Wildlife Habitat and Forest Health | Washington
The habitat piles are home to a variety of species on the forest land. (Ken Bevis/DNR)
As you take steps to maintain the health of your forest – such as thinning, pruning, preparing for wildfires, or watching for invasive insects and disease – remember that your land is also a habitat for a wide variety of native animals. species.
Small forest owners consistently include the promotion of wildlife habitat as a high priority objective for their land. MNR’s Forest Service Program can help.
Washington State’s forests are home to more than 400 species of vertebrate wildlife, ranging in size from tiny hummingbirds to majestic elk or moose. Add to that the plethora of insects and other invertebrates (such as snails and slugs), and the total zoological parade is breathtaking. These amazing animals thrive in a wide variety of habitats found in forests.
Know your wildlife
Knowing which animals live locally and their needs can help landowners decide on the best habitat management practices to help them. This could mean protecting or creating valuable individual habitat features and, on a larger scale, maintaining features of stands and habitat areas for specific life history needs.
It could also mean leaving large-diameter standing dead trees, or snags, for woodpecker nesting sites, and rotting logs in the ground, providing moist refuge for many species of insects, molluscs and amphibians. Larger-scale habitats include wetlands, such as seasonal wetlands, for breeding frogs or salamanders, riparian areas with rich shrubs for deer browsing, or older, complex stands of trees allowing hawks, crows or owls to roost and nest.
Snags provide excellent 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 influence their survival success. Cougars, for example, occupy distinct territories over many thousands of acres and may overlap only slightly with the holdings of a small landowner. Deer and elk will localize intensely for periods of time and then move away during certain parts of the year. A diversity of habitat types, with mixtures of open areas rich in shrubs and grasses and interspersed with dense pockets of trees, will best benefit these large animals.
Strategic improvements can often help meet wildlife needs. Creating habitat piles, nest boxes, or water sources are some of the tools we recommend for your property.
This and other information is shared with landowners when working with MNR forestry programs and with our wildlife biologist. We provide wildlife habitat consultation to landowners in the preparation of a forest stewardship plan, in response to questions or upon request.