Managing your forest to enhance wildlife habitat will attract a variety of species to your property and increase your opportunities to view them. There are several common practices that can easily be implemented on your own or included in a management plan.
Leaving piles of brush on your property creates den sites, perches, resting spaces, and cover for a wide variety of species. Placement and design of the brush piles is very important in determining what species will use it. To ensure wildlife will use the brush pile, build it with larger materials on the bottom to slow decay and create openings for wildlife to enter. Place the pile near an area with little existing cover and near a food source. Many small mammals and songbirds will forage in open fields, so this would be an ideal area for a brush pile. To attract salamanders, amphibians, and reptiles, place the brush pile adjacent to a body of water.
Remove Invasive, Plant Native!
Invasive species are non-native plants, animals, or insects that can quickly take over and decimate an ecosystem. To see common invasive species in Indiana, click here.
Removing invasive species from your property will improve the available habitat for native plants and animals. Planting native shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers will improve the diversity of your property, provide food and structure, and in turn, attract more native wildlife. Your property goals will influence what species will be ideal to plant in your forest. Click here to see what plants we recommend as alternatives to invasive plants and what species favor them.
Protect Your Plantings
Wildlife can trample or browse on young trees and shrubs, damaging them before they have a chance to establish in your forest. Putting a fence or tubing around young plants will protect them from wildlife until they can establish on your property.
Create Homes for Wildlife
It is important to be sure you are leaving or creating nesting spaces for wildlife to live in while managing your forest. A wide variety of wildlife need cavities to make their homes in or forage in and you can create these spaces for them in your forest. There are two very common methods: creating or leaving a snag and providing nest boxes.
Snags are dead or dying trees that are still standing. Snags provide natural cavities for cavity nesting woodpeckers and songbirds, foraging opportunities for insectivores, and shelter for forest dwelling bats. Snags can be created by deadening a tree and leaving it in place. Existing snags can be left in your forest as long as they do not pose a risk to anyone using the forest for recreation. Leaving snags in a variety of sizes and locations will provide habitat for a variety of wildlife. From tiny insects to large owls, many native animals rely on snags.
Nest boxes can be installed in your forest in addition to creating snags. Nest boxes create additional cavities for wildlife species. These are ideal in areas with limited nest spaces, but can be installed anywhere. Different nest boxes can be installed to attract a variety of wildlife; bats, songbirds, flying squirrels, wood ducks, and screech owls are all examples of species that have unique nest boxes designed for their needs. Read more about Nest Boxes for Wildlife by University of Missouri Extension to learn more about what each species requires and where to place your nest box.
For more information about enhancing wildlife habitat, visit PennState Extension.