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Creating a wildlife snag from a live tree

Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 398
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
We are converting our backyard from invasive blackberries & a few scattered trees to a food forest.   I need to remove a couple of 20 year old douglas firs.  One of them has a metal t-post partially embedded in the trunk (oops) so cutting it down would be tricky. 

I was reading this page about creating wildlife snags from live trees, and decided to give it a shot.  Yesterday I climbed the tree and girdled it about 1/3 down from the top.  I also removed about 2/3 of the branches.  The idea is to let the tree die slowly, hopefully rotting from the inside out (vs. outside in), which provides better conditions for wildlife (cavity-nesting birds, etc.).  Above the girdle the tree will die quickly, and the top will break off, leaving an open wound for fungus to rot the tree from the inside.

I am wondering if anyone else here has tried that?  Especially on a douglas fir?  What tools did you use?  I used an axe, but if I were to do very many trees I think a draw knife would be easier.  The handle of the axe really got in the way, tangling with the branches.  Also there is not enough room to swing the axe, so I basically held the blade in my hands and pushed it up/down to peel the bark in a band about 10" wide.  However the axe did work really well for removing branches.  In many cases all it took was one good chop.

I'll try to post pictures as the tree slowly dies.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has tried this.
Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 398
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
I had kind of given up on this project because the tree didn't seem to be fazed by my girdling. But on Saturday we had a pretty good wind storm, and the tree broke off right where I had girdled it - hooray! I'll post some photos soon.
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4101
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  58
How far is this tree from the house ?

I've girdled a few broad leafed maples. They have multiple trunks, and I thinned them. In order to get rot going and to provide nesting sites, a few plunge cuts were made. Woodpeckers worked those cuts into a variety of holes. I use a chainsaw.


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Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 398
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
Dale Hodgins wrote:How far is this tree from the house ?

I've girdled a few broad leafed maples. They have multiple trunks, and I thinned them. In order to get rot going and to provide nesting sites, a few plunge cuts were made. Woodpeckers worked those cuts into a variety of holes. I use a chainsaw.


It is about 200 feet from the nearest house. It smashed a few blackberries and a bit of a small tree but it should recover.
 
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