Spot a Snag

A snag is a dead tree that is still standing. Of course, a tree does many good things when it is alive. But after it dies, it can be just as important for wildlife.

by Kate Hofmann; Art by Debbie Palen

Here are some animals that don’t think snags are a drag at all:

  • Tree squirrels, flying squirrels, and raccoons that make cozy nests inside hollow parts of the tree.
  • Bats that rest underneath the loose bark.
  • Butterflies, moths, treefrogs, and other small animals that hide in holes and under bark.
  • Beetles and other insects that tunnel into the soft, rotting wood to lay their eggs.
  • Woodpeckers that eat the insects and carve out holes for their nests.
  • Birds such as owls, wrens, bluebirds, and wood ducks that move into woodpeckers’ holes after they move out.
  • Eagles, ospreys, herons, and owls that build nests atop snags.
  • Flycatchers, kingfishers, and birds of prey that use snags as perches and look-outs when hunting.

Next time you’re in a forest, in a field, or near water, keep an eye out for snags. Use the checklist below to describe what you discover about each.

  • Animals using the snag: What kinds do you see? How are they using it?
  • State of the snag: Is it sturdy, or do you think it will soon fall?
  • Fallen logs: These may have been snags once. Look on, in, and under the log for more animals.
  • New trees: Tree seeds sprout, take root, and grow in the rich soil formed when logs rot away.

Snags may be dead, but don’t be fooled—they are full of life!