Leopold Live! Chapter 2 Recap: Supplemental Water for Wildlife

This past month we premiered our sixth episode of Leopold Live!: Chapter 2 with our incredible partners at Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, and we truly enjoyed connecting with you to talk about wildlife management practices and private land stewardship. In this latest episode we chatted with our own Dr. Jim Cathey and Bamberger’s resident zoologist, Jared Holmes, about supplemental water for wildlife and how you can implement it as a practice to help benefit species on your property.

We started off with Jared highlighting a few different ways they produce and store supplemental water on the Bamberger Ranch. The first was a windmill with storage tanks and a trough. While windmills are a great way to produce water, they have quite a few upfront costs that need to be considered before installation (drilling the well, casing the well, erecting the windmill, trough and tank construction, and maintenance). A popular, less expensive alternative to windmills are solar pumps and this is what they tend to use on the ranch for their large supplemental water sources. Either of these options will check a box on your wildlife tax valuation for 10 years, but only with regular maintenance.

Here in Texas, we have been especially lucky with large amounts of rainfall year to date. In years like these, supplemental water  is not as important to have as there is plenty available on the landscape for wildlife to access. On this note, it is very important to know if there are any permanent water sources on your land and where they are located. This is essential in helping you determine the best places to put any supplemental water sources. Not sure where to start or how to map this? Our latest web tool TxMAP can help you!

Next, we were joined by our guest speaker, Dr. Jim Cathey, to talk about supplemental water spacing and tips for how to keep wildlife safe. For livestock the recommendation is a water source placed approximately every mile, so animals only need to walk half a mile to any one water source. If you are trying to manage for smaller species, such as reptiles, you should place them a bit closer together - approximately every quarter to half mile. Supplemental water sources can sometimes present a drowning hazard for some species if there is no way for them to get themselves out. If you’re looking to install a source or have an existing one, you can easily modify them for wildlife by adding an escape route. Jim mentioned an important aspect of these escapes is to make sure there is something for the animal to hit and grab onto as they’re swimming so they can climb out safely.

An essential aspect to providing supplemental water for wildlife is checking and maintaining your equipment. Float systems can easily be damaged by livestock or wildlife; Jared showed us how they added a rebar cage to protect it. Another important aspect is cleaning water sources regularly to help keep the algae under control. Lastly, it is also important check and clean valves of built-up minerals and/or sediment as these can quickly clog your pipes.

We then moved to our next location to discuss guzzlers as a way to harvest rainwater for wildlife. Any rainwater harvest you can do for wildlife is helpful - it’s not if, but when, the next drought cycle will happen here in Texas. Guzzlers are generally more common in the western part of Texas and are usually composed of an inverted roof with an attached storage tank. On average these can capture about ½ a gallon of water per square foot during a one-inch rainfall. The example we show in the episode is quite large, but they do not necessarily need to be that big to benefit wildlife. If you’re managing for small wildlife species, such as quail, a 2-3 square foot roof and 50-gallon drum will provide a great water source for them. On the Bamberger Ranch they are quite pragmatic and have converted an old septic tank for their water storage. Jared recommends burying your tank if possible as it keeps your water cooler and helps prevent evaporation.

The last supplemental water feature we talked about was a water trough that is gravity fed by the guzzler. Jared and Jim discussed a few of the modifications that were made to the trough, including burying it to help keep the water cooler, adding a stick to act as a bird perch, including an escape ramp, and adding limestone rocks for wildlife to perch on while drinking. With all these modifications you’re bound to attract a variety of species and placing game cameras at these troughs can be a great way to monitor the wildlife on your property.

We rounded the episode out with a short Q&A session with Jim and Jared.

How much maintenance do these systems require?

Jared says it really comes down to routine checking of your water sources to make sure everything is still there and functioning correctly. You need to check on your water sources to make sure you still have water and ensure your pipes, pumps, and other equipment are working properly. Cleaning out the algae from the troughs is very important as you do not want to make the water hypoxic. To get rid of the algae you can take a cap full of bleach, add it to the water, drain the trough and then scrub it clean. Run 50-60 gallons through once it’s clean and then again to fill it up. Jared recommends doing this 2-3 times per year.

Can water sources concentrate wildlife disease and how can you help prevent it?

Unfortunately, sick animals tend to flock to water sources due to dehydration and fevers. They can also infect water sources with parasites if they defecate in them. Jared says what it really comes down to maintenance. That little bit of bleach used during regular cleaning can help kill egg masses and parasites that may be present in the water. Look at your supplemental water sources for potential issues (such as dead animals) during other routine maintenance such as checking fences. You can also add roofs or covers to your storage tanks to help prevent animals getting into your water sources, perishing, and poisoning the water. Lastly, Jim mentions that you should have good distribution of water sources across the landscape so you’re not concentrating wildlife in one area.

If you have any of these same questions or are just curious about food stations for wildlife, be sure to check out the full episode!

Leopold Live!: Chapter 2 is off to a great start, and our crew can’t wait to share our next episodes with you! Keep an eye on Facebook for new episodes to premiere every month.


Current Episode Schedule

Game Cameras - September 28th at 12:00pm

Supplemental Water - October 26th at 12:00pm

Herbicides and Brush Management - November 23rd at 12:00pm

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