Habitat refers to the features of an area that allow a wildlife species to live there. Although some types of wildlife may have many specific habitat needs, all wildlife have four basic habitat requirements:
• adequate supplies of the right types of food;
• available structure and materials that provide shelter
to serve as safe places to live and raise young;
• accessible and adequate supplies of water; and
• enough space to find these necessary resources and to
exercise natural behavior.
Today, woodlands comprise the greatest area of Iowa’s remaining habitat. Approximately 28 percent of Iowa’s original forest cover remains. Although woodland habitat is still fairly common in Iowa, today’s forests are often fragmented, split by roads, farms, and towns. And Iowa forests are usually affected by human activity. Although some types of wildlife thrive in this type of environment, others do not. Iowa woodlands are not suitable for large predators that need large areas for hunting and isolation. Wolves, cougars, and black bears which were once native to Iowa are all going to be affected.
During a 100-year period from 1850 to 1950, approximately 95 percent of Iowa’s wetlands were destroyed. Wetlands were drained to make farm land more productive and to make room for roads, towns, and other land development. Rivers and streams were altered to meet the demands of agriculture, industry, and transportation. As streams were straightened and floodplains were cleared, more wetlands were lost. Additionally, channelization and stream-straightening took the curves out of rivers and reduced river miles and habitat so that less than half of our original miles of inland waterways remain.
Preserves are places where nature proceeds with as little human interference as possible. They are often managed to protect rare or endangered wildlife. People who visit preserves enjoy the natural features of these areas. Activities that could interfere with these features generally are not permitted.