Diversity of wildlife depends on a diversity of forests, fields, and weedy edges, which provide a variety of habitats.
The wildlife, harvests the same quality feed as the dairy, beef cow or human. It’s not rocket science. It’s quality feed! Mature grasses, legumes and grains all produce seeds. These crops feed the birds. Weeds left along field edges provide seeds for birds like the Snow Bunting which migrates south to our area to spend the winter. Is it any wonder the wildlife population near active farms is always higher. Food is the key. In addition to feed, there is cover. Hedgerows, brush piles, stream beds, woodlands and wetlands all provide habitat that is managed by the local farmer.
Woodlands produce acorns, tree seeds, stump sprouts and growing root suckers. Young tender shoots of saplings such as red maple, sugar maple and oak all provide browse. Aspen buds feed grouse while wild apples provide high energy feed.
Like two habitat gears meshing, cropland and woodlots provide the diversity for many species. Wildlife, such as squirrels, deer, turkeys and ruffed grouse are more plentiful on managed lands than unmanaged forested areas. Saw logs for lumber, pulp for paper, chips for bio-energy, fire wood, maple syrup, and wildlife habitat are all produced by managed forested acres.
Working landscapes provide food for farm and forest wildlife, along with the economic ability and opportunities for families to thrive.
So, the next time you hunt a woodlot, fish a brook, or flush a bird from an open grassy field, think about the family that owes its livelihood to that land. Many farmers I know would let folks hunt the property, but they should be given the respect of being asked first. Hunting their land is a privilege given to you by the farmer, so help them out. Ask if you can contribute to buy some bags of corn, seed or fertilizer. Ask about a hunting lease, and paying the hunting lease insurance costs. Earn the privilege of hunting the caretakers land.
This column is dedicated to the memory of Ralph and Cecile Evens, the heavenly caretakers of Windy Valley Farm.
Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.