Posts Tagged ‘roadside mowing’

Save Gasoline, Save Quail by Stopping Ditch Mowing

Thursday, June 30th, 2011


Delaying roadside mowing till after August 1st is important to the reproduction success of ground-nesting wildlife

What’s the most under-valued form of wildlife habitat? 

I’d argue roadside ditches as the answer to that question. 

Though pheasants and quail are often seen along roadsides, few people realize the importance of roadside ditches to wildlife.  Roadsides form an extensive network of grassy corridors providing nesting, brood-rearing, and winter cover for wildlife.  As urban sprawl and intensified land use practices gobble up more prairies, these grassy roadsides oftentimes provide the only significant nesting cover for ground-nesting critters.  In fact, research has shown that up to one-half of all pheasants produced annually may come from roadside habitat in some regions.  That number can escalate to nearly two-thirds in areas without land enrolled in CRP.   While I’d never argue ditches as perfect habitat since they provide narrow paths for predators to search and also lead to animal/automobile accidents, roadsides do provide at least some form of wildlife cover in landscapes void of other options for wildlife.  The other negative of roadside mowing is the corresponding mortality of chicks too young to escape a mower’s blades.

Remember: August 1st

While I understand driving visibility and snow drifting as issues that can require limited roadside mowing, it’s a chore accomplishable in early autumn rather than during the summer. At the very least, mowing should be delayed until August 1st, when the crucial period for nesting and brood-rearing has passed.  Essentially, the best roadside habitats are those that are left undisturbed throughout the year, providing early-nesting habitat and winter cover.  Research has shown that, on average, 40 percent of all pheasant nests found along roadsides hatch after July 1st, and 23 percent hatch after July 15th.  In other words, mowing on July 1st could effectively reduce pheasant production by 40 percent in a given year. 


Change the law

Pheasants Forever has helped enact roadside mowing delays in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan to give wildlife a break and preserve habitat. Consider working with your local Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever chapter to require mowing delays in your county or state. Since most roadways are publicly owned with their management paid for by your taxes, we recommend contacting your state and local government with mowing concerns.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.