Most wildlife environments have some natural food, but in many cases additonal food can benefit native wildlife populations. An owner supplies supplemental food by providing food or nutrition in addition to the level naturally produced on the land. Grazing Management, Prescribed Burning and Range Improvement can be used to provide supplemental food. Other ways to provide supplemental food to meet wildlife exemption requirements include:
- food plots
- feeder and mineral supplements
- managing tame pasture, old fields and croplands
Food plots are one way to establish locally adapted forage to provide supplemental foods and cover during critical periods of the year. Livestock should be generally excluded from small food plots. The shape, size, location and percentage of total land area devoted to food plots should be based on the requirements of the targeted species.
Feeders and mineral supplements also can help dispense additional food to selected wildlife species during critical periods. Feeders should not be used except to control excessive numbers of deer and/or exotic ungulates as defined within a comprehensive wildlife management plan with a targeted harvest quota that is regularly measured. Harmful aflatoxin in feed should not exceed 20 parts per billion.
Mineral supplements also may be supplied to wildlife in several ways, however, this practice must be a part of an overall habitat management plan that addresses all animal groups and considers the habitat’s carrying capacity.
Managing tame pasture, old fields and croplands can increase plant diversity, provide supplemental food and forage and gradually help convert the land to native vegetation. Recommended practices may include:
- overseeding or planting cool season and/or warm season legumes (for example, clovers, vetches and peas) and/or small grains in pastures or rangeland
- using plants and planting methods appropriate to the county
- shallow tillage (discing) that encourages habitat diversity, the production of native grasses and forbs or increases bare ground feeding habitat for selected species
- no till or minimum till agricultural practices that leave waste grain and stubble on the soil surface until the next planting season—which provide supplemental food or cover, control erosion and improve soil tilth
Legumes should be planted annually until all pastures are shifted to native vegetation.