Hit a Snag? Not a Problem—If You’re Wildlife, That Is

[Tweet “Snags are an important source of food and shelter for many animals. #UFWildlife http://bit.ly/1qKvHzw”]If you’re a woodpecker and you encounter a snag, that’s not a problem—it’s an opportunity. That’s because “snag” is the term for a dead or dying standing tree that’s a valuable shelter and food source for many animals.1

Why are snags important?

Cavities in these dead or dying trees shelter birds, such as woodpeckers and owls, and mammals, such as bats, raccoons, and even bears. Bats and amphibians can find protection where the bark of a dead tree has peeled back, and birds of prey will perch on snags to get a clearer view of their next meal. Dead trees attract insects and fungi, which are also food sources for animals.1

All these benefits mean that snags enhance the biodiversity of the areas in which they exist. It is recommended that timber producers leave snags on their plantations to help maintain wildlife populations.2

Have a snag on your property?

Homeowners looking to make their yards a welcoming wildlife habitat are also encouraged to leave snags on their properties.  If the dead or dying tree is a safety risk, cutting the tree to fifteen feet will make it safer without losing its ecological benefit. For more on adding snags to your backyard and for other ways to attract wildlife, please see Landscaping Backyards for Wildlife: Top Ten Tips for Success.


  1. Holly K. Ober and Patrick J. Minogue, Dead Wood: Key to Enhancing Wildlife Diversity in Forests, WEC238, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2013, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw277
  2. Wayne R. Marion, George W. Tanner, Holly K. Ober, and Matthew Werner, Management of Pine Forests for Selected Wildlife in Florida, CIR706, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2014, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw098
  3. Mark E. Hostetler, Gregg Klowden, Sarah Webb Miller, and Kara N. Youngentob, Landscaping Backyards for Wildlife: Top Ten Tips for Success, CIR1429, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw175

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones