In multiple-use forests, management activities are carried out with a view to safeguarding the living conditions of game animals and keeping their populations vital and available for hunting. The abundance of game animals depends on the quantity and quality of suitable habitats. Therefore, all forest operations should be performed bearing in mind the structural features of habitats for various game animals. This will bring extensive and longterm benefits for the well-being of game animals, securing vital populations of most species. However, special planning is required to preserve the characteristic features of capercaillie lekking sites.
Habitats for grouse
The management of grouse populations is essentially the management of their breeding habitats. Even though the requirements of various species are somewhat different, the common objective in habitat management is a variable mixed forest with undergrowth and plenty of dwarf shrubs. Desired structural features include variation in tree and shrub layer height and density as well as tree species.
Undergrowth and game thickets left in regeneration areas significantly improve the preservation of grouse nests and provides shelter for both chicks and adult birds. Therefore, unnecessary clearing of undergrowth is avoided.
In order to ensure winter feed for the black grouse, groups of birch are left around regeneration areas and other open areas as well as seedling stands. Habitats for the hazel grouse are secured by saving groups of alder, birch and spruce in the tending of seedling stands and fellings.
The capercaillie holds a special status
Regarding habitat management in multiple-use forests, the capercaillie is a species of special importance. Therefore, the management of capercaillie lekking sites has a special status in habitat management for game animals, and Metsähallitus has issued specific guidelines for this. The capercaillie prefers advanced forests, but will not necessarily require an old-growth forest as it also thrives in thinning stands. Varying tree density and sufficient undergrowth are important forest structural features. Since the capercaillie feeds mainly on pine needles in winter, feeding pines are spared, as well as other pines with sturdy branches as roost trees.
Forest cover is an important landscape factor for the capercaillie. The annual territory of an individual may cover hundreds of hectares. Different types of habitats for various seasons of the year should be provided to the capercaillie.
In regeneration phase stands, the preservation of capercaillie leks is secured by careful and gradual fellings. In thinning stands, however, lekking sites may be thinned normally so they will not grow too dense for the capercaillie.