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Old Christmas Trees, Brush Piles Make Great Cover For Wildlife In The Cold

Missouri Department of Conservation

Winter weather brings a harsh living environment for wildlife.

People can do a few little things to provide protection and a more comfortable environment for wildlife when temperature plummet below freezing. 

AJ Hendershott, supervisor for the Southeast Regional Office of the Missouri Department of Conservation, said animals have four basic needs: food, water, cover and space. In the winter season, he said cover is especially key to an animal’s survival.

Brush piles or planted bush-like shrubs and cedar trees are ideal choices for supplying cover to wildlife. A lot depends on living space, but Hendershott said homeowners can easily construct a brush pile.

“Let’s say you have some acreage and it’s a little more wild, you can cut down trees and shrubs in a matter of management and make a very large pile,” Hendershott said. “You would start with the very large logs on the bottom, spaced apart and put those kind of like a hashtag, so that you have space underneath, that way rabbits and birds can get down in there and hunker down and get away from the wind and the cold.”

But it can be as simple as recycling too.

“Another option would be providing Christmas trees,” Hendershott said. “After you’re done with a live Christmas tree, put those in a spot. Even just that one item can provide enough wind blockage to help an animal make it through really cold weather like this.”

Fur and feathers help animals to withstand the elements of the seasons, but cover works to give an extra boost to an animal’s survival.

Food is an equally important component of survival in the cold. Hendershott said when it comes to feeding birds, different species prefer different types of feed as well as different types of display. One size doesn’t fit all.

“So just providing seed in a different venue can often make the difference between who comes there and who doesn’t,” Hendershott said.

To attract woodpeckers suet feeders are the way to go. Finches tend to like hanging feeders. Cardinals and morning doves don’t shy away from ground feeding. Hendershott said he likes feeding with black oil sunflower seeds.

“They have a lot of good material inside the seed that can help birds get the fuel they need to keep their body temperature up and keep going through the winter,” Hendershott said.

Ultimately, Hendershott said the best help is thinking ahead and planning early.

“Make those brush piles and get those bird feeders in good order well before it ever gets cold, so that way when a cold snap hits, you have what they need well before they need it,” Hendershott said.