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How Dead Trees Benefit Wildlife

This dead oak tree was trimmed up to make it neater.  It is ready for wildlife!  JMcConnell, UF/IFAS

This dead oak tree was trimmed up to make it neater. It is ready for a wildlife resident!   Photo: JMcConnell, UF/IFAS

One of the management issues that any landowner will face at some point is what to do when a tree dies in the landscape.  The logical response is “cut it down,” but depending on the location and the size of the tree, that may not be necessary and you could be removing potential wildlife habitat.

With any other major decisions about your landscape, always consider safety first.  If the tree is in a location where it could damage property or cause harm to people or domesticated animals then it should be properly removed.  But what about those trees that are along wood lines or in the far reaches of the yard and not threatening person or property?

Consider leaving the entire tree or modifying it to make it more aesthetically pleasing yet still useful to wildlife.  Weak branches or unstable tops may be removed to make the snag less of a risk or to look a little neater.

Some examples of animals that may use dead trees in the landscape are birds, bats, squirrels, frogs, and lizards.  Besides the obvious cavity dwelling creatures such as woodpeckers, owls, and bats that are attracted to decaying trees, other animals will be drawn for other reasons.  Dead trees in the landscape will become inhabited by insects and fungi which are terrific food sources for birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles!

To learn more about providing wildlife habitats in your landscape, please see the EDIS publications listed below or contact your local extension office.

Helping Cavity-nesters in Florida

A Birds-Eye View: How Birds Select Habitat

Dead Wood: Key to Enhancing Wildlife Diversity in Forests