WDFW QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Should I cut down snags?

(PRESS RELEASE/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Colville gets a lot of questions from the public, and one heard recently is: I have a dead tree on my property. Is it okay to cut it down?

If it isn’t posing a safety issue, you may want to leave that tree standing, as trees can actually provide more habitat for wildlife dead than alive. Standing dead and dying trees, called “snags”, are important in both natural and landscaped settings, whether they occurred as a result of disease, lightning, fire, animal damage, drought, or other causes.

Birds, small mammals, and other wildlife use snags for nests, nurseries, storage areas, foraging, roosting, and perching. Snags occurring along streams and shorelines eventually may fall into the water, adding important woody debris to aquatic habitat.

Snags enhance local natural areas by attracting wildlife species that may not otherwise be found there, so it’s worth considering leaving them.

If you do decide to cut down a snag or other trees in your landscape, check with the county Planning Department for guidance. Some snags and other trees along the shorelines of lakes, rivers and streams are protected by county regulation. Most county’s have Shoreline Master Programs and Critical Areas Ordinances that require the buffers of lakes and streams to be left in a natural state. However, there are exemptions for certain activities along the shoreline – with the appropriate permits. So please be sure to check before you get out the chainsaw.

If you have a question for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, send it to publicaffairs@dfw.wa.gov or call 509-563-5495. One question a week will be answered.

In the meantime, you can find a lot of answers to fish, wildlife and habitat questions at wdfw.wa.gov.