NEWTON COUNTY — Currently degraded savanna habitat at Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Area (FWA) will be restored using a $40,000 donation from the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation (INRF), the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said last week.
The restoration will involve removing woody vegetation from approximately 100 acres of what is now poor savanna habitat. This work will allow light to reach the ground, leading to a greater assortment of savanna plants and animals. Standing dead trees will be left in place for bats and tree-cavity nesting birds.
After the initial removal, the area will be managed to maintain plant and wildlife habitat with prescribed fire. These burns will mimic historical burn intervals. With staff at Willow Slough already implementing some of these practices on other parts of the FWA, the abundance of native wildflowers has increased and Northern bobwhite numbers have more than doubled.
Turkeys, deer, quail, and other species bring their young to these areas to forage on insects, browse fresh vegetation, and escape from predators and biting insects.
Other species that will benefit from the improved habitat include Eastern whip-poor-wills, red-headed woodpeckers, Eastern wood-pewee, and six-lined racerunners.
Once restored, the savanna habitats will provide visitors with a distinctive place to hike, see wildflowers, pick berries in the summer, admire fall colors, and observe many savanna wildlife species. Hunting opportunities will also increase for Northern bobwhite, deer, and turkey.