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Naturalists say there is animal habitat value in dead trees

Published: Thu, March 8, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m.


Ohio certified volunteer naturalist


What do you see when you look at a dead tree or dead sections in live trees? If you were a chickadee or a carpenter bee, you would see a potential home.

If you were a woodpecker, you might see dinner.

Most of us value live trees, but not everyone sees the value of a dead tree. In fact, some see them as eyesores.

Dead wood, whether snags (standing dead trees), logs (fallen dead trees) or dead parts of living trees are an important wildlife habitat.

Tree cavities in live or dead trees are used by 35 species of birds and 20 species of mammals. Ecologists believe dead wood is one of the greatest resources for animal species in the forest.

Snags provide food for insects and other invertebrates that then become a food source for birds and mammals.

Insects, salamanders, snakes, mice, and shrews seek refuge in rotting logs. Skunks, bears, and woodpeckers repeatedly return to these excellent sources of food.

Larger hollow logs can provide shelter for mammals such as shrews, chipmunks, and bears. Foxes and coyotes may use logs for dens. For some mammals, including deer mice, chipmunks, and squirrels, log tops are highways over the forest floor.

Tree cavities are important for many nesting birds.

The chickadee on your bird feeder may have been born in the hollow tree behind your house. Wood ducks look for tree cavities near water. Barn owls look for nest sites that are near large fields.

Bluebirds can nest in wooden fence posts bordering farm fields, or they can occupy holes in snags that are left in recently clear-cut areas.

At least 30 kinds of birds commonly use snags for foraging perches. Flycatchers use snags as launch sites for catching flying insects. Hawks and owls use snags that border a field or orchard while they wait for an errant field mouse.

Similarly, kingfishers, ospreys, and bald eagles perch on or fish from dead trees standing in or near water. In addition, the indigo bunting, Northern mockingbird, and crow are among species that regularly use snags for singing perches.

Dead wood serves as important wildlife habitat. Wildlife evolved in forests where dead wood was never removed.

By incorporating a dead or dying tree into your landscape you will be providing both visual interest and maintaining natural habitat.

Always remember that leaving such trees can become hazards if they are too close to areas of activity or buildings. But, you can always leave the log as a habitat and decoration after it is properly cut.

To learn more about the value of dead trees, go to: http://go.osu.edu/deadtrees.

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