Habitat Logs are Homes to the Forest’s MVCCs (Most Valuable Creepy Crawlies)

The following is a condensed version of a post that appears in the Fall 2017 Forest Stewardship Notes, a free, quarterly e-newsletter published by DNR and Washington State University Forestry Extension.

Next time you’re in the forest, don’t forget to look down. There’s an entire forest of sorts beneath your feet, one teaming with insects, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. Within this realm the most important trees are not those that stand majestically but, rather, those that have fallen. Dead trees that have fallen over and become down logs offer some of the richest habitats in this universe of decay below our feet.

Many amphibians and small mammals make use of cavities in down wood to breed, feed and shelter. Yet, it may be years before natural forces of decay can create the many cracks and holes these critters need.

Is it possible to accelerate the decay process to create habitat for these small but essential organisms? Yes, and all it takes is a chainsaw and a thoughtful operator.

Creating a habitat log
Left: Tim Brown cuts a slab from a hemlock log. Center: Duff and vegetation are placed into chambers and slits carved into the log. Right: The finished product. Note the entrance on top. Similar slits on the lower edges allow for an alternate entrance.

Tim Brown, a wildlife tree creation expert, has been creating wildlife habitats out of trees for over 42 years. He got his start as a logger and firefighter, and progressed to become a nationally recognized leader in wildlife tree habitat techniques. Tim recently spent a day with DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist Ken Bevis to demonstrate how he creates habitat logs.

“I make a series of slits and slashes into the log to allow wildlife to access the inside of the log right away,” Brown says. “I put some cuts down low so that creatures on the ground can access the interior of the log. Slits should be about three times the saw’s width to be large enough for these small critters to enter.”

Among the beneficiaries of Brown’s work are the salamanders, mollusks (snails and slugs), beetles and other arthropods, ants, spiders and many small mammals, such as mice or voles, that are integral members of a healthy forest. In other words, down logs benefit many forest wildlife species, and provide opportunity for forest landowners to enhance habitat.

Check out a step-by-step tutorial on creating down logs in the most recent issue of Forest Stewardship Notes, a free, quarterly e-newsletter published by DNR and Washington State University Forestry Extension.

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