Habitat patches provide a home for a variety of species on the forest floor. (Ken Bevis/DNR)
When you’re taking steps to maintain the health of your forest land—such as thinning, pruning, fire preparedness, or keeping an eye out for invasive insects and diseases—don’t forget that your land is also habitat for a wide variety of native animals. species.
Smallholder forest landowners consistently include the promotion of wildlife habitat as a high priority objective for their lands. The DNR’s Forest Service Program can help.
Washington’s forests have more than 400 species of vertebrate wildlife, ranging in size from tiny hummingbirds to the majestic elk or deer. Add to this the abundance of insects and other invertebrates (such as snails and slugs), and the total zoological parade is astounding. These amazing animals thrive in a wide variety of habitats found in forests.
Know your wildlife
Knowing which animals live on the land and their needs can help landowners establish the best habitat management practices to help them. This may mean protecting or creating valuable individual habitat features, and on a broader scale, conserving habitat features and areas for specific life history needs.
It can also mean leaving large-diameter standing dead trees, or snags, for woodpecker nest sites, and rotting logs on the ground providing moist shelter for many types of insects, molluscs and amphibians. Larger-scale habitats include wetlands, such as seasonal wet spots, for frog or salamander breeding, riparian areas with rich scrub for deer to browse, or canopy centers of older, complex trees that allow hawks, ravens or owls rise and nest.
Obstacles are wonderful habitat for woodpeckers. (Ken Bevis/DNR)
Most large animals, the “charismatic megafauna,” range widely across the landscape, and the actions of small landowners will only partially affect their survival success. Cougars, for example, occupy diverse territories over thousands of hectares and may overlap slightly with the holdings of a small landowner. Elk and deer will locate intensively for periods of time, then leave for parts of the year. A variety of habitat types, with mixtures of open areas rich in shrubs and grasses interspersed with dense pockets of trees will benefit these large animals best.
Strategic improvements can often help meet the needs of wildlife. Creating habitat piles, nest boxes or water sources are among the tools we recommend for your property.
This and other knowledge is shared with landowners when they work with DNR Forest Service Programs and our wildlife biologist. We provide wildlife habitat consultation to landowners as part of the preparation of a Forest Management Plan, in response to inquiries or on request.