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2009-11-26 digital edition

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2009-11-26 / Community News

Brush Piles for Wildlife

Many wildlife species, including birds and small mammals, require adequate resting and escape cover for survival. If living brush or natural cover is not readily available, artificial brush piles can be created to serve this purpose. Artificially created brush piles can be especially beneficial in areas where natural cover is limited such as in agricultural areas, prairies, and open rangelands. The benefits of brush piles for wildlife include concealment from predators, protection from the elements, and as a place where seeds may germinate and lead to plant growth and establishment.

It is best to construct brush piles during the winter, or outside of the growing season. Creating brush piles goes hand in hand with clearing or thinning brush. Good brush piles need sturdy bases in order to hold up over time. Stones, old fence posts, oak wood, and other rot-resistant trees make durable bases. Tree limbs, small trees and shrubs of almost any species can be used as filler material. This is a great way to recycle your old Christmas trees, although be sure to remove tinsel and other decorations first. Caution is advised in selecting your filler tree species. Do not use noxious or invasive trees such as Chinese tallow or chinaberry which can drop seeds at the site and exacerbate the spread of such undesirable species. Yaupon, mesquite, and eastern red cedar are often targeted for brush control and are great materials for constructing brush piles in this area.

Brush pile designs vary. The teepee shape is a common design, with the largest materials forming the base, topped with layers of smaller limbs and branches. The base materials should include limbs that are approximately 6-inches or greater in diameter to create entrance holes at ground level for quick escape, while providing adequate support to prevent the stack from settling and rotting too quickly. Another common design involves constructing A-frames from scrap lumber or other sturdy materials to serve as a support for stacking brush materials. Lumber can be wired and nailed together (6 to 8-ft wide by 8-20-ft high) to create the A-frame, and then cross braces can be added at various heights along the frame. Brush is then piled against the frame on both sides and in layers within the frame, providing nesting and roosting sites at both ground level and at various heights above ground. This layering effect adds to the

diversity of use of the pile, allowing it to serve a greater variety of species. Brush piles can also be created along fencerows, which can serve as the base for stacking brush.

Brush piles should not be

created by bulldozer since soil often makes up the majority of the base, eliminating essential escape entrances at ground level.

The ideal locations for creating brush piles are in areas that are lacking suitable close-to-theground cover, such as open fields, fence corners, clearings, or forest with limited shrubs or bunch grasses. Brush piles can help encourage use of food plots planted for birds or small mammals by providing quick access to escape cover while feeding. The optimum distance between brush piles is 200-300 feet, but can vary according to target species and surrounding habitat.

Brush piles should last 3-5 years, but some can last for more than 10 years. Brush piles do require periodic inspection and will need to be refurbished over time with new limbs and branches. Annual inspection is recommended, and spring and summer are ideal times to add new material to pre-existing piles. Once a brush pile has lost its functional value, it should be removed by burning and should be replaced with a new brush pile.

If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.

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