow this advice:
- When purchasing ammunition for deer hunting, especially rifle ammunition, choose a non-lead alternative such as copper or a copper alloy.
- If you choose to purchase lead ammunition, select ammunition the manufacturer indicates has high mass retention after impact.
- When processing your harvest shot with lead ammunition, trim liberally around the wound channel to reduce exposure to lead fragments, and dispose of the carcass in a way that prevents wildlife from scavenging from it.
- Be aware that some processors commingle meat from multiple harvested deer when producing ground venison, so ground meat may be lead-tainted even if your deer was harvested with non-lead ammunition.