Providing supplemental shelter means actively creating or maintaining vegetation or artificial structures that provide shelter from the weather, nesting and breeding sites or “escape cover” from enemies. The best shelter for wildlife can be provided by a well-managed habitat. Some practices listed below provide types of shelter that may be unavailable in the habitat and that will help you qualify for wildlife valuation:
- installing nest boxes and bat boxes
- brush piles and slash retention
- managing fence lines
- managing hay meadow, pasture or cropland
- half-cutting trees and shrubs
- establishing woody plants and shrubs
- developing natural cavities and snags
Installing nest boxes and bat boxes in the proper numbers and locations to provide nests or dens for selected species when necessary should be consistent with the habitat needs of the target species.
Brush piles and slash retention can provide additional wildlife cover and protection in habitats where inadequate natural cover limits the growth of a selected species. Planned placement of brush piles and slash retention—leaving dead brush on the ground where it was cut or uprooted—also can protect seedlings of desirable plant species. In addition, stacking posts or limbs in tepees can provide cover for small game and other wildlife in open areas.
Fence line management, which maintains or allows trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses to grow around fence lines, can provide both food and cover. This practice should only be used where cover is insufficient in the habitat, i.e. cropland or tame pasture.
Hay meadow, pasture or cropland management can be useful tools in wildlife management. Owners should postpone mowing/swathing hay fields until after the peak of the nesting/young-rearing period of local ground-nesting birds and mammals.
Owners also should mow or shred one-third of open areas per year, preferably in strips or mosaic types of patterns, to create “edge” and structural diversity. Weeds are an important source of food for many wildlife species, and owners should, therefore, minimize weed control practices.
Owners should use no till/minimum till agricultural practices to leave waste grain and stubble on the soil surface until the next planting season to provide supplemental food or cover for wildlife, control erosion and improve soil tilth.
Providing shelter also can include roadside right-of-way management for ground-nesting birds, establishing perennial vegetation on circle irrigation corners, terraces, fencerows and field borders, establishing multi-row shelterbelts or renovating old shelterbelts, and protecting and managing old homesites, farmsteads and Conservation Reserve Program cover.
Half-cutting trees and shrubs — partially cutting branches of a live tree or shrub to encourage horizontal cover near the ground — provides supplemental cover in habitats where cover is lacking for a targeted wildlife species (See the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Bulletin 48).
Woody plant/shrub establishment — planting native seedlings to establish shrub thickets, shelterbelts or wind rowswind rows—should be organized by four rows of 120 feet for a 1/4 mile.
Natural cavity/snag development involves retaining and/or creating snags for cavity-dwelling species. Undesirable trees can be girdled or treated with herbicide and left standing. Large living trees should be protected and girdling should be minimal where trees are insufficient.