The four basic needs of Minnesota woodland wildlife

April 30, 2007 at 4:38 am Leave a comment

Every wildlife species has its own unique habitat requirements, and it would take far more space than we have here to list them all. However, all wildlife species have four basic needs.

Inquisitive Deer - image by alttext. Click for a better view.As a woodland owner, planning your woodland stewardship activities with an eye to these general requirements, and to the species you’re most interested in, can make a big difference. Woodland management directly impacts wildlife habitat, and your decisions will have an impact on how much, and what kinds of, wildlife you see on your land. The four basic needs of wildlife are food, water, cover, and space.


All species need food to survive. For game species such as deer and grouse, aspen stands provide excellent forage. Deer browse young aspen sprouts, while grouse feed on the buds of mature aspen trees. Some woodland owners provide supplemental forage for deer in the form of food plots.

For nongame species, food sources are much more diverse, and depend heavily on the species in question.


In the land of 10,000 lakes, water is often abundantly available. However, water can be locally difficult to find for wildlife, particularly during extreme dry periods or winter. If water is rare in your area, you might consider digging a pond on your property as a source to attract wildlife.

Cover (shelter)

Although all species need some form of cover or shelter, the specific needs vary by species. During the hottest and coldest seasons, white-tailed deer take cover under dense conifer cover, such as balsam fir or white spruce. Grouse require dense thickets of brush, such as young aspen stands, to escape hawks and other, less agile, predators.

Rabbits and other small mammals need different kinds of cover, and sometimes you can attract them by creating small brushpiles for either escape or nesting cover.


In order to find mates (as well as their other needs), all wildlife need space to move around. For some species, space is the limiting habitat element, as human development expands into more and more remote areas.

The amount of space needed varies greatly by species. In general, large species need more space to roam than smaller species.

More info

For more information about managing woodlands for wildlife, see the many links on our wildlife species page.

John Loegering of the University of Minnesota Crookston contributed to this article.


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Minnesota woodlands and wildlife: strategies and species June email update is out

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