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Craig Harper

Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist​

Wildlife management is important to landowners. In fact, surveys suggest non-industrial private landowners often want to learn more about wildlife management than several other natural resource-related issues, including hardwood management, forest insects and diseases, and harvesting and marketing timber. As the Extension Wildlife Specialist at the University of Tennessee, it is my responsibility to address a wide variety of topics and issues. However, given the preponderance of interest related to habitat for various wildlife species, and a documented need by state and federal agencies for increased knowledge and training related to applied habitat management, I concentrate my efforts in this area. I work collaboratively with state and federal agencies and non-government organizations on issues related to applied habitat management and conduct research to facilitate accurate extension information dissemination.

Provided on this site are publications, articles, and other materials my graduate students and I have produced to implement the overall Extension wildlife program in Tennessee. Although applied habitat management is a major focus, information provided here represents several areas, including habitat management, population management, wildlife damage management, and youth education.

Professor Craig Harper stands in a food plot for deer.

Craig A. Harper is a Professor of Wildlife Management and the Extension Wildlife Specialist in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries at The University of Tennessee. Dr. Harper is responsible for developing wildlife-related programs for UT Extension and assisting Extension agents and natural resources professionals with wildlife-related issues. Dr. Harper maintains an active research program to complement his Extension programming, which concentrates on applied habitat management and white-tailed deer management.

Habitat management programs focus on managing early successional plant communities, oak/pine savanna and woodland, and upland hardwood forests to meet the habitat requirements of various wildlife species. The influence of timing and frequency of prescribed fire on plant community composition and structure and how that affects habitat quality for various wildlife species is of particular interest. The use of selective herbicides to influence plant composition and habitat quality also is a primary interest. Establishing and managing native plant communities through natural revegetation using the seedbank and evaluating effect of various management practices is ongoing. Craig has conducted and coordinated research concerning white-tailed deer, elk, wild turkey, northern bobwhite, ruffed grouse, wood duck, and songbirds.

White-tailed deer management is a primary program. In particular, the influence of soils on the nutritional carrying capacity for deer and the effect of various management practices on deer habitat quality continue to be investigated. Establishment and management of wildlife food plots, especially forage plots for white-tailed deer, and investigating the usefulness of food plots with other habitat management practices has been a focus. Craig received his AAS in Fish and Wildlife Management from Haywood Community College, BS in Natural Resource Management from Western Carolina University, MS in Biology from The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and PhD in Forest Resources from Clemson University. Between degrees, he worked as a wildlife technician with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in western North Carolina. Craig is a Certified Wildlife Biologist® by The Wildlife Society and a certified prescribed fire manager. Craig has been an active member of The Wildlife Society since 1991, serving on several committees and as President of the Tennessee Chapter. He co-founded the Tennessee Prescribed Fire Council, and currently is on the governing board of the Oak Woodlands and Forests Fire Consortium, and the Deer Committee for the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society.


Publications available for purchase

*Please note: Wildlife Food Plots and Early Successional Plants is a complete book (476 pages) that includes 15 chapters and a full Plant ID Guide. Landowners’ Guide to Wildlife Food Plots is an abbreviated version that contains information on food plots only (60 pages).


Areas of Interest

a lush green field with yellow flowers borders a forest.

Below are selected materials my graduate students and I have produced as related to managing early successional plant communities for various wildlife species.

Scientific Articles

Manuals

Extension Publications

Popular Press and Extension Articles

Posters Presented at Various Meetings

Theses

A look up into the tree canopy from the forest floor.

Below are selected materials my graduate students and I have produced as related to managing forests and woodlands for various wildlife species. Our work has concentrated on game species, specifically wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and ruffed grouse. However, the compositional and structural changes that occur for these species also benefit other species. Additional work related to ruffed grouse can be found under the Ruffed Grouse Ecology and Management tab.

Scientific Articles

Book Chapters

  • Elliott, K.J., C.A. Harper, and B.S. Collins. 2011. Herbaceous response to type and severity of disturbance. Pages 97-119 in C.H. Greenberg B.S. Collins, F.R. Thompson, eds., Sustaining young forest communities. Springer Books.
  • Greenberg, C.H., R.W. Perry, C.A. Harper, D.J. Levey, and J.M. McCord. 2011. The role of young hardwood forest as high-quality food patches. Pages 121-141 in C.H. Greenberg B.S. Collins, F.R. Thompson, eds., Sustaining young forest communities. Springer Books.
  • Spetich, M.A., R.W. Perry, C.A. Harper, and S.L. Clark. 2011. Fire in eastern hardwood forests through 14,000 years. Pages 41-58 in Sustaining young forest communities. C.H. Greenberg B.S. Collins, F.R. Thompson, eds., Springer Books.
  • Warburton, G., C.A. Harper, and K. Weeks. 2011. Conservation of early succession in the Appalachian mountains: A manager’s perspective. Pages 225-251 in Sustaining young forest communities. C.H. Greenberg B.S. Collins, F.R. Thompson, eds., Springer Books.

Extension Publications

Popular Press Articles

Theses and Dissertations

A prescribed fire burns in a forest.

My graduate students and I have evaluated the effects of fire on plant communities and wildlife in early successional communities, forests, woodlands, and savannas. Below are materials providing information on prescribed fire in various settings.

Scientific Articles

Popular Press Articles

Extension Publications

Extension Articles

Additional Resources

A field full of clover is managed as a food plot for deer.

My graduate students and I have worked on many issues related to food plots over the years. This work was summarized in Wildlife Food Plots and Early Successional Plants listed below. Also provided below are other materials related to food plots and other plantings.​

Books

Harper, C.A. 2019. Wildlife Food Plots and Early Successional Plants. NOCSO Publishing, Maryville, TN. 476 pages.

Extension Publications

Popular Press Articles

Extension Articles

Craig Harper and two hunters with a harvested deer.

Provided below is information related to both habitat and population management for white-tailed deer.

Scientific Articles

Popular Press Articles

Extension Articles

Forms

Other Resources

Theses

Podcasts

A bobwhite quail sits in the brush.

Below are selected materials my graduate students and I have produced as related to managing northern bobwhite. Search the Early Succession Management tab for additional information related to northern bobwhite habitat. 

Scientific Articles

Extension Articles

Theses

A ruffed grouse sits on a nest in the leaves.

Below are selected materials my graduate students and I produced after working with ruffed grouse in the mountains of North Carolina. Our project was part of a regional cooperative, the Appalachian Cooperative Grouse Research Project, which involved several universities and state wildlife agencies throughout the central and southern Appalachians. 

Scientific articles

Book Chapters

  • Buehler, D.A., C.A. Harper, D.M. Whitaker, B.C. Jones, C.S. Dobey, J.L. Kleitch, J. O’Keefe, T.M. Fearer, E.G. Endrulat, J.M. Tirpak, and D.F. Stauffer. 2011. Habitat requirements. Pages 87-96 in D.F. Stauffer, editor. Ecology and management of Appalachian ruffed grouse. Hancock House. 176 pages.
  • Harper, C.A., B.C. Jones, D.M. Whitaker, G.W. Norman, M.A. Banker, and B.C. Tefft. 2011. Habitat management. Pages 130-151 in D.F. Stauffer, editor. Ecology and management of Appalachian ruffed grouse. Hancock House. 176 pages.
  • Smith, B., B.C. Jones, J.W. Edwards, C.A. Harper, P.K. Devers, C. Dobony, S. Haulton, J.M. Tirpak, J.L. Fettinger, W.M. Giuliano, and D.A. Buehler. 2011. Brood ecology. Pages 41- 53 in D.F. Stauffer, editor. Ecology and management of Appalachian ruffed grouse. Hancock House. 176 pages.
  • Tirpak, J.M., P.K. Devers, W.M. Giuliano, J.W. Edwards, B.C. Jones, and C.A. Harper. 2011. Nesting ecology. Pages 31-40 in D.F. Stauffer, editor. Ecology and management of Appalachian ruffed grouse. Hancock House. 176 pages.

Theses and Dissertations

Back yards can be designed to benefit wildlife, such as this one with thick, brushy areas and bird feeders.

A few resources related to backyard wildlife management.

Extension Articles

Coyotes lay trapped in snares.

A few resources to help with wildlife damage management.

Internet Center for Wildlife Damage ManagementRid Your Home & Yard of Problem Wildlife, by HomeAdvisor

Extension Publications 

A 4-H group sits atop a mountain at Welch Point.
Participants at the 2015 State 4-H Wildlife​ Judging contest enjoy an evening at Welsh Point overlooking the Caney Fork River Gorge in White County.

The Tennessee 4-H Wildlife Judging program teaches youth the basic principles of wildlife ecology and management. 4-H Wildlife Judging involves contests where youth evaluate habitat for a variety of wildlife species. The program attracted attention from other states and a regional contest for states throughout the South began in 1989. By 1991, additional states had become interested in the program and a national contest was initiated. The National Wildlife Habitat Education Program Invitational continues today as state-winning teams are invited to participate each summer. We now use the National WHEP manual in Tennessee and follow the guidelines set forth by the National WHEP Committee. 

The current National 4-H WHEP manual is linked below in its entirety and by section. All files are in PDF format, with respective file sizes in parentheses below. (Last updated April 2020.) 

Other 4-H Wildlife publications