White tailed deer, grouse, rabbits, woodcock, and many other species of wildlife are considered edge species. This means that they most often populate areas where forestland is adjacent to open fields, where a dense cover of young woody vegetation provides good cover and browsing opportunities. By clearing small areas in a continuous woodlot, this type of habitat can be simulated to increase wildlife populations.
Areas that consist mostly of red maple, aspen, or white birch are best suited for this type of management as they tend to reproduce best by stump and root sprouts, and can be competitive with weeds, and aggressive shrubs like raspberries and blackberries. Keep in mind, however, that these types of shrubs will likely develop soon after clearing and remain for a few years, until the young trees grow to a height of a few feet.
The size of the clearings can range anywhere from ½ to 5 acres in size, although clearings at least one acre in size will provide the best benefit. If the clearings are located adjacent to the edge of the woodlot, this will allow easy management access (cutting and collecting firewood, for example), as well as provide a transitional area for wildlife between the woodlot and the open area. This, however, may not always be possible.
Areas need not be regular in size, yet should be wide enough in every direction to provide adequate cover. Every tree within the clearing should be removed, so that maximum sunlight is allowed to reach the forest floor to promote rapid regeneration. Do not be concerned if it is necessary to cut a few lower quality hardwoods, to provide the continuity of the clearing. If timber is also a concern though, you should try to locate the clearings in areas where potential crop trees won't need to be sacrificed.
Trees can either be cut and removed from the site, or girdled and left standing. See girdling guidelines under the "Den Trees" page.
Washtenaw County Conservation District Copyright 2016