Resource Management

Resource Management at Muscatatuck NWR

Water manipulation is an important management tool at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.


 

Many wetland units are connected by water control structure and pipes, so that water can be moved between units at different times of the year.  Some wetland units can be filled with water from Richart Lake and Storm Creek.  Water from Stanfield Lake is sometimes used to flood the waterfowl sanctuary area (closed area) to provide attractive feeding areas for birds.  

 

Moist soil units—low open areas surrounded by dikes—are gradually filled with water in the fall and drained after the spring to provide feeding and resting areas for waterfowl and shorebirds.

 

Marshes—swampy areas of lush vegetation interspersed with pockets of shallow open water—are ideal homes for ducks, geese, and other waterbirds. Some marshes are flooded and periodically drained to encourage plant development.

Other land management practices include tree planting to fill in forest gaps, beaver dam removal to allow water to flow, mowing and burning to set back natural succession, and the monitoring and treatment of invasive plants.  

 

The fragmentation of forests is a problem for many forest-nesting birds. Small patches of forest allow birds of the forest edges, like brown-headed cowbirds, to lay their eggs in the nests of interior-forest birds like black and white warblers (that in a larger forest the cowbirds would never reach). Cowbird eggs laid in other birds nests almost always result in the death of the other birds' young since cowbird chicks are bigger and take most of the food.  The planting of nut-producing trees in openings between patches of woods speeds up the process of natural succession and eventually results in large woodlands that provide food for many kinds of wildlife.

 

Beaver are wonderful wetland engineers that excel at dam building and creating ponds for wildlife.  Unfortunately for refuge managers beaver frequently don't build where wanted and sometimes stop up water control structures, dam creeks, and flood roads. A regular job for summer workers at Muscatatuck is beaver dam removal.

 

Nature's plan for Muscatatuck is for undisturbed land to revert to forest. The process of natural succession plants pioneer trees like sweet gum, red cedar, and cottonwood in old fields in just a few years. Refuge managers aim to maintain a diversity of lands for wildlife that includes grasslands.  Mowing and burning are used on units on a rotational basis to keep open-lands for wildlife. 

 

Invasive exotic plants including autumn olive, multiflora rose, and Japanese and bush honeysuckle are very common at Muscatatuck and in some areas cover the landscape, smothering out native wildlife food plants.  Large machines are sometimes used by refuge staff to clear large patches of autumn olive and the shredded branches may be seen along roadsides.  

 

Recently staff have been establishing pollinator habitats in many locations on the refuge.  Pollinator habitats are patches of native wildflowers that provide food for beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies.   Monarch butterflies are one species of special management concern that greatly benefit from the planting of native milkweeds (common milkweed, marsh milkweed, whorled milkweed, and butterfly weed in this area).   For more information on providing for monarch butterflies check out the Monarch Joint Venture site.