When I first began managing a wooded wildlife corridor around my property I thought it best to toss limbs from trees I had pruned, along with invasive species that I had cut down, onto the forest floor to emulate what might had happened if they had just fallen naturally.  But I had a large amount of this debris, and I began to realize that it just started looking messy and was actually interfering with my work in trying to reduce the invasive species.  My father is of the opinion, based on his younger years of cutting firewood to keep our house warm, that it looked nicer if the branches and debris was put nicely into piles.  I decided to give it a try and realized that while it didn’t look so natural as I was going for, it did make the other parts of the forest look more natural, while also allowing me access the invasive species unimpeded.  Then I quickly realized the best attribute to brush piles, they quickly turn into wildlife hotels for rodents and perches for birds.

Brush piles are essential for critters to get out of the elements and to hide from predators, and they can immediately increase your wildlife viewing opportunities.

Some basic guidelines to consider when building a brush pile for wildlife:

-          Choose an area with good drainage near a forest edge and close to existing food and water sources.  And don’t place it near areas you don’t want to encourage critters, like your vegetable garden.

-          Put down larger branches or an old pallet as a foundation to create space at the bottom to create passages for critters to crawl into to escape harsh weather and predators.

-          Build piles six to eight feet high and wide, and two to four per acre separated by 100 to 150 feet.

-          The pile will shrink each year, so brush and debris can be added each season.

-          Native vining plants may be planted and encouraged to grow over the pile to make it more attractive if desired.

Whether you have a little space or acres of land, a pile of sticks and debris organized with a little thought will increase your wildlife viewing pleasure.