Monitoring is an important tool that wildlife managers and researchers use to determine population trends and the distribution of various kinds of wildlife in a given area. Monitoring is especially important for understanding the impacts of habitat management on wildlife.

fawn deer with collar

Tagging and radio-collaring are two techniques that researchers use to monitor wildlife./Wisconsin DNR

Most monitoring surveys take place on a regular basis (yearly, for instance), in the same area, and using consistent techniques that provide directly comparable data. These numbers can be used to detect trends and changes in species populations and animal community compositions. Sometimes managers and researchers carry out a complete inventory of wildlife and plant species. More often, they focus on a certain kind of wildlife or a group of species that use the same habitat.

To fully understand the impact of habitat management actions, researchers monitor target species at a site both before and after management takes place. (Management activities can include harvesting timber, mowing down overmature shrubs, or planting trees or shrubs.) Results from these surveys let scientists understand how management actions or combinations of techniques positively impact wildlife of interest. They also help managers make decisions on how to effectively manage habitat in years to come.

Private landowners monitor their properties, too, in both formal and informal ways. Just by noticing that ruffed grouse were abundant 10 years ago on a tract of land, but now seem to be rare, is an observation that tells a landowner that the habitat on their land has changed. A landowner may notice that ruffed grouse populations bounce back a few years following an aspen timber harvest.

Ruffed grouse

Landowners often notice an increase in the number of ruffed grouse on their land when young forest springs up following a timber harvest./Wisconsin DNR

Taking note of these sorts of observations is a great way for landowners to engage with and understand their property and the dynamic responses of wildlife to changes in habitat. If you are the type of landowner who enjoys making such observations, check out the Monitor Your Property website tab to learn about ways your observations can help scientists and habitat managers help wildlife.

Read the two attached reports, below, to discover more about the types of monitoring that the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership and its collaborators are using to make sure the habitat management actions that we advocate are helping to boost populations of American woodcock and golden-winged warbler, two bird species that depend on young forest.

And remember, creating habitat for these two “umbrella species” automatically makes food and cover for a broad range of other wildlife that shares that special, vibrant habitat known as young forest.