Millington Wildlife Management Area, Kent County, Maryland

About Millington WMA

This 4,000-acre WMA lies near the Chester amd Sassafras rivers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It includes wildlife food plots, agricultural fields that are leased to farmers, fallow fields growing up in shrubs and small trees, and mature forest (around 3,000 acres currently are forested).

Tree species include red oak, white oak, pin oak, red maple, sweet gum, Eastern redcedar, and Virginia and loblolly pine. Low shallow-water areas known as Delmarva Bays are breeding habitats for amphibians, including tiger salamanders and barking treefrogs. Millington WMA is an important stop-over area for woodcock during spring and autumn migrations; woodcock feed along the edges of Delmarva Bays, where the ground may remain frost free when other areas become frozen. Waterfowl, deer, cottontail rabbits, mourning doves, squirrels, foxes, and raccoons also inhabit Millington WMA.

Bill Harvey

Dense growth of sweetgum, red maple, and other trees and shrubs provides young-forest habitat on Millington WMA.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recognizes 14 wild species, whose populations have been declining for decades, as needing brushy or young-forest habitat for breeding, feeding, or shelter. Among them are two species of shrews, four species of sparrows, Eastern harvest mouse, barn owl, bobwhite quail, woodcock, brown thrasher, and box turtle. Many of these creatures benefit from management activities on Millington WMA aimed at creating and renewing young-forest habitat, as do more common animals such as cottontail rabbits, Northern harriers, kestrels, and wild turkeys.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Until the late 1980s, Millington WMA supported good numbers of quail as well as woodcock. Maryland DNR managed about 600 acres as brushy old-field habitats, hedgerows, grassy food plots, and areas of regrowing forest. But as personnel and funding were reduced toward the end of the twentieth century, those acres were neglected and grew toward a more heavily forested condition.

Recent analysis of 1994 aerial photographs suggests that around 80 percent of the 600 acres have become too mature for young-forest wildlife. Many old fields have turned into stands of 25- to 30-year-old low-quality timber. Current managment efforts are using new technologies and equipment to restore young-forest and old-field habitats, mainly on and near farm-field complexes south of Maryland Route 330, which roughly divides the WMA in half along an east/west axis.

Habitat managers are using two main techniques to set back forest succession, and are comparing the cost and effectiveness of those techniques in reclaiming areas of old fields and young forest.


Geo-Boy brush cutter removing pole-stage trees. The area is now growing back densely and providing better wildlife habitat.

Since 2007, managers have used a Geo-Boy brush cutter tractor to cut pole-stage trees in hedgerows and along field edges. So far, around 20 acres have been cleared with this device and through chainsaw work. These areas are growing back in sweet gum, red maple, briars, and shrubs. Sweet gum and red maple sprout from the stumps of cut trees and also grow from seeds that the wind carries to the cut-over tracts.

Managers have also hired aerial-spray specialists to fly over specific areas and apply herbicide to kill low-quality trees that were shading the ground and holding back shrub growth. (These experimental spray treatments were kept well away from streams and Delmarva bays.)

Helicopter spraying herbicide

Habitat managers are experimenting with the use of aerial-spray aircraft as a cost-effective way to remove low-quality trees and improve the habitat.

Spraying turned out to be fast and relatively inexpensive at $90 per acre. In the treated plots, sweet gum and red maple are seeding in, creating dense stands of small-diameter seedlings. Managers hope to grow and manage these tree species in a similar way to how aspen and birch are grown and harvested in regions farther north. As of 2010, about 80 acres had been cleared through the use of herbicides.

In the future, as wooded areas are put back into young forest, managers hope to use controlled burning to keep larger tracts in young-forest stages.

In fall 2004, biologists counted bobwhite quail coveys, and in spring 2005 they did a preliminary survey of singing male woodcock. As young forest has been renewed and created, biologists and habitat managers have documented modest increases in the quail population, and they have high hopes that woodcock numbers will rise as the new forest grows back to the size and age classes that timberdoodles prefer.

Funding and Partners

Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Ruffed Grouse Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

Millington WMA is on the border with Delaware near Massey, Maryland. Directions and a map can be viewed at

For more information contact Bill Harvey, Game Bird Section Leader, Maryland DNR
Wildlife and Heritage Service, 828B Airpax Road, Suite 500, Cambridge MD 21613, 410-221-8838 x 108,