Arkansas Game and Fish
Nothing changes the landscape of property overnight like cutting hay fields. A hay-cutting operation can transform a field’s wildlife use almost overnight.
People can minimize the disturbance to wildlife while still realizing profit from the hay fields.
Ted Zawislak, statewide private lands supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said timing hay-cutting to avoid nesting season is an excellent start, if possible.
“Try to delay haying until July 15 or later if you can,” Zawislak said. “This will allow ground-nesting birds time to hatch their broods.”
Cutting a little higher on the stem also can save quite a few nests and ground-dwelling wildlife. Terrapins and small mammals can be spared from the mower blades by simply raising the deck of the mower 4 inches above ground level.
Installing Plexiglas around the leading edge and sides of a mower also can prevent wildlife from being drawn into mower blades.
Flushing bars also can save many grassland critters from cutting blades. A flushing bar can be made by hanging 28-inch lengths of chain about 2 feet apart on a 10-foot section of angle iron mounted to the front of a tractor. The chains should be long enough to ride just above the surface of the ground. The first chain should be located 36 inches from the tractor frame. This method has been shown to effectively scare wildlife such as rabbits, turkey and some fawns away before they are hit by the hay cutter.
Zawislak said one way to help wildlife escape the mower and baler is to work from the inside out. Just as prescribed burns don’t completely surround an area until the last possible moment, this allows animals as much time to escape as possible.