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Do Something Wild

Do Something "Wild"

Provide a Home for Wildlife

With a flash of brilliant plumage a pheasant explodes from its fencerow thicket. The raucous sound of the ring-neck cock silences the music of songbirds in the nearby windbreak. The mallard in the pond glides her downy yellow brood to shelter among the cattails.

Anyone who has seen or can imagine these things knows something about the value of wildlife on farms and ranches. There is no need to miss such sights and sounds since they are easy to create. Simply match what the land is producing to the needs of wildlife, and wildlife will respond.

You can have wildlife on your land and have a better farm or ranch because of it. Every farm and ranch is a complex community of living things. In this community are the plants and animals that convert nutrients, moisture, and sunshine into food and fiber for our support and into trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs for the support of wild creatures. It is a successful community only if the living elements are working in harmony for the benefit of the community as a whole.

In Montana, wildlife belongs to all the people but habitat that wild creatures is mostly in private ownership. What a farmer or rancher does with his or her land can have a tremendous impact on wildlife. Numerous species of upland and wetland wildlife are found on farms and ranches used mainly for cultivated crop, livestock, or wood production. Here, farmers and ranchers are the key to wildlife abundance. Farms, farmers, and farm programs influence the existence of wildlife because wild animals react quickly to agricultural management practices, good or bad.

Of course, if farmers or ranchers are to make a go of their business, their first priority must be crop and livestock production. Sometimes wildlife must, by necessity, represent a secondary land use.

But often, with little or no cost, a landowner can easily adjust the farming or ranching operation to encourage production of wildlife—from pheasants, doves, partridge and prairie grouse, to songbirds and waterfowl, to amphibians, reptiles, and big game. On most agricultural lands wildlife is a secondary crop from which the landowner doesn’t expect or receive an income. The beauty, though, provided by patches of shrubs, trees, and grassland scattered throughout wheat or fallow does enhance the value and appeal of the land. The pleasures derived from wild creatures inhabiting this diverse landscape is part of the heritage of farm and ranch life.

There is another benefit of maintaining healthy, diverse wildlife habitat on a farm or ranch. A complex wildlife community provides the landowner with a free pest control service. Songbirds, bats, and many insects, for example, save farmers, ranchers, and foresters billions of dollars each year by consuming harmful insect pests. A single little brown bat eats about 1,200 mosquito-sized insects per hour. And, the pollination service provided by bats, insects, and hummingbirds is critical to healthy agricultural operations.

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