Dead Trees

A Snag Is A Benefit

Dead trees create a snag and that is a good thing. A snag is a dead or dying tree.

This may not sound very attractive to the average home owner, but it is a very beneficial thing to have in your yard for wildlife.

Traditionally it has been the practice of home owners to cut trees down in their yard after they die.

It may still be necessary if the tree is too close to the house and there is risk of it damaging the home.

But even then sometimes just cutting off the top and leaving a twenty foot high stump or higher if safety allows, will be sufficient to supply a useful snag.

We all know the many and wonderful benefits of trees that are living.

snag or dead tree

A snag is a dead or dying tree.

(You will find links to more info related to this topic in the right column or bottom of page.)

Great Blue Heron standing in nest

Great Blue Herons
build their nests in snags.

But standing dead trees or even fallen trees are necessary for sustaining wildlife.

Many wild birds will use snags for a multiple of purposes. And birds are not the only creatures who use snags.

There are many animals and insects that get an abundance of use from snags.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, 1200 species of wildlife benefit from dead or downed trees which are in various stages of decay.

large multi-branched snag

Snags come in all shapes and sizes,
just like the living trees.

Benefits of Snags:

  • Cavities and slits provide roosting spots for Flying Squirrels, Kestrels, Bats, Owls, Woodpeckers, Brown Creepers, Nuthatches, Chicadees, Swallows some Finches and other wild critters.
  • Many varieties of bird species use the branches and tops of snags for perching, which allows them good viewing for rivals, predators and food.
  • Rotting trees decay because of the action of fungi, mosses, microscopic organisms and insects, which in turn supply nesting material and a good food source for wild birds and other wild creatures.
  • Storage bins for winter food – four legged-animals and birds use snags to store food.
  • Soil exposed where a tree is uprooted provides a dust bath in the dryer months.

You can create snags if there are no natural ones available in your area or yard. Hardwood trees make better nesting sites and softwood makes a better food source. Providing both will balance the need for housing and sustenance.

How to Create a Snag

Only if the tree is showing signs of dying, I would not recommend doing this to a healthy tree.

  1. Cut the top off a tree, leaving at minimum fourteen feet standing.
  2. Create a jagged top as this will allow for rot to develop faster than a smooth top.
  3. Cut off long branches, especially near the base of the trunk to provide a foraging area.

Attracting wildlife with dead trees at every stage of the decaying process provides a variety of life giving benefits to forest wildlife. They also ensure that the next generation of young trees will have the nutrients necessary for life.

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Dead Trees

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