(left) Living Wildlife Tree – Stave Dam Forest Interpretation Trail
(right) Douglas-fir on the Roy Kittles Trail
With such a diversity of species that live in our coastal temperate rainforests, there are many types of habitats that each species uses throughout their lifespans from clearings, to young and old forests, to dead and dying wood. So what makes a tree a great wildlife tree?
Wildlife trees come in all sizes, ages and species and have or develop the special characteristics that can support various wildlife. For the most part, these are sometimes not the nicest looking or even the healthiest trees – they can have large or deformed branches, broken tops, loose bark, and internal decay. A tree is part of a functioning ecosystem long after its death, eventually after it falls, it decomposes and nutrients are cycled back into the soil to be taken up again and again.
Our forest practices are completed on a sustainable and small-scale in order to mimic patterns of natural disturbance that could be expected over time, such as fire. We maintain live standing trees in group patches or as individual trees in order to provide important large stand structure above the developing new forest. Harvested openings with retained, dispersed trees provide ideal hunting perches for birds of prey such as owls and hawks as they scan the landscape for rodents, like mice and voles.
As these mature trees start to decline, they often come under attack by insects which many bird and mammal species depend on. Primary cavity excavators such as sapsuckers, woodpeckers and chickadees create many of the large holes seen in wildlife trees. Secondary cavity users such as ducks, owls, bats, and rodents utilize the holes made by the primary excavators as they are unable to make these holes for themselves. As the trees further deteriorate, open nesters such as raptors, herons and eagles call these trees home.
With the majority of Mission’s forests being 2nd growth, it is our strategy to try to protect those trees we find that are of the original forest, recognizing their importance for so many species survival. Two of our trails allow you to visit these spectacular wildlife tree patches: the Roy Kittles Trail off McCoombs St (suitable for whole families), where you can see a massive Douglas-fir well over 500 years old, and the more strenuous Red Mt Loop Trail – where you can rest among a cluster of giant western red cedar trees. Visit mission.ca for trail maps.
It’s a birder’s paradise out there! There are many bird apps available that you can use to identify local species you’ll find in Mission’s forests and keep your eyes and ears out particularly when you are near wildlife trees.