Building a Lake for Wildlife

All wildlife species require food, water, shelter and space to survive. If managed properly, both lakes and ponds can provide recreatinal fishing while at the same time providing food and shelter for a variety of wildlife species. Lake management for wildlife species is best if you start before the lake is constructed since physical aspects of the water body can be engineered for the wildlife of interests.

As a rule of thumb, no more than 50% of the pond area should have water less than 2 feet deep. Ideally, the pond should be constructed so that the shallow areas can be dried by draining (1 to 3 feet) during May through October.

Draining helps wildlife associated with lakes because it exposes areas of mudflats. In the mudflats natural vegetation will grow because of dormant seeds in the ground, or specific plants can be planted. These mudflats are then flooded in the fall and provide habitat and a food source for ducks and other waterfowl.

Draining and flooding can be accomplished by fitting the standpipe with two valves, one to drain the pond completely and the other positioned to drain only the upper reaches of the pond. In addition, nesting boxes placed in the pond can provide artificial nesting cavities for whistling ducks and or wood ducks, depending upon where your lake is located.

Lakes and ponds are watering sites for a variety of wildlife species. Cleared shorelines, approximately 15-to 20-feet wide, provide an unobstructed view of the pond and attract mourning doves and other bird species. Alternatively, the shoreline can be planted with native trees (oaks) and shrubs (yaupon holly) that provide seeds and fruits for wildlife to eat.

Wading birds, aquatic reptiles ,amphibians, and fish are all a natural part of any lake. These animals provide many hours of enjoyment to those who have the opportunity to watch them. Whether it is waterfowl to be hunted or nongame species to be watched, wildlife can enhance the recreational benefits of ponds. Maximizing wildlife around your lake starts with a well-outlined lake management plan before your lake is constructed, although some water bodies can be modified to work.

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