Providing Supplemental Shelter
An applicable management practice for many landowners interested in the wildlife tax valuation is the activity that involves providing supplemental shelter for wildlife. This term “supplemental shelter” in this case means actively creating or maintaining vegetation or artificial structures that provide shelter from the weather, nesting and breeding sites or “escape cover” from predators. Although the best shelter for wildlife can be provided through well-managed habitat, the practices listed below provide types of shelter that may necessary and unavailable in the habitat found on your property:
- Installing nest boxes for songbirds
- Installing roosting boxes for bats
- Brush piles and slash retention
- Managing fence lines for cover
- Managing hay meadow, pasture or cropland
- Half-cutting trees and shrubs
- Establishing woody plants and shrubs
- Developing natural cavities and snags
Shelter for the “Wildlife Tax Exemption”
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. Nest boxes for birds is often a good idea, but there is more to wildlife shelter and the wildlife tax valuation than just nesting boxes.
Brush piles and slash retention can also 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, such as leaving dead brush on the ground where it was cut or uprooted, also can protect seedlings of desirable plant species. Stacking posts or limbs in tepees can provide cover for small game and other wildlife in open areas.
Grassland and Pasture Management for Wildlife Use
Hay meadow, pasture or cropland management can be useful tools in wildlife management. These practices are not only beneficial for native wildlife, but when applied properly they can help landowners meet the requirements of the wildlife tax valuation. Property owners should postpone mowing/swathing hay fields until after the peak of the nesting/young-rearing period of local ground-nesting birds and mammals.
Landowners should also mow or shred one-third of open areas per year, preferably in strips or mosaic types of patterns, to create “edge” and structural diversity. Forbs (weeds) are an important source of food for many wildlife species, and owners should, therefore, minimize weed control practices.
Owners of farmlands 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.
Supplemental Shelter Promoting Trees and Brush
Providing shelter for Texas wildlife also includes woody cover. This activity can include roadside right-of-way management for ground-nesting birds, for example. It could also mean establishing perennial vegetation on circle irrigation corners, terraces, fencerows and field borders or establishing multi-row shelterbelts or renovating old shelterbelts, as well as protecting and managing old homesites, farmsteads and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) cover.
Fence line management, which maintains or allows trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses to grow around fence lines, can provide both food and cover for a lot of small game, such as rabbits and bobwhite quail, and non-game species. This practice should only be used where cover is insufficient in the habitat, such as in areas of cultivate or tame pastures.
Half-cutting trees and shrubs involves partially cutting branches of a live tree or shrub to encourage horizontal cover near the ground, which provides supplemental cover in habitats where cover is lacking for a targeted wildlife species, such as quail. Woody plant/shrub establishment can also mean the direct planting of native seedlings to establish shrub thickets, shelterbelts or wind rows.
Landowners in Texas can also take advantage of unwanted tree species on their property for the wildlife tax valuation. 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.