LBL's wildlife management activities are undertaken in cooperation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Much of wildlife management is actually habitat management. LBL's forest and open lands management is geared toward enhancing wildlife habitat. This is no easy task, as the variety of species inhabiting LBL require a diversity of habitats. LBL's forest management activities favor maintaining its oak/hickory forest, which provides the food LBL's wildlife requires.
LBL is home to two species of deer -- white-tailed and Fallow -- as well as American bison and elk. Predators for these large mammals no longer roam LBL, but carnivores like bobcat, coyote, fox, river otter, and birds of prey feed upon small mammals such as mice, squirrels, moles, and shrews.
The fallow deer herd is a unique aspect of our wildlife inhabitants. This species, native to Europe and Asia, was brought to LBL by the Hillman Land Company in 1918. LBL's herd is believed to be the oldest population of fallow deer in the country, and at one time was the largest. Today the herd numbers fewer than 150 and hunting of fallow deer is not permitted. Although LBL's wildlife management activities focus on native species, the fallow herd is maintained for wildlife viewing and because of its historical significance.
LBL's bird population is equally diverse. LBL hosts a variety of migratory birds, from wintering bald eagles, gulls, ducks and geese, to neotropical migratory birds such as hummingbirds, warblers, and tanagers. Numerous wading birds such as the great blue heron, and birds of prey such as eagles, osprey, owl and hawk also live here.
A primary wildlife management goal is to maintain and, if possible, restore populations of wildlife at LBL. Projects to restore or reintroduce the bald eagle, osprey, wild turkey, and river otter have been successfully undertaken in recent years. To protect sensitive species such as the bald eagle, gray bat, and Fallow deer, refuges, sanctuaries and other protective measures are taken. Artificial nesting boxes have also been placed in key spots around LBL.
Hunting is used to control the population of some wildlife species, such as white-tailed deer, and to provide recreational opportunities. Hunting is strictly regulated by state and federal laws and rules. Hunters must be licensed by the state, have an LBL Hunter Use Permit, and obey all regulations. For more information on hunting, visit our Hunting and Fishing sections. For more hunting information, see our LBL Hunting & Fishing Guides. For a map of the 2006 openland management areas click here.
How do you keep track of all the different wildlife at LBL?
Biologists, students, and volunteers all help monitor the health and status of LBL's various wildlife populations each year. For example, each December the Audubon Society conducts a Christmas bird count at LBL. Each August, the Hummer/Bird Study Group conducts a survey of LBL's hummingbird population. Each winter, students from Murray State University assist LBL staff in a census of the Elk & Bison Prairie. LBL staff also conduct spring breeding bird surveys, summer turkey brood surveys, and monitor nesting bald eagles and white-tail deer populations.
What are the best times and places to see wildlife at LBL?
LBL offers wildlife viewing year-round, but different species may be more viewable at certain times of the year. Typically, early morning or late evening are the best times of day, as most mammals and birds are active at those times. Some of the best places to see wildlife include the Environmental Education Area near The Nature Station; the Elk & Bison Prairie near Golden Pond; South Bison Range; and Bear Creek area.
Research and Restoration Projects
Elk (Cervus elaphus)
Like bison, elk thrived in the region until over-harvest caused their demise. By 1850, elk had been completely eliminated from western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. Elk recovery programs and regulated hunting have helped restore herds around the country.
LBL's elk herd originated at Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, and are now part of the Elk & Bison Prairie. They came to LBL as part of a private-public partnership to restore a small piece of the native barrens which once characterized the LBL landscape. Barrens are a prairie-like habitat of warm and cool season grasses dotted with clumps of oak and hickory trees. Elk and bison were the dominant large mammals inhabiting the barrens.
Elk were first introduced to the prairie in 1995; by 1999, the herd was estimated at more than 53 animals. There are currently no plans to release free-ranging elk into LBL, though LBL, the Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency have been investigating that possibility.
Bison (Bisen bison)
Though a symbol of the American West, bison once actually ranged from Georgia to the Hudson Bay, and from the Appalachians to the Rockies. By 1800, unregulated slaughter had obliterated herds east of the Mississippi; by 1880, the great western herds were gone.
Fortunately, private citizens and the federal government had begun developing small captive herds. Bison from LBL's two herds are descended from these animals.
TVA began the bison project back in 1969 to symbolize the destruction and eventual restoration of natural resources in the Tennessee River Valley. LBL's first herd, located in the Bison Range near the Homeplace-1850, was started with 19 animals from the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park in North Dakota. In 1996, LBL's herd and four bulls from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota were released in the 750-acre Elk & Bison Prairie, located near the Golden Pond Visitor Center.
Bald Eagle (Haliaetus leucocephalus)
Our nation's symbol has made a remarkable comeback, thanks to pesticide bans and conservation efforts nationwide. Down to just 417 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states in 1963, by 1995 they had sufficiently recovered to downlist the species from endangered to "threatened." The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed removing the bald eagle from the threatened list, as well.
LBL's restoration effort was begun in 1980. Nesting bald eagles hadn't been seen in the region since the 1930s, victims of habitat loss and illegal shooting. In 1980, TVA, state, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists began a long-term effort to restore the species to LBL.
The effort involved using an established raise and release technique called hacking, in which young eaglets are raised atop a high "hacking tower" until they are ready to fly. Although the are fed and closely monitored, the eaglets are kept isolated from their human captors, to maintain their wild instincts. Eagles (or birds of prey??) are known to return to nest in the area where they learned to fly; if LBL could successfully fledge a large number of bald eaglets, it was hoped they would return to the area on reaching maturity, thereby establishing a nesting population.
From 1980-1988, 44 eaglets from the northern U.S. and Alaska were hacked at LBL. In 1984, the first signs of success came when a bald eagle nest was spotted at LBL. In 1999, 14 bald eagle nests were counted at LBL.
LBL is also home to large winter population of bald eagles. These birds, often 100-150 of them, will migrate to LBL from southern Canada and Michigan, spending the December through March months in the comparatively warmer climate.
PAST RESTORATION PROJECTS: