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Ask a Forester: Is leaving a forest undisturbed the best strategy for attracting wildlife?

Q: I’ve always thought leaving a forest undisturbed was the best strategy for attracting wildlife. But recently, I’ve heard otherwise. Can you clarify?

A: If you are a wildlife or hunting enthusiast, you have likely dreamt about attracting more grouse, deer, or other wildlife to your land. It is a common misconception landowners have where they believe leaving the land undisturbed will attract wildlife. Quite the opposite. Animals are attracted to cover (brush) and food sources. And to create cover, the forest needs to be disturbed every so often. Foresters and wildlife managers can use a number of different strategies to generate this type of growth depending on the species of tree. An example: If your land is full of aspen, clearcutting select areas is a good option. Clearcutting aspen regenerates new stands quickly. These new stands create an ideal habitat for grouse, deer and songbirds as the regrowth creates a tremendous amount of cover. Plus, the tops of the young aspen seedlings offer a great food source.

Speaking of food sources, many times within the implementation of a forest and wildlife management plan, we will utilize strategies to encourage development of more mast producing tree species by creating openings around their mature counterparts. This encourages areas of sunlight to hit the ground around the mature trees that have dropped their acorns and seeds, thus promoting young seedling development from the acorns on the ground. This is the ideal situation. You not only have a great food source but you are also encouraging the growth of desirable cover for wildlife.

Thanks for the question! If you have a question you’d like answered by one of Kretz Foresters, email it to us at or contact us at

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