Thursday, August 18, 2011

Plan ahead if tree trimming is in your future

Springtime may seem like a long way off, but for those homeowners whose spring clean-up activities will include cutting down unwanted or dead trees there is good reason to make those plans now rather than later. Even though spring means that the weather starts to cooperate and trees may still be dormant, it is the worst time of year to cut or remove them, at least for your wild neighbors. Right now squirrels and some birds, raccoons and a few other species are still nesting in Wisconsin trees, but soon, as the days become shorter and the nights cooler, they will have begun the transition into adulthood. Early-mid fall is not only after the nesting season is done but it is also before most mammals begin using trees for winter dens making it the ideal time for removing trees while having the least negative impact.

Great Horned Owls start nesting as early as January, often in old hawk or crow nests built in numerous types of trees. As the spring progresses, tree squirrels, raccoons, and many bird species build their nests and raise their young in trees. Cutting down trees in the spring and summer can destroy nests and animals can be displaced, injured, or even killed in the process. We get a number of babies like squirrels, raccoons and a wide variety of birds whose nests or families have been destroyed from tree removal and trimming throughout these seasons.

Thanks to Volunteer and Photographer, Katie Pfaff for this photo of a playful raccoon being rehabilitated after his nest tree was cut down killing his mother and several of his siblings.

If a dead tree is not posing a threat to your home or other buildings, you could even consider leaving it, or only cutting off the most dangerous branches. There are a number of good reasons to keep them around for the sake of your wild neighbors. Dead trees (called snags) provide important habitat for many species of wildlife. Woodpeckers often use snags as a source of their insect diet. They also drill holes (cavities) in live and dead trees which they use for nesting. These cavities are important nest sites for a number of other cavity-nesting species that don’t have the ability to make holes in trees themselves; these include chickadees, bluebirds, and kestrels. Snags also provide den sites (both nesting and wintering) for many mammal species including squirrels, raccoons, and even bears.

So, whether you are still relishing the summer sun or looking forward to the first crisp fall day, look up the next time you are outside and if tree removal is in your future, plan accordingly.

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