Brush piles might look rough to you, but to wildlife, they look like shelter from the storm. Nearly all animals need cover so they can escape from predators, rest in safety, nest and raise their young.
What constitutes suitable cover depends on the wildlife species. Some animals use hollow trees, while others use brushy areas and dense stands of grass. To several species of small mammals, ground-nesting birds, amphibians and reptiles, brush piles represent an important type of cover.
Of all our management tools, brush piles located in the right places produce the quickest response. Rabbits often take over a brush pile the night after construction.
Proper placement of brush piles allows relatively safe access to food sources and permits wildlife to forage over a larger area. Brush piles should be placed at intervals near feeding areas, along field borders and within idle fields or abandoned areas. Avoid the bottoms of drainages and low spots where standing water might render the brush pile useless. Brush piles should be no taller than 6 to 8 feet and at least 15 feet wide.
Living brush piles may be constructed for a long lasting shelter. To create these, cut partway through small trees and shrubs so that the tops fall to the ground, but leave enough stem on each tree to keep it alive. If the trees are cut to fall in a crisscross pattern over each other, a living brush pile is created.
Regardless of the type, brush piles add a valuable dimension to the wildlife habitat on your land. If properly located and constructed, they will provide important wildlife cover for many years. However, brush piles are not permanent structures. Rot and decay will quickly reduce the effectiveness of a brush pile. To provide adequate escape cover, brush piles must be added to your management area on an annual basis.