Iowa’s fascinating wildlife diversity consists of a wide array of species and their habitats. From wetlands and woodlands to prairies and pastures, habitat needs for wildlife can begin with you and your land. Most of us think cold weather means we have to hunker down by the fire and wait until spring. Fortunately, winter is a great time for land management! Here are three important wildlife management practices that can be done right now.
First, if you are interested in planting native prairie vegetation for monarch butterflies or other pollinators, right now is a great time to kill existing exotic grasses like smooth brome by spraying a contact herbicide like glyphosate. Cool season grasses are still green enough to take in the chemical while most native vegetation has died back for the year. Invasive shrubs like honeysuckle and buckthorn are also still green and susceptible to chemical treatment.
Next, fall and winter are good times to burn native prairie vegetation that has become too dominated by grasses. Burning in the dormant season doesn’t seem to stimulate native grasses, but will often stimulate stem production and flowering of forbs. Burning during the dormant season avoids mortality of sensitive reptiles like bullsnakes and smooth green snakes too. Just leave some habitat unburned for winter cover! Lastly, winter is a great time to evaluate shrubby woody cover and renovate or produce new brushy habitat. A few hours with a chainsaw or loppers can provide added shrubby cover in the spring and better escape cover in the winter.
Work done now will benefit a large variety of species like monarch butterflies, cottontails, bullsnakes, and cardinals. Whether you have a yard or hundreds of acres, anyone can find a place to provide wildlife habitat!