Have a dead tree in your yard?  Why not snagscape it into a wildlife tree?

Snags, or dead and dying trees, were formerly thought of as untidy and hazardous. But they have great ecological value and can be made safe.  Russell Link, author of Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, is decidedly pro-snag:  ”Snags, along with other forms of rotting wood have tremendous value to wildlife:  birds, flying squirrels, bats and other wildlife use snags for homes, nurseries, hunting territories and perching sites.”

What is snagscaping anyway?  O.K., I confess, it’s a word I made up that means transforming a dead tree into a wildlife tree instead of removing it altogether.  Here’s how it works, courtesy once again of Russell Link:

“By removing the top third of the tree along with about half of the remaining side branches, you will ensure that the tree begins the preferred inside-out decay process… “You can also make the top look natural by creating a jagged top with a chain saw. “ Once the big limbs are removed, the hazard aspect is virtually gone, and then the snag becomes a home for woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds.  Eventually it decomposes into the ground, enriching the soil.

Snagscaping is catching on.  At Magnuson Park, Seattle (top photo) 20+ “hazard” trees were salvaged from Seward Park and inserted into the soil to become habitat snags as part of a major wetland restoration.  The birds love them — especially raptors and woodpeckers.  Seattle Audubon has an impressive wildlife snag (second photo) in its original place right next to their office.  I have seen others at city and state parks.

Small trees work for snagscaping too.   As Link says “Red-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees nest in snags as small as eight feet tall and eight inches in diameter.”

Please DO try snagscaping at home, but hire professionals to do the pruning.

For further information about snags, aka wildlife trees: