Nearly all animals need cover so they can escape from predators, rest in safety, nest, and raise their young. What constitutes suitable cover depends on the wildlife species. Some animals use hollow trees, while others use brushy areas and dense stands of grass. To several species of small mammals, ground-nesting birds, amphibians, and reptiles, downed woody cover represents an important type of habitat. Downed tree structures (DTS) and edge feathering bring the quickest response of all the management tools. Rabbits, quail, and many songbirds use DTS and edge feathering immediately after construction.
Downed tree structures (DTS) provide an immediate temporary source of woody cover in areas where shrubby cover is lacking. Achieve enduring cover benefits by incorporating shrub plantings. The location and quantity of shrubby cover can determine how much of an area will be available for use. By distributing DTS throughout large grassland fields, you can increase the amount of available habitat for quail.
Downed trees should not be pushed into dense brush piles. These structures are intended to be open to allow space for the movement of quail and other upland wildlife within the structure. Simply drag the downed trees to the desired location and place in a loose arrangement. Oak, hickory, cedar, and Osage orange make good DTS. Elm, cottonwood, and willow do not make good DTS since they tend to break down quickly and have less dense branching.
Create 0.1–1.0 acre of dense woody cover per 5–40 acres of wildlife-friendly habitat. Although wildlife will use woody escape cover as small as a tractor tire, larger patches receive great use, so you should strive to make DTS that measure 30 by 50 feet for a total of 1,500 square feet of habitat. It takes three DTS of this size to equal 0.1 acre.
Edge feathering creates a transitional zone of woody escape cover made of downed trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous vegetation between cropland or grassland and the wooded edge. Create 0.1–1.0 acre of dense woody cover, 3–12 feet tall with bare ground underneath for every 5–40 acres of wildlife habitat. The minimum size of an area to renovate is 30 by 50 feet. It takes three, 30-by-50-foot areas to equal 0.1 acre. Ideally, 10–25 percent of wildlife habitat should consist of dense woody cover.