Habitat trees are usually preserved as a living asset and provide many habitat qualities. Wildlife snags consist of dead trees and are considered vertical deadwood are normally actively decaying, while habitat trees may be regenerating. As an arborist my first consideration after a storm is an assessment to determine whether the storm-damaged trees pose risks to the community. As a naturalist, I prefer to leave damaged trees in place as habitat trees or eventually snags, to provide mammals and birds with shelter and a place to raise young. Eagles and other raptors use these trees to gain unobstructed vantage, and even when the tree is down and left in place, it provides food, nesting or shelter for hundreds of species of birds reptiles, and mammals. When a tree falls into or near water and wetlands, fish and amphibians hide under and around dead wood that provides an aquatic structure important to juvenile salmon, steel-head, trout and char.
“dead” trees are actually full of life!
When evaluating a declining or dead tree for removal, I take into consideration the possibility of creating a wildlife tree. Our native bird species, like the pileated woodpecker, make nests in the cavities and mammals such as fishers, recently repopulated to the North Cascades, depend on tree holes for their nests.
Other animal species need snow drifts piled around natural obstructions like dead tree trunks and limbs to dig their dens for winter. The tree provides insulation for animals to survive the extreme temperatures of both summer and winter. It provides a place to store food and a source of food to wood-eating insects living inside the dead wood, and deer eat the lichen growing on the trunks.
So converting a tree marked for removal to a habitat or wildlife trees, is a win-win for wildlife and property managers. It is an effective management tool for dead, diseased or hazardous trees, or a tree that is blocking a view-shed, while safely preserving the landscape aesthetic and this method of tree management has a high success rate.
I suggest installing specialized bird nesting boxes specific to species that live in trees, bat dwelling and even bird perching platforms. If in doubt what you may need for your region…check with your local Audubon Society or the National Forest Service.
This year we registered our home gardens with the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat providing water, food and shelter. In addition, I will be using brush-piles, logs, and snags, throughout the Newhalem gardens to provide shelter and nesting opportunities for ground foraging bird species like our American robins (Turdus migratorius), and other species of insects and animals.
Wildlife struggles to find habitat with our growing human population and even though I am thrilled to see more tourists discover the our landscape and amenities here in the North Cascades, it comes with a price to wildlife and the natural ecological processes and access to the resources needed for Wildlife to survive. As stewards of the land we must attempt to offer small natural spaces in our backyards and municipal landscapes. Diversity in the landscape is an important key to the success of wildlife.
We clear truckloads of deadwood each year from our lands and it could be extremely useful to wildlife in the landscape. Consider trying to incorporate it into brush-piles before clearing it all away. They are usually the easiest to incorporate into your landscape plan as they take up very little room, materials are generally easily sourced, and can be quite creative and aesthetically pleasurable. For the backyard garden, logs are not as easy to come by, they are heavy and will take up more space in your landscape and snags are even harder to add to your landscape as they occur naturally. Consider these options, especially if you have to have tree or trees removed from your property.
One of my favorite landscape design includes a logs or stumps for a natural woodland feel.