The three essential ingredients of good wildlife habitat are:
Always keep them in mind when evaluating your land.
Look first at the plants on your property.
Note the amount and distribution of trees, crops, shrubs, and grass. Vegetation largely determines the types of animals that can live on a plot of land.
Plants are the foundation of nature’s food web, of which every animal is a part. Plant-eating animals — such as deer, rabbits, and many insects — convert plant energy to protein and fats. Carnivores — hawks, owls, bobcats, predatory insects, and insect-eating birds — feed on the plant eaters. This complex food web will collapse without plants.
Note the sources of water.
Wildlife in Missouri have varied water requirements. Salamanders need a fish-free pond for spawning. Species such as deer and turkey need water daily. Water may become the focal point of a wildlife plan because it is a limiting factor for some animals.
Find sites of existing and potential cover.
Cover is essential. Both natural and man-made cover provide resting, roosting, nesting, protection, and foraging areas. You can manage natural cover by planting, pruning, thinning, burning, or clearing. Manmade cover includes downed tree structures, feathered edges, nesting boxes, rock piles, log piles, and similar structures.
Become familiar with your land.
Take time to learn what animals already live on your property and what others you would be able to attract.
- Take notes as you walk your land. Take notes often and during all seasons. Land and animals change through the year, and you will see new signs during each trip.
- Look for scratch marks, tracks, burrows, nests, and other signs.
- Note the kinds of animals on your land, the areas they are using, and the times you observe them.
Determine what habitat types exist on your land.
In your evaluation, it may help to divide your property into wildlife habitat types: cropland, grassland (including pasture), forests, savannas, glades, wetlands, and possibly some unique habitats, such as fens and bogs.