Mowing around wildlife | Living the Country Life

Mowing around wildlife

Don't mow, let them grow

Radio interview source: Mark Oja, wildlife biologist, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

Fencerows and ditches aren't meant to look like a pristine yard. Allow them to grow wild with tall grass and other vegetation so birds and other critters can scurry about, happily thriving in their habitat.

Mark Oja is a wildlife biologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and says these unkempt areas are critical. Delay mowing them for as long as you can.

"Ideally, avoid mowing during the primary nesting season of nesting birds and fawning times for white tail deer," Oja says. "And typically that time frame is between May 1 and August 1."

This also includes not overusing chemicals like insecticides and herbicides. These chemicals eliminate the high protein food source that birds like pheasants need for nesting and chicks require once they've hatched. A plant you see as a weed to be controlled may be what the birds rely on for food.

If for some reason it's impossible to avoid disturbing the vegetation, there are a few things you can do to keep nature in balance.

"Treat spot areas if at all possible, and leave refuge areas in terms of disturbance," Oja says. "Mow one-third of the acreage, leave the balance as a refuge area, and maybe rotate that over a three-year period to accomplish your mowing needs."

Another compromise is to mow to a height of about six inches, rather than clear cut to the ground. This still allows for some nesting and cover, as well as providing some residual nesting area the following spring.

Oja also recommends not mowing hayfields at twilight. If you don't have a choice, mow from the center out. This gives wildlife a chance to escape -- white tail fawns in particular.

Learn more:

Mowing: It is possible to mow and still maintain existing cover. Here's how.


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