Resource Management

Prescribed burn

Resource management activities may vary from refuge to refuge depending on a variety of factors and habitat types. At Patuxent, resource management tools include hunting, mowing, prescribed fire and impoundment management, among others.


In addition to being a priority public use on national wildlife refuges, hunting is used as a resource management tool. For Patuxent, hunting helps maintain a healthy white-tail deer population, and in turn, promotes forest health and species diversity. Without natural predators such as the gray wolf or bobcat, hunting serves as a way to control populations. A good example of the direct correlation between hunting and resource management is the interdependent relationship of the white-tail deer and the eastern box turtle. The eastern box turtle may experience less food availability and inadequate shelter as a result of the over grazing and habitat destruction caused by high deer populations. If deer populations are kept at a healthy level or carrying capacity, then forest shrubs and plants will be able to grow and provide adequate food and shelter for the Eastern box turtle and many other species! In addition the deer population will remain healthy as well.

Mowing and Prescribed Burns

The refuge also utilizes several habitat management tools to protect and promote natural resources. Mowing is often used as a management tool to control invasive species, and to promote nesting and foraging habitat in meadow areas. Selective mowing coupled with the use of prescribed burns has proven to help regeneration of native plant species. Prescribed burns are routinely scheduled to help improve soil health, control invasive species, and promote native plant and animal diversity. Refuge Manager Brad Knudsen explains, “Research indicates that controlled burning has many benefits over other habitat management practices. Fire helps control undesirable exotic plants, maintains grassland habitat for nesting birds and small mammals, promotes wild flowers and other native plants, reduces the accumulation of organic debris and releases nutrients back into the soil. The use of prescribed fire will support Patuxent’s unique role as a research refuge by allowing scientists to study the effect of fire on a variety of refuge habitats.”

Impoundment Management

Seasonal draw-downs (water releases) are conducted on many of Patuxent’s impoundments (lakes, ponds and wetlands) to mimic natural hydrologic regimes. Draw-downs may be timed to maximize seed production of aquatic plants to provide food for migrating waterfowl. In addition draw-downs can be used to control invasive species and to help maintain a mosaic of open water/emergent vegetation that many species of water birds desire.

Trapping Occurs on this Refuge.

Trapping is a wildlife management tool used on some national wildlife refuges. Trapping may be used to protect endangered and threatened species or migratory birds or to control certain wildlife populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also views trapping as a legitimate recreational and economic activity when there are harvestable surpluses of fur-bearing mammals. Outside of Alaska, refuges that permit trapping as a recreational use may require trappers to obtain a refuge special use permit. Signs are posted on refuges where trapping occurs. Contact the refuge manager for specific regulations. Click here for more information.