Many species of wildlife are cavity dwellers, and
competition for those spaces, whether in living or dead trees, can
be fierce. Most cavities are in dead or partly dead trees. Nearly
one-third of all wildlife species depend on these trees for homes
A dead tree, called a snag, can remain standing for
years. During this time, its rotting wood provides a lavish food
source for insects, which in turn feed woodpeckers and many other
birds. Hawks and ospreys use exposed dead limbs for hunting and
roosting perches. Scarlet king snakes, southern fence lizards and
gray squirrels find shady niches in loose bark.
The dead wood of snags is critical for cavity
nesters such as woodpeckers, titmice, kestrels, chickadees, wood
ducks, screech owls and bluebirds, as well as flying squirrels,
raccoons and opossums.
If a tree dies in your yard, consider leaving it.
If it poses a threat to your home, lop off the top and, and if
practical and safe, leave a 15-foot snag for wildlife. Retain and
use fallen trees and stumps in landscaping. And where snags are
scarce, provide nest boxes for types of
birds that inhabit your ecosystem..