As the recent cold winter weather across much of Missouri has had many of us rushing for the warmer cover of our houses, offices, and vehicles, so too do the wildlife that are out searching for quality habitat to escape from the extreme temperatures and snowfall - especially when the temperatures drop to near zero. So as you are out and about this early spring on your favorite tract of land take a look at your existing habitat conditions and see just what you can add or improve on to provide additional quick and easy wildlife habitat that not only helps quail, but also rabbits and many other wildlife species. Just like us, they are in need of good quality shelter and cover from weather extremes. Additionally, this also provides excellent escape cover for them during this especially vulnerable time of year as they are exposed to a wide variety of predators that are also out looking for a quick energy producing meal.
Implementing some edge feathering, also known as "Chop and Drop" cuttings, will form a network of cover over the area you are managing and effectively create a transition zone of quality habitat conditions for many upland wildlife species. Concentrate on cutting a few of your less desirable trees along agricultural field edges or in old grassy field edges, allowing those tree branches to loosely fall where they drop. This simple task can be done this time of year to create some additional habitat areas where needed or to refresh older areas of habitat that have lost some of their cover value for wildlife due to the decay and breakdown of the existing cover over time. When you look at those areas closely you will many times see they need to be refreshed in order to maximize their value for wildlife. I recently have had several landowners use this refresh technique on several old areas they manage and they have seen some excellent results and an increased usage of those refreshed areas by a wide variety of wildlife. Both quail and rabbits moved back into those older cover areas in only a couple weeks of time (or less) after the refreshed habitat work was completed. It is always great to see some results of your recent habitat work, even if it is just an afternoon or a few hours of time spent with your chainsaw while you are out re-evaluating your favorite tract of land this early spring for quality wildlife habitat improvements that you can make with just a few simple steps.
For more detailed information on creating this type of easy habitat discussed above for quail, rabbits and other wildlife, be sure to look thru several of the past MOre Quail blog posts or check out a recent publication on the Ecology and Management of Cottontail Rabbits in Missouri.
About the author: Through an agreement between the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (QUWF) and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Nick Prough serves as the Wildlife Partnership Coordinator for Missouri and Chief Wildlife Biologist for QUWF. Before working for QUWF, Nick worked for MDC for over 11 years, 8 of those as a Private Land Conservationist in the Kansas City Region.