Trees are obviously important to local wildlife, but many arborists and tree-care professionals fail to consider the way their services influence local birds, bugs and other critters. This not only includes things like the way you decide to prune the trees on a given property, but also the species you recommend clients install.
In some cases, these influences are generally positive – helping wildlife is generally a good thing. But in other cases, supporting local animals can cause headaches for homeowners and property managers. So, consider some of the ways your work will affect local wildlife species and be sure that you aren’t causing problems for your clients down the road.
We’ll talk about three different ways you can help avoid creating these kinds of problems and address existing issues so that your clients can enjoy a harmonious relationship with the local fauna.
Use Discretion When Installing Nut- or Fruit-Bearing Trees
Many beloved tree species – including oaks, apples, and cherries, among others – make excellent additions to client properties. But when installed haphazardly or without forethought, they can cause more problems than they’re worth. Accordingly, you’ll want to be sure to consider the way these edible items will attract wildlife when making recommendations.
But that doesn’t mean these trees should be completely avoided – far from it.
For example, an old white oak growing in the middle of a wide-open lawn may very well attract some squirrels and jays. But because it is growing away from fence lines, bushes, and other sources of cover, the aesthetic and monetary value of the tree may far outweigh the problems caused by a few bushy-tailed rodents.
Conversely, a row of young northern red oaks growing alongside a client’s driveway may cause huge problems. As the trees approach maturity, they’ll begin showering the area with acorns. This will not only attract rodents (and represent potential trip hazards for humans), but the nooks and crannies along the driveway will likely provide cover and shelter for the rodents too.
Allow this to persist for a few years, and your clients will likely need the services of an exterminator. And the exterminator will likely tell them that the trees – which you may have installed – will need to go.
Help Homeowners Keep Tree Limbs Away from Rooflines
Trees don’t only provide food and shelter for wild animals; they also provide travel routes. This is especially true for squirrels, chipmunks, rats and other rodents, who’ll often use branches to move between trees and your client’s home.
So, if the trees in your client’s yard are providing the local wildlife with easy access to the roof and attic, serious problems are essentially guaranteed. This is particularly true if the offending trees are of the nut- or fruit-producing variety.
Fortunately, addressing this issue is relatively straightforward: Simply recommend that your clients allow you to prune these branches and establish a roughly 10-foot gap around the roofline. Just be sure to plan your pruning cuts carefully and perform them in a manner that won’t cause structural problems for the trees.
As a bonus, keeping tree limbs away from rooflines will also reduce some of the fire-safety concerns that are important in some areas.
Deal with Stumps in a Sensible Manner
Living trees serve as an important resource for wild animals and wildlife, but it is important to note that dead stumps can also be very important for small animals – particularly rodents, snakes and stinging insects. As a tree stump begins to decay and the soil around it begins to soften, animals will often begin making and inhabiting tunnels and burrows in the area. Over time, these stumps can transform into veritable ecosystems and represent a serious threat to the health and safety of your clients.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many hard-and-fast rules regarding the best way to remove stumps to prevent rats and other critters from moving in and setting up shop. You’ll often find that grinding the stump down as flush with the ground as possible is the best plan of action, but at other times, it may be wiser to dig up the bulk of the stump and roots and then pack the area with fill dirt. In other cases, chemically “dissolving” the stump may prove to be the wisest option.
Essentially, you’ll just have to rely on your experience and expertise to decide on a prudent plan.
Ultimately, your primary job as a tree-care professional is to maintain your clients’ trees. But, because they are important components of the local habitat, the trees you recommend, prune and service will affect the local critters. And the activities of these animals will in turn affect your clients.
So, be sure to think about how wildlife will interact with the trees on a given property and recommend services that’ll help your clients avoid wildlife-related problems. They’ll appreciate it, which will likely help convince them to retain your services far into the future.