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  • Preventing Imprinting

    It's important for releasable weeks animals to not think of humans as safe because it can hurt they're chances in survival or encourage them to get into dangerous situations.

    While caring for animals, they can become dependant on humans and lose their fear of us, so caregivers will disguise themselves well enough the animals will not associate their treatment with people.

    Many disguises are dark netting or other very simple things to obscure the human outline, and sometimes puppets can be used, but I came across these outfits which show off some fun creativity.

    From Southern Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke

    These anti imprinting masks go above and beyond many efforts I've seen for artistic quality!

    Short video at the link, but it's Facebook and I know you guys hate that. 😤. Hence the screen caps.

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  • Ultraviolet Aging an Owl

    From The Raptor Center

    >Glimpse into the Glow. > >When we recently admitted a young great horned owl, we broke out the black light to take a quick look at its feathers under ultra violet (UV) ight. Why? The pink glow can help us confirm the ow's age. We know this is a bird in its first year of life because all of its wing flight feathers are glowing pink. The glow comes from proteins in new feathers called porphyrins. Under UV light, these porphyrins are fluorescent and visible to the human eye. > >As feathers age, these pigments break down and the pink color subsides. The only time all of the feathers are new is when a bird gets its very first set of feathers. As these birds age, they only molt a few flight feathers each year, leading to uneven amounts of pink in older birds. > >While we know that owls don't have UV-sensitive cone cells in their eyes like diurnal birds, research shows that they can still detect UV light. There is no definitive answer as to the purpose behind the fluorescence of new feathers; however, it possibly conveys important information between owls in the wild. > >It's worth noting that the majority of animals can see in the ultraviolet light spectrum, meaning humans inability to do so is an exception and not the standard. How do you think UV vision would change the way we see our world?

    Link has a video if you want to see more feathers glowing, but there's no talking or text beyond what's above here.

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  • UK Long Eared Owl

    Photo by chinn

    >Got to my location at 5.45am and this guy was waiting for me on the side of the road. .Couldn't believe it. While driving that far, you always question whether it's going to be worth it. Well didn't have to wait very long to find out it was . pulled up into lay-by opposite slowly and opened the window and took some shots. The weather wasn't great and it was foggy when I took this, while rain was on and off for the 4 hours it was there. BUT.. What an incredible morning it was though. I've been lucky enough to see and photograph the 5 UK species (not including eagles). I think long eared owls are definitely my favourite. Look at those eyes.

    I'm a big fan of the American Long Eared Owls, and I love getting reminded that the European ones are a bit different looking.

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  • Otherworldly

    Photos by Harold Wilion

    >I thought I could wean myself off the Barred owls and start getting into other species, but realize that's a much more difficult task than originally thought. I love all owls. find Screech owls to be the cutest and they have the most expressive faces. I love the pizazz of a Great Horned owl. But find the almost mythical, mystical aspect of Barred owls really touches my soul. The eyes of the Screech owl are beautiful. The piercing eyes of the Great horned owl are amazing. But those big, dark eyes of the Barred owl just make me wonder exactly what's going on behind them. > >The Barred owls I'm used to photographing just seem so incredibly mellow and will often be surprised to find myself just feet from one chilling on a low branch where they may look at me for a few moments before closing their eyes again as I quietly try to create some distance between us. For me, it's an otherworldly, almost religious experience to be in the presence of these marvelous creatures. > >I didn't want to spend any more time trying to pick a favorite shot on this perch, so figured l'd upload a set.

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  • Singin' in the Rain

    Photo by Baba-Vulic Aleksandar

    >Sometimes you just have to make the most of it when you're caught in a downpour without an umbrella. The newly fledged Great Horned Owlet 'singing" in the rain.

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  • Burrowing Owls Stoically Surveying the Surrounding Swaying Savanna

    Photos by Bryce Gaudian

    Fort Pierre National Grasslands in South Dakota

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  • Knock knock! Hoo's there?

    Photos by Randy Herman

    >This little Screech owlet wasn't sure what to make of this curious Red-bellied Woodpecker.

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  • It's a barn. It's an owl. But it's not a Barn Owl.

    Photos by Heather Farrell

    >Great Horned Owl taking in the sunset

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  • Another Adorable Screech Family

    Photos by Charon Comeau

    >As photographers we focus on the perfect shot, myself included, always looking for that perfect picture! I was focused on the baby at the top because he was a clear shot! I decided to zoom out and take in the whole picture. Dad and three owlets (back when they were about 8 weeks old). The fourth owlet was above them and mom was in a tree just out of the frame.

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  • Flirty Red Head... And Red Body!

    Photos by Rick McCulley

    >The Red morph screech owl in the same tree as the grey morph was in... I think this one is the female and the grey that I posted yesterday was the male. East Tennessee

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  • Chopper?

    Photo by Denis Michaluszko He's hiding the wrong way... 😁

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  • Just 5 More Minutes...

    Photo By Aleksi Rautiainen

    Snowy enjoying the sun.

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  • Feather

    Photo by Rick McCulley

    >While watching this Barred owl she was preening herself and pulled this feather out for some reason... Maybe it was loose and just came out on its own.? She held onto it for a short while before letting it go to float down to the forest floor.

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  • Distracting Elements

    Photos by Harold Wilion

    >As much as I love closeups, I think the environmental portrait, although not as impressive on a cellphone as a computer screen or TV, gives a much more accurate depiction of reality. It shows the scale of the subject as it relates to their environment and gives more of a sense of being there. Of course, the more environment you show, the more distracting elements there are in the scene such as branches, twigs, highlights and whatever. But that's life in the forest.

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  • Eye of the Owl

    Photo by Patty Dexter

    >Instead of the eye of the tiger it's the eye of the owl.

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  • He marches to the beat of his own drummer...

    Photo by Summer Beeler

    Screech Owlets with different perspectives on things.

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  • Monopod or Tripod?

    Photos by Simon Litten

    >Of all my balancing-on-one-leg barn owl shots this has got to be the most central pose. I think he may actually have three legs. 🤣

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  • Tree Hugger

    From World Center for Birds of Prey

    >Full grown already? Say it ain't so! At only 8 weeks old our brand new Barn Owl, Salix, has officially fledged! A fledgling is a young bird that has grown their feathers and is learning to fly! In the wild, Salix would still be dependent on parental care at this stage and begin to hone their hunting skills. In captivity, Salix will also begin to hone in their skills, but for their role as an education ambassador. We are transitioning them into a new phase of training where we will focus on cooperative care like cleaning, weighing, and crating, and move into mentally and physically stimulating activities like flight demonstrations! As you can see, flying doesn't always start out very graceful, but Salix is demonstrating how most birds experiment with flight through scaling trees, testing out their wings, and starting with short distances! We can't wait to see what share their journey with you al!

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  • Part 2 - Mother May I?

    Photos by Robyn Lafata

    >"Mother may I"...."Oh, I don't know"... think it's too high....dad where are you'? As this newly fledged barred owl heads into a new world and navigates branches, learning to climb, he turns to his mother as he starts climbing a bit unsteady. As he goes up he looks to his father in the other tree, carefully watching its every move...so precious!

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  • Part 1 - Mama, how much do you love me?

    Photos by Robin Lafata

    >"Mama, how much do you love me"?..."More than all the stars in the sky, deeper than the deepest ocean and bigger than the tallest mountains my love"....As she finished answering, she gave him a little peck and he gave one back. He then looked up to see his dad watching them both from above.

    Part 2

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  • Owl-natomy: Barn Owls Have Ageless Ears - 2017 Study of Owl Hearing Regeneration

    The delicate feathers of a Barn Owl's ear.

    To get some nifty quick facts about owl hearing, click here to see the Barn Owl Trust's page on that, and it is also the source of this image. For a much more in depth look at some of the owl's amazing abilities, read on!

    This summary is of "Barn owls have ageless ears," by Bianca Krumm, Georg Klump, Christine Köppl, and Ulrike Langemann (2017). This is my best interpretation of their study and findings. I'm not a scientist, just a hobbyist, so feel free to browse the source provided and correct me if I've gotten anything incorrect.

    Time for another look at another amazing bit of owl research!

    In this paper, the researchers looked into owls as creatures with amazing hearing, to see how their hearing changes with age. I will go over some of their testing and findings to try to break down what they did and what was learned. As always, this is not my area of expertise, so if you do understand this well and are curious, please take a look at the full paper and fill me in on what I misunderstood.

    The National Council on Aging says that 1/3 of people ages 65-74 and 1/2 of those 75 and older suffer from hearing loss. Mammals as a whole suffer from presbycusis, age related hearing loss due to changes in the inner ear structures. Birds, while having different, but functionally similar ear structures, do not seem to suffer from these effects.

    Mammalian presbycusis is associated with progressive damage to the loss of hair cells inside the corti, an organ of the cochlea, the spiral shaped part of your inner ear. This is a very small structure, so I’ve included a picture of the cochlea, a picture of the tiny hairs we’ll be discussing, and a 3D printed cochlea to give a size perspective. I then also have a Barn Owl cochlea picture.

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    These tiny hairs are responsible for mechanoelectrical transduction of sound. That is a process that turns vibrational energy from sound waves into an electrical signal in the nerves of the cochlea which your brain can interpret as sound. Click this link for a brief article on mechanoelectrical transduction.

    Humans and most mammals have partial regeneration of the hair cells of the inner ear, but they cannot replace these sound sensing hairs in the cochlea. Some other vertebrates, birds in particular, have been studied for some time as they can regenerate their basilar papillae, the structure in birds that serves the same purpose as the corti do in mammals.

    Prior studies of the basilar papillae have shown amazing regenerative properties of the sensory hairs. Many species have been looked at showing a lack of age-related damage, and even in experiments where chemicals were applied directly to damage the hair cells experienced very quick recovery and growth of new hairs. As long as the hair growing cells themselves are not damaged, the hairs can grow back when damaged from age or by physical trauma.

    Most hearing loss in mammals occurs at higher frequencies. Prior studies of their range of sounds they can hear had shown Barn Owls are able to hear sounds between 200 Hz – 12 kHz. The higher 12kHz is higher than most other birds can hear, so the Barn Owl became a great candidate species to study presbycusis. The Barn Owl’s has a specialized cochlea with one of the longest basilar papilla of any bird. Low frequency hearing appears to be similar to many other birds, but there were numerous differences to the inner ear to better process mid to high frequencies.

    I was happy to learn we had names and backstories to our test subjects this time! They were all Common Barn Owls, Tyto alba, the most widespread owl in the world. The group of young owl, aged >2 years, consisted of Ugle, Sova, Grün, and Rot, and the old owls, aged 13 and 17, were Bart and Lisa, along with a third owl, Weiss. Most of them were hatched at German universities, but I’m thinking Bart and Lisa may have come from somewhere else, as I imagine this can only be a Simpsons reference as they were born in the 90s.

    Experiments were conducted in two sound-deadened chambers. In the chambers, there was a starting perch and a target perch on the opposing side. A speaker was placed directly behind the target perch. There was a video camera to monitor the birds’ activity, and an automatic feeder near the target perch.

    The owls were trained to sit on the starting perch facing the target. After a random time of 1-30 seconds, the owl was played a test signal over the speaker. Test frequencies of frequencies of 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 6.3, 8, 10, and 12 kHz were used. The owl knew a sound indicated a tasty snack was available and would fly over to get its reward. After the test signal was played, if the owl flew to the target immediately (within 5 or 10 seconds) it was taken as the owl had heard the auditory signal. In total, 99% of trials had a positive response occurring within 5 seconds upon hearing the test sound. “Catch trials” were done in 20-30% of all trials where no tone was played to ensure there was no movement to the target perch when no sound was played. If there were more than 20% false flights to the target perch, that trial was excluded from the results. Results were also excluded if the 2 loudest sounds did not receive strikes in 80% of the times they were played. I imagine this was to rule out the owl either being too eager to land at the “food perch” or if the owl was in a bad mood and didn’t want to fly to the target perch.

    The results showed that neither age or physical damage to the hairs themselves much affected the regeneration process. The one owl, Weiss, was observed over a period of 21 years (at 2, 17, 23 years old) and only lost the smallest bit of hearing at the very high frequency range.

    Both age ranges had the best hearing between 2 and 8 kHz. At 0.5, 1.0, and 6.3 kHZ the hearing ability of the older owls was slightly better than the younger group. At the other remaining frequencies, the younger group did better, but not by enough to be statistically significant.

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    The line for Konishi in the above graph are results obtained from a test in the 1970’s in Japan that was done to replicate the results of owls being able to hunt in total darkness using sound that I wrote about in the summary of Payne’s testing, which can be found here. Results were comparable, but that was only testing of a single owl, and it was a different species of Barn Owl than the ones in this experiment.

    Here is the lifetime data for Weiss. Initial testing was done at 18-22 months old, when owl hearing finished developing. He was tasted again in these 2 rounds of experiments at ages 17 and 23. While there was some loss of very high frequency hearing over time, at the 12 kHZ range. The other frequencies showed slight deterioration, but only by a few decibels, so they interpreted that as a change in hearing more than actual deterioration.

    The change was even less significant between ages 17-23, with some frequency responses seeming to have improved a tiny bit. As most wild Barn Owls do not live more than 3 or 4 years, this shows that over even an owl’s maximum expectant lifespan, there is no significant deterioration of hearing quality in a way that would negatively impact them.

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    Typical age-related hearing loss in mammals leads to a threshold (range of volumes and frequencies they can hear) increase of 20-40 decibels, while even over the course of a very long-lived owl’s life, the increase was only 4-10 decibels. While many owls die early, this shows it is not due to hearing degradation related issues. While the majority do not live longer than 3-4 years, it is not rare to find ones 10-20 years of age.

    While younger owls were as a group more sensitive to sound that the old owls, it was by less than 3 decibels different in threshold. Overall statistical testing showed no significant difference in hearing ability between the two groups.

    Other experiments over the years have shown pigeons, chickens, finches, budgies, European starlings, quails, and more have all been able to regrow hairs of the basilar papilla removed chemically in about 4-6 weeks with no significant loss in original hearing ability. Physical damage to the hairs by acoustic trauma (hitting them with high pressure sound waves to break them by vibration) yielded very similar regrowth and regaining of hearing to a remarkable degree.

    The ability to regrow these hairs seems to be key to this amazing ability of birds as had been previously hypothesized due to testing on some of those other birds. Further study of this process will hopefully help us to find treatments to help us in the future to treat this widespread issue of humankind. While most of us will eventually suffer from some extent of hearing loss, it is something most birds will never have to deal with, no matter how long they live. Hopefully in the future, we will learn their secret and share in the joy of a long life full of vibrant sound.

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  • Little Ray of Sunshine

    Photo by Kevin Eisler

    Young Great Horned Owl

    Winnipeg

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  • 'Terror owl' awaits relocation after wreaking havoc on Dutch town of Purmerend with silent aerial attacks

    From The Independent

    >A falconer has finally caught the aggressive Eagle Owl that’s terrorised a small Dutch town, attacking more than 50 people in the last year. > >The local council is now looking for a suitable place to release the bird after needing special permission to catch the protected species because its unusual behaviour posed such a danger to residents. > >Some of the attacks left victims needing hospital treatment, with two runners needing stitches for head wounds inflicted in a swooping aerial assault on Tuesday. One of the runners required six stitches for gashes caused by the bird’s talons. > >The bird has been swooping from the sky without warning and gouging the flesh of the townsfolk for months. > >“It was like having a brick laced with nails thrown at your head,” one victim, Niels Verkooijen, told the Dutch news programme Hart van Nederland. > >It’s also responsible for at least 15 attacks, under the cover of darkness, on residents and staff at a home for the disabled, according to their spokeswoman Liselotte de Brujin. > >She told AFP: "During the day there's no problem, but at night we now only venture outside armed with umbrellas, helmets and hats, anything really, to protect ourselves. > >"The problem is that you don't hear the owl before it strikes. Its claws are razor-sharp." > >But her prayers that the owl – the largest of all owl species – would be caught have now been answered by a Dutch falconer. > >The city council announced it had finally been caught on Friday night, although one council member had mixed feelings about the capture. > >Mario Hegger said: “On the one hand, you would of course rather leave such a magnificent beast alone,” reports The Guardian. > >“But on the other hand, the situation could not continue. We had to do something.” > >In an official statement, the council said: “It’s in good health and is currently being kept in a temporary facility awaiting a transfer once a proper permanent home has been found.” > >The bird is one of the most common species of owl in the world, as well as being the largest, with wingspans of over six feet recorded in some cases. It’s believed to be female – which are larger than male Eurasian eagle-owls. > >But it is a protected species and the city had previously released a statement saying it had applied for a special exemption to rules because ‘the safety of our citizens is at risk’ – but these applications ‘can take some time’. > >The bird has earned itself a fierce reputation in Purmerend, around 12 miles north of Amsterdam – and it’s not the first time that this species has been responsible for attacks on humans. > >In Gloucestershire’s Wotton-under-Edge, a bird named Synwell locally, broke a pensioners arm in an attack, reports The Mail Online. > >But experts say that aggressive behaviour is unusual. > >Gejo Wassink of the Netherlands OWN owl foundation told AFP: "Either the owl was reared in captivity and released into the wild and now associates humans with food — meaning it's not really 'attacking' people. > >"Or it may have heightened hormone levels as the breeding season starts, which influences its behaviour and makes it defend its territory."

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  • Why Dead Trees are Important to Wildlife

    I got asked yesterday if owls can make their own nest holes in the trees, and the answer is no. Owls are dependent on either naturally occurring shelters or those left behind by other animals such as other raptors, other large birds, or squirrels. This makes old, weathered, and decaying trees a valuable commodity, and they are getting harder to find.

    I was on my state's game commission page looking for other info and came across this article talking about how old and dead trees are important for so many things in our ecosystems. They are a vital and irreplaceable resource and need to be preserved whenever possible. The most interesting thing they mentioned is this, to take this as the TL;DR:

    It has been estimated that dead trees and trees that contain decaying wood provide important habitat for about 25 percent of the forest wildlife species in the northeastern United States

    From the Pennsylvania Game Commission:

    >There's no denying they don't seem to offer much that property owners find appealing. They're messy and leafless. Insect-infested. And, in some instances, even threatening. But landowners should know that the benefits dead trees or snags provide wildlife are immense. In fact, in Pennsylvania today, dead trees are in higher demand for certain wildlife species than living ones, mostly because there are so few of them. > >Prior to European colonization, much of the state was covered by a dense forestland that had a substantial number of dead and dying trees. It was a great time for cavity-nesting birds and squirrels. The state's settlement, of course, would change that eventually. And to this day, development continues to swallow more wild lands and often forestland or woodlots. Dead and dying trees typically are some of the first to be cleared. > >The main problems developers and some property owners have with dead trees and snags are their unattractiveness and the usual threats associated with their deterioration. But wildlife managers familiar with the important habitat dead and dying trees provide forest ecosystems believe these trees deserve more respect than they're getting. They can - and should - be managed with the same considerations live trees receive. > >Dozens of wild birds and mammals use tree cavities for shelter, resting or nesting. Some excavate their own cavities in the decaying wood of dead and dying trees. Others wait for a woodpecker to do the work and then occupy and enlarge the cavity. > >These cavities in dead and dying trees - as well as some living trees - are invaluable to bluebirds, American kestrels, wood ducks, flickers, pileated woodpeckers, chickadees and many other species. Their limited availability makes each one a precious commodity in any forest, woodlot or backyard. > >The natural benefits provided by dead and dying trees extend beyond cavities in the trunk. The separating or peeling bark can shelter resting bats during daylight hours, or provide habitat for insects that many wild birds consume. The bare, weather-worn branches are favored hunting perches for hawks and owls. After the tree falls, it provides shelter for amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and insects. The tree's decaying debris also returns nutrients to the soil, ultimately strengthening the forest's ability to support life. > >It doesn't matter whether a dead tree is standing and serving as an insect smorgasbord for woodpeckers, or laying on the forest floor and providing a silent passageway through the noisy leaf litter for hunting red foxes and habitat for amphibians, every woodland needs and benefits from them. They not only provide unique habitat and habitat diversity, they also are part of the natural order that all successful forest stewardship programs strive to promote. > >About half of Pennsylvania remains forested, and slightly more than half of that forestland is dominated by large trees. A small percentage of these large trees are dead, deteriorating or harboring cavities that birds and mammals use for dens or nest sites. To help offset this disparity, the Game Commission has been manufacturing nesting boxes for everything from bluebirds to wood ducks for years at its Howard Nursery in Centre County. > >In recent years, Howard Nursery has produced in excess of 2,000 bluebird boxes, 5,000 bluebird box kits, hundreds of wood duck, kestrel, barn owl and bat boxes for placement on State Game Lands and other lands enrolled in the Game Commission's cooperative public access programs. > >Other beneficiaries of these wildlife boxes include house wrens, tree swallows, flying squirrels, screech owls and woodpeckers. > >Bluebirds and wood ducks, in particular, have benefited greatly from nest boxes. Both species - reeling from insufficient nesting sites for years - have rebounded to respectable numbers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere as a result of thousands of nesting boxes being placed afield by wildlife managers, hunters and boy scouts, to name a few. > >The Game Commission's ongoing nesting box program and the efforts of caring conservationists have helped many native cavity-nesters exceed the limitations imposed by insufficient natural nesting sites. But nesting boxes are only part of the answer to Pennsylvania's shortage of dead trees and snags. We need private landowners to understand the importance of dead and dying trees and the need to conserve as many as possible. > >The Game Commission has a State Game Lands tree policy in place that requires snags and den trees to be retained on timber harvest areas. This retention policy allows for these valuable wildlife havens to be retained and incorporated into future plans for the stand. The agency's management philosophy is guided by creating a balance of habitat types on State Game Lands, providing the immediate habitat of the dead trees while providing the essential elements of early successional type habitats necessary for species such as ruffed grouse and American woodcock, along with the highly sensitive species such as golden-winged warblers. > >It has been estimated that dead trees and trees that contain decaying wood provide important habitat for about 25 percent of the forest wildlife species in the northeastern United States. Considering that, it quickly becomes obvious that nesting boxes only can help ease the demand. Moreover, nesting boxes just don't provide the insulating qualities that tree cavities offer in winter. They are mostly a warm-weather solution to the plight of cavity-nesters, not a panacea. > >A dead tree can stand for decades, providing critical shelter and food to myriad species. It's a habitat high-rise that attracts considerable attention in any wildlife community or ecosystem. What determines how long the tree will stand includes factors such as whether it's surrounded by other trees that will reduce wind and impede sunlight, the species of tree (hardwoods such as oak typically remain upright longer), and the type of terrain or area in which it grew. Trees near streams seem to take more abuse from the elements than other places because they have greater exposure to water and shade. > >If a dead or dying tree isn't threatening your residence, picnic pavilion or roadway, the Game Commission recommends leaving it to nature and the benefit of wildlife. It won't be long before you'll see its worthiness to wildlife and begin to appreciate the additional character it affords your backyard or woodlot. If you're into wildlife, you should be into dead trees. > >When a dead tree poses threats to a nearby structure or activity area, landowners should consider stripping down the snag to reduce or eliminate its potential to cause trouble. Using a hydraulic cherry-picker - never climb a dead tree - remove part of the tree's top and/or branches to remedy the risk. Even a branchless trunk - cut to a height that addresses the landowner's safety concerns - has wildlife and ecological value, and should be considered over removing the tree entirely. > >Remember, as a rule, dead trees don't come down in a hurry, particularly hardwoods. So as long as safety isn't a concern, let nature take its course. The tree will become a wildlife magnet and will be worth is weight in gold to the creatures using it. Let that dead tree stay on. Rest assured, it will make wild friends fast.

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