Christmas trees can be one last gift to nature

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Once the presents have been opened and the feast eaten, there’s one last gift you can give this Christmas season – to your local fish or wildlife habitat. Christmas trees can be used to improve habitat in ponds, lakes or even a back yard.

Christopher Kennedy, a Fisheries Regional Supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), said this time of year brings an easy opportunity to give fish a place to hide from predators and thrive. Kennedy said the best thing to do with a live Christmas tree is to recycle it, by placing it at the bottom of a pond or lake.

Christmas trees provide brush for pond and lake fish. Kennedy likens the addition of dead trees to fish habitat to how humans furnish our homes. It gives fish resting areas, shade and escape cover.

“Small fish need vegetation and brush to help them hide from predators,” Kennedy said. “Additionally, predator fish like crappie and bass sometimes hide behind a limb to wait for an opportunity to grab its prey.”

Large trees and multiple trees make the best fish habitat, Kennedy said. He encourages neighbors to get together and combine efforts by recycling all their trees together in one lake. To place trees in a pond or lake, they’ll need to be anchored with concrete blocks. Kennedy said to place small brush piles next to each other to create larger habitat. Water depth should also be considered. The best depth is 8 feet deep in the water, with the trees placed in a row, he said.

MDC Naturalist Jordi Raos said another way to recycle a live Christmas tree is to place it in a backyard to offer cover for small wildlife such as rabbits and reptiles. If you put the tree under a bird feeder it will make a convenient nesting opportunity in the branches. Christmas trees can also be shredded or chipped for mulch and added to landscaping.

For more ideas on how to help winter wildlife, go online to