Into the Wild


Dead Snag

Even after death, trees provide homes and food for lots of life.



Woodpeckers hammer on dead snags to find insects to eat, make nest holes, and tap out messages to fellow woodpeckers. The next time you visit a snag, keep your eyes peeled for these head-banging birds.

Did You Know?

Red-bellied woodpeckers have super-long tongues that they use to probe inside hammered-out holes. The tongue is needle sharp — perfect for harpooning bugs — and barbed at the tip so dinner can’t wiggle away.


Mama raccoons often turn hollow trees into nurseries. In the summer, you might spot her ring-tailed babies practicing their tree-climbing skills.

Take a Closer Look

Can you spot the owl? Camouflaged feathers make an eastern screech-owl disappear against a barky background. To find screechers in the wild, listen for songbirds raising a ruckus. Small birds gather near owls and fuss to try to drive the predatory birds away.


Take a Closer Look

Mourning cloak butterflies spend winter huddled in tree cavities or under loose bark. Though the upper side of their wings is brightly colored, the underside is well-camouflaged. This helps hide them from hungry birds. With their wings folded, mourning cloaks become nearly invisible against a tree’s trunk.

What Happened Here?

The squiggly lines you find when bark falls off of dead snags are made by baby insects. Many kinds of beetle larvae tunnel under the bark. They eat the tree as they go and leave behind winding paths called “galleries.”

Did You Know?

When weather turns chilly, southern flying squirrels snuggle together inside hollow trees. Their furry bodies can warm the den by 30 degrees, and the more squirrels there are, the toastier it gets. Fifty squirrels have been found packed into a single tree!


When a tree dies — sometimes even before — it becomes food for shelf mushrooms. The next time you find a snag, see how many of these colorful fungi you can spot.

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