Mother Nature is about to lose another homestead. A big tree, too close to the house, an ancient tree in its last year, or a tree that someone simply doesn’t like any more is about to be destroyed.
Our current warm weather has sent our wild neighbors into a family building frenzy, but sadly, the doomed tree’s inhabitants didn’t get the memo. To you it might look like just another tree, but in fact it may still house a variety of wild urban creatures.
Many of us take for granted that trees will fall or be taken down and it’s no big deal But, that spells disaster for a variety of our wild neighbors. In the early winter owls go to nesting and raise their young during the depths of the cold. Many birds take shelter in tree cavities to protect themselves against the elements. Late-fall babies, such as flying squirrels and gray squirrels, are still living in a variety of nooks and crannies in our trees. An old dead tree or any tree, is much more than firewood – it’s home to many wild creatures!
When a tree falls or has to be cut down, please take a few minutes to look around the site for displaced families. Often, they will still be in the holes of the tree so look carefully – but DO NOT just stick your hands in to feel around. Whenever possible a limb or partial piece of trunk that’s inhabited should be secured in another tree or a protected space above ground. If that cannot be done an animal rehabilitator must be called. Waiting too long to make that call may well cause the death of a chilled or shocked inhabitant. Additionally, any tree-dwelling bird or mammal will not survive on the ground where domestic animals as well as wild predators can get to it.
Even worse than a winter storm dropping limbs and branches is when someone decides to take down a tree in the spring. It’s no surprise that nests of every kind are in trees during the spring. We humans have taken and developed native habitat, allowing fewer safe havens for our wild birds. So, please, if possible, wait for late fall to thin out your trees; the loss of wildlife will be far less.
When planting a new tree, please consider the impact it will have. Choosing a tree, shrub or bush that will provide food or shelter as well as beauty can easily make the difference between healthier wildlife or empty yards without song. Think native trees and plants. Many of us enjoy Hillsborough for a myriad of reasons but one important one is our trees. Again in 2017 we are designated a Tree City USA, showing clearly how much we enjoy the many gifts they offer. We are all temporary stewards of this place and it’s our responsibility care of all inhabitants.
Protecting the nesting places for wildlife is one very important thing we can do to preserve the beauty of nature, but there is more. We have introduced domestic pets that now stand as the leading cause of songbird decline. Keep your pets inside, especially during spring nesting of birds. Current studies clearly show that unless we control our pets, there will no longer be songbirds in fewer than 20 years.
The choices we make in our own backyards can make all the difference in preserving the life and beauty we all enjoy.
Linda Ostrand has been a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator for more than 25 years. She can be reached at 919-428-0896