Iowa Wildlife Management

Because Iowa is home to many intricately connected ecosystems, wildlife management is an important component in protecting our natural resources. Learn about natural resource management and Iowa-specific projects in this section.

Iowa-Relevant Project WILD Activities

Activities with supplemental information are linked below.

Animal Poetry
(3-5, 6-8)
Back from the Brink
Habitat Heroes
(3-5, 6-8, 9-12)
Carrying Capacity
(6-8, 9-12)
Carrying Capacity
(6-8, 9-12)
Checks and Balances
Deer Dilemma
Dropping in on Deer
Fire Ecologies
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
(6-8, 9-12)
Let’s Talk Turkey
(3-5, 6-8)
Limiting Factors: How Many Bears (Coyotes)?
(3-5, 6-8)
Migration Barriers
(6-8, 9-12)
Muskox Maneuvers
(3-5, 6-8)
Oh Deer!
(3-5, 6-8, 9-12)
Pay to Play
(6-8, 9-12)
Quick Frozen Critters
(3-5, 6-8)
Thicket Game
(K-2, 3-5)
To Zone or Not to Zone
(6-8, 9-12)
Which Niche?
(3-5, 6-8)
Wildlife and the Environment: Community Survey
(6-8, 9-12)

Supplemental Resources

What is Wildlife Management?

Anything done to help wildlife can be called wildlife management, but a formal definition is the application of scientific knowledge and technical skills to protect, conserve, limit, enhance, or create wildlife habitat. Wildlife management also includes implementing laws regulating the use, kinds, and amounts of wildlife people can harvest. Laws that protect existing habitat are also wildlife management tools.

Population Limits

Habitat and Carrying Capacity

The abundance of all wildlife is directly related to the amount, quality, and availability of wildlife habitat. As a wildlife population increases, it uses more resources. No limited-size area of land can provide an inexhaustible supply of habitat for an ever-increasing number of animals. One area can support only a limited number of animals using similar resources.

Mortality Factors

Many factors contribute to the death of wild animals and reduce wildlife populations. Mortality factors (causes of death) are related to climate, diseases, parasites, starvation, weather, predation, and hunting. They usually affect the overflow, or surplus, animals. It is normal for a certain number of animals to die each year. If the habitat remains healthy, wildlife will make up for the loss of individual animals by producing more young. Mortality factors help balance wildlife populations with their habitat.

Forms of Wildlife Management

Wildlife management techniques are used to increase, maintain, or reduce wildlife populations.

Habitat Restoration and Management

Habitat restoration/management is a primary tool wildlife biologists use to manage, protect, and enhance wildlife populations.


Management goals are dictated by the success or failure of rearing young. Changes in weather conditions over several years can have severe impacts on wildlife populations. Adjusting the harvest may be the best way to maintain certain game populations.

Endangered Species Management

Endangered or threatened species require intensive management. Critical habitat and locations of existing populations must be identified so they can be managed successfully. Numbers of individuals and survival rates in existing populations are tracked. Specific habitat types may be created. Existing areas where endangered species are found are protected and/or managed.

  • Iowa DNR: ConservationLists of Iowa’s threatened and endangered species available to download as pdf, as well as definitions of both.

Species Reintroduction

Another wildlife management goal may be to re-establish species in suitable habitat. Eastern wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, peregrine falcons, barn owls, river otters, beaver, sharp-tailed grouse, giant Canada geese, greater prairie chickens, sandhill cranes, and trumpeter swans once were extirpated (entirely gone from Iowa) due to loss of habitat, unregulated hunting, and/or persistent pesticides in the environment. They are found in the state once again as a result of Iowa DNR reintroduction programs and management efforts.

Native Species Reintroduction Success Stories

Iowa DNR began reintroduction program in the 1960s. These are directed through the Wildlife Bureau. Most programs have been very successful. Biologists consider several factors before initiating a reintroduction effort: availability of appropriate habitat, concerns the public may have, availability of genetically suitable individuals of the species to be reintroduced, and much more, depending on the situation.

Conservation and Preservation

Wildlife conservation and preservation help ensure future generations can enjoy our resources.

Monitoring Wildlife Populations

The Iowa DNR is legally charged with responsibility for the protection, enhancement, management, and preservation of Iowa’s wildlife resources. Wildlife biologists use many techniques to monitor wildlife and gather information that helps determine wildlife management policies and practices. Similar wildlife management systems and techniques are used across North America. Biologists attempt to standardize information-gathering techniques so data can be shared and compared with other agencies.

Deer Surveys

  • Iowa DNR: Bowhunter Observation SurveyThe Bowhunter Observation Survey is an annual survey conducted by the Iowa DNR to obtain information on deer, turkeys, and selected furbearers.
  • Aerial Deer SurveysIowa PBS: Iowa Outdoors rides along with Iowa DNR deer biologists as they explain this survey.

August Roadside Survey

Roadside surveys are used to monitor population trends of small game animals.

Harvest Reports

Harvest surveys are used to determine the number and types of wildlife hunted and harvested each year.

  • Iowa DNR: HuntingAll successful deer and turkey hunters must report each deer and/or turkey they harvest. Information about how to report can be found here.

Nongame Surveys

The Iowa DNR has the challenging task of managing over 1,000 species of wildlife. It would be impossible for the wildlife diversity staff to spend the amount of time needed to monitor all these species. Volunteers are essential in keeping track of our state’s diverse collection of animals.


Wildlife research involves scientific study of animal species. This could include the effects of habitat fragmentation and degradation of Neotropcial migrant birds, endangered animals, radio telemetry, and more. Research also includes monitoring demographics and opinions. Iowans’ attitudes and opinions impact our wildlife management programs. Public opinion may affect laws passed by the Legislature, which in turn, may greatly impact Iowa’s wildlife.

Wildlife Research Projects

  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources: Wildlife Status ReportsWildlife research, either conducted by DNR research staff or about Iowa’s wildlife will be continually updated here. Topic areas align with the specialties of the wildlife research stations across Iowa.
  • Cooperative Research Unit: ResearchPast and present research projects of the Cooperative Research Unit (partnership among the US Geological Survey, Iowa DNR, Iowa State University, and the Wildlife Management Institute).


It is illegal to harm, harass, possess, or kill most wildlife species. Federal and state laws protect them. Bird nests, feathers, and eggs are also protected. Endangered or threatened mammals and those in taxonomic families that include game animals have legal protection. This means most moles, pocket gophers, and mice are not protected, but chipmunks and ground squirrels (both belonging to the squirrel family) are.

Habitat Enhancements

People purchase land to enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, hunting, viewing wildlife, or prairie restoration. Current farm programs (traditionally oriented to saving soil) now include wildlife and habitat conservation/enhancement as important objectives. Iowa DNR and private businesses have biologists who help landowners design management plans that help them reach their wildlife goals on their land. They also help locate funding assistance to implement these plans.

Many things can be done to increase wildlife populations. Landscaping, nest boxes, and reintroduction programs for some of Iowa’s native species have been very beneficial for all of Iowa’s wildlife.

Future of Wildlife Management

Wildlife management involves political, social, and biological factors. Iowa DNR biologists must monitor wildlife through surveys and research to effectively manage all wildlife species. Citizens also play an important role in wildlife management by supporting conservation programs and legislation and creating wildlife habitat. Wildlife management has restored wildlife populations, including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, otters, peregrine falcons, and more. Additional wildlife species will benefit from future management efforts.

Back to top