An animal’s habitat is its home—its environment. A habitat includes everything that an animal needs. The quality and size of a habitat determines the number of animals (the population) that can live there.
The habitat is where a species fulfills its basic life needs: nourishment, procreation, and rest. If not managed properly, urban development can result in habitat loss, which presents the greatest threat to wildlife. Habitat management, the most essential aspect of wildlife management, safeguards the essential elements to meet these needs:
- Food and water are necessary to all wildlife. Competition for these elements among species makes cover, space, and arrangement top priorities.
- Cover protects animals from predators and the weather while they feed, breed, roost, nest, and travel. Cover ranges from thick weeds and brush to a few rocks piled together.
- Space is necessary for adequate food among wildlife, territorial space for mating and nesting, and freedom from stress-related diseases.
- Arrangement of these elements ideally allows animals to meet these needs in a small area to minimize energy use while fulfilling their basic needs.
Edge effect refers to the consequence of placing two contrasting ecosystems adjacent to one another. Most animals locate where food and cover meet, particularly near water. An example would be a river bottom, which offers many animals all their habitat needs along one corridor.
Habitat Management in Montana
The Montana FWP recognizes the importance of habitat in fish and wildlife management. For more information about the FWP’s habitat conservation and restoration programs, visit the FWP Habitat website.