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Wildlife Habitat


Home | Key to Life | Wildlife Cover | Solutions | Planting |

There are 4 areas of consideration when dealing with solutions: acreages, Farm Ponds, Shelter Belts and Yards.

The present trend of habitat loss can be reversed to the benefit of all-farmer, rancher, hunter, nature lover and wildlife-with little or no effort (and sometimes at a savings) and at little or no expense (again, often at a savings). One of the easiest means is to merely leave what cover now exists. Why should a farm field look like a gymnasium? Vegetation will readily fill undisturbed voids, and this vegetation can be harmless (it needn't be thistles or noxious weeds) and can be very beneficial.

Predators need not be eliminated, as they do more good than harm. Most, such as skunks, coyotes and birds of prey, utilize more rodents and insects than game animals. Becoming far more damaging in this regard are domestic dogs and cats, which in some areas totally eliminate game birds and nests, and even larger game. Good cover can also protect wildlife from these domestic predators, but not as effectively because of their greater numbers and persistence areas of human residences.

Agricultural practices such as minimum tillage have helped wildlife greatly, and also save the operator labor and money. Such practices are advantageous to wildlife and operator in both corn and wheat country, and become more important each year when considering fuel costs and equipment wear and tear.

Chemical applications are also important considerations, and farmers should take a long, hard look at their sources of recommendations. Studies are showing that often, more than five and even 10 times the necessary amounts of fertilizers are being used because of poor advice. Often, the same is true of pesticides and herbicides. Certainly, more studies need to be done to provide better guidelines.

Diversified farming is much more beneficial to wildlife than monoculture, with smaller fields of different crops providing more "edges", but this is nearly opposite of the present trend. It is unlikely that this situation will reverse, so there is more potential in finding ways to provide the missing type of cover in some way, such as converting marginal (or submarginal) cropland to grass, shrubs or trees. Or, how about establishing special plantings such as shelterbelts, windbreaks, living snow fence, or a plot of Christmas trees or firewood? These can pay big dividends - perhaps more than the same land devoted to crops would and also provide habitat.

Grassed waterways alone can be a big improvement-stopping erosion and giving several wildlife species a survival space. Pivot irrigation corners can be ideal spots for wildlife.

Shelterbelts have proven their worth beyond question, yet few are being put in and many are being taken out. This is tragic, yet little criticism is voiced where it counts. For homesites, probably nothing will provide the protection and benefit that: a shelterbelt can for as long a time at so little cost. Their beauty alone justifies such plantings, but that is minor when compared to the reduction in heating costs, retention of soil moisture, noise buffering, dust reduction, and other benefits. And, fruit and nut trees can be incorporated, or different kinds of fruiting shrubs.

When one or more projects are decided upon, selecting the plants must be based on many variables. Soil type, terrain, weather (moisture, temperatures, wind, etc.) and relative suitability of the plants must be taken into account. Various charts will be of some help, but there are specialists in this field who should also be consulted. University of Nebraska extension offices, including Forestry, the Soil Conservation Service, the Game and Parks Commission, and Natural Resources Districts are some.

The important thing to remember for wildlife purposes, however, is to offer all elements of habitat, each in close proximity to the other. With cover available year-round, and if it's adequate for all requirements, wildlife will flourish.

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