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Lee Standley: Diets, nutrition can help in wildlife management

A favorite pastime for many Texans is wildlife management. Knowledge of diets and nutrition can benefit ranchers and landowners who are interested in wildlife management and who want to coordinate vegetation management practices with changes in nutritional value of the habitat.

In the past, ranchers focused on growing grass to enhance livestock production. However, increasing prices of wildlife hunting leases have encouraged a change in management priorities.

Because of the current economic importance of wildlife, especially white-tailed deer, ranchers and landowners should recognize the impact that brush management, grass seeding and other improvement practices for livestock have on their wildlife populations.

From a nutritional perspective, there are three important considerations for the landowner interested in maintaining a healthy and productive wildlife population.

Nutritional requirements of the wildlife species, nutritional value of the habitat relative to the availability and quality of the forage and competition among the wildlife species for the available forage.

Changes in the nutritional requirements of wildlife and livestock species that occur with gestation, lactation, breeding and antler growth when we discuss white-tailed deer should be coordinated with seasonal changes in nutrient availability from forage plants.

Nutritional requirements are generally separated into five categories: protein, energy, minerals, vitamins and water.

The two habitat variables that affect wildlife diets and nutrition are plant availability (quantity and accessibility) and quality (nutrient content and digestibility). Plants will vary in abundance, stage of growth and nutritional characteristics on a seasonal basis.

Wildlife species will attempt to maintain a quality diet and meet nutritional needs by adjusting diet components as the forage plants change in quality. Four basic categories of plants available are browse (woody plants), forbs (weeds), cacti and grasses.

Landowners can influence the quality of deer forage by manipulating vegetation and encouraging plant diversity. The greatest influence on nutrition can be achieved by managing forage quantity.

The Denton County Crops and Forage Committee will conduct a wildlife management program at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Sanger High School lecture hall.

Topics will include habitat management of deer, bobwhite quail, dove and turkey. Cost is $10 per person and no pre-registration is required.

For more information, contact Pamela Hill at 940-349-2880 or e-mail

LEE STANDLEY is the county extension agent in 4-H & Youth Development for Texas AgriLife Extension offices in Denton County. He can be reached at 940-349-2880.