Hard to believe, but trees can actually provide more habitats for wildlife dead than when they are alive. Standing dead and dying trees, called “snags” or “wildlife trees,” are important for wildlife in both natural and landscaped settings, occurring as a result of disease, lightning, fire, animal damage, too much shade, drought, root competition, as well as old age.
Birds, small mammals, and other wildlife use snags for nests, nurseries, storage areas, foraging, roosting, and perching. Live trees with snag-like features, such as hollow trunks, excavated cavities, and dead branches can provide similar wildlife value. Snags occurring along streams and shorelines eventually may fall into the water, adding important woody debris to aquatic habitat. Dead branches are often used as perches; snags that lack limbs are often more decayed and, may have more and larger cavities for shelter and nesting. Snags enhance local natural areas by attracting wildlife species that may not otherwise be found there.
All trees of all sizes are potential snags. Unfortunately, many wildlife trees are cut down without much thought to their wildlife value or of the potential management options that can safely prolong the existence of the tree. Wildlife trees offer a one-stop, natural habitat feature. In short, snags “live on” as excellent wildlife trees for all to enjoy!
For more information about wildlife that use snags as well as how to create a snag in your backyard habitat, please see Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's website: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/snags/