Habitat—An area where environmental conditions and resources are sufficient to allow for the survival and reproduction of a species. Resources include food, water and cover, while other conditions include climate and the presence of competitors, disease or predators. Habitats vary in size, degree of isolation, availability of food and shelter, and level of disturbance.
Habitat management efforts typically focus on wildlife species that are more specialized in their habitat uses such as pheasants, quail or turkey. However, managing such habitat areas often benefits deer.
The Illinois Wildlife Action Plan was designed to guide the conservation of wildlife species and their habitats. The plan is important because in Illinois, 96% of the land area is privately owned. Of the remaining land, only a small amount is available for the state to enhance wildlife habitat. Of the land in Illinois considered to be deer habitat—32% is “good” and 16% is “marginal.”
Landowners typically do not create conditions or habitats specifically for deer, aside from planting wildlife food plots. However, other features on the landscape, such as roads can have an impact on deer. For example, roads increase the chance of deer coming into contact with vehicles, but deer also use roads to avoid predators.
Deer are generalists and have adapted well to the Illinois landscape of mixed agriculture, forest, and urban habitats.
Habitats are part of a larger ecosystem where living organisms interact with the physical environment, including energy flow and nutrient cycling. An ecosystem can support a limited number of individuals of a given species.
Balance in an ecosystem means that normal competition exists between individuals as well as between species, particularly those that have similar requirements. For example, mice, chipmunks, and tree squirrels compete with deer for the available acorn crop.
In addition, a balanced ecosystem contains species that do not continuously overburden the supply of food or necessary cover.
A balanced system means birth rates and death rates will be roughly equal over time.