Long term management objectives
The overall objective of Tuttle Creek Lake's natural resource management program is to manage and conserve wildlife habitat components so that a broad diversity of wildlife will be able to fulfill their basic needs. This is best accomplished by paying attention to native vegetation diversity and vigor. A variety of management techniques are used to enhance the habitat for both game and non-game species. These techniques include controlled burning, timber stand improvement, constructing brush piles, planting food plots and wildlife strips, seeding the shoreline for waterfowl, and erecting wildlife nesting boxes.
Vegetative Management – Forestation Program
Forest management at Tuttle Creek Lake targets sustained benefits for wildlife, recreation, and soil conservation. Oak and hickory tree species are left when conducting timber stand improvement. Acorns and nuts constitute the bulk of wild nut foods for a number of wildlife species such as deer, turkeys, quail, squirrels, mallards, and wood ducks. Other important food tree species that will be favored include walnut, hackberry, ash, mulberry, and maple.
Timber stand improvement (TSI) primarily involves the cutting of trees of regeneration size, less than 2" in diameter, and pole size, less than 9" in diameter, to construct brush pile habitat. Saw timber size trees, greater than 9" in diameter, are culled only if they present a safety hazard. Standing dead trees and snags are not removed as they provide nesting habitat.
The presence of brush leads to niche diversification, which permits a greater number of species to occupy the habitat. Woody vegetation in riparian corridors is protected. A minimum width of 100 feet is desirable to reduce erosion from affecting streambeds. Wildlife bundles are planted along creek banks and field edges to provide food and cover for wildlife and soil stabilization for creek channel edges devoid of vegetation.
Large trees near the lakeshore are protected as winter roosting areas for the endangered bald eagle. Brush piles are established near other existing cover, such as in woody draws and corners of woodlots.
Since the lake is situated in a prairie biome, extensive woodlands are lacking. But the woodlands that are present provide vital wildlife habitat and erosion control.
One of the main objectives of the resource management program is to protect vegetative diversity. An interspersion of woody species is beneficial to wildlife; however, advanced stages of succession tends to reduce or eliminate certain wildlife species. The most preferred treatment to maintain warm season grasses is controlled burning. Controlled burning is used to maintain stands of native prairie grasses and forbs, and to suppress woody species, in an effort to maintain a vigorous prairie community. As a management tool, controlled burning accomplishes a number of range management objectives: it improves seedbed conditions, enhances wildlife and range habitats, controls undesirable tree and brush competition, and reduces the possibility of damaging and uncontrollable wild fires.
The burns are conducted in the spring (late March, April, early May) as weather allows. Particular emphasis is placed on maintaining native prairie adjacent to parks and other high visibility areas.
Small groups of larger eastern red cedars in close proximity are desirable as cover. Otherwise, eradication is preferred. Mechanical control is employed if fire is inappropriate or ineffective.
Agricultural Benefits to Wildlife
The Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism perform a variety of wildlife enhancement activities with the cooperation of local farmers. The agricultural leasing program is an important element in the overall wildlife management effort. Several management practices are incorporated in the lease conditions.
One technique is establishing wildlife or weed strips, a minimum of 25 feet wide, along stream banks, ravines, and tree and brush lines. These strips provide edges for nesting and cover habitat for many wildlife species. Incorporating weed strips within larger agricultural ground breaks up the row crop monoculture, and provides valuable cover and escape lanes for various prey species.
Another practice commonly employed is requiring lessees to leave a percentage of their crops standing over winter as food for wildlife. Both game and non-game species benefit from this practice. These standing crops, usually corn, milo, and soybeans, provide a food source which will remain uncovered by ice and snow. While native foods provide the bulk of most wild animal diets, agricultural crops can serve as a supplement, and provide food that is high in energy and nutritional value. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism provides 3,220 acres of cropland for winter food, attracting deer, turkeys, quail, pheasants, squirrels, and doves.
In certain areas, wildlife food and cover may be scarce or lacking. Food plots can provide cover and winter food for a wide variety of wildlife. These plots are small, usually an acre in size, and are used in areas which are some distance from farmed ground.