Brush Piles for Wildlife Fact Sheet
Brush Piles for Wildlife
|Copyright © 1997
Wildlife have four basic requirements: cover, food, water and living
space. Each must be present in an animals habitat. Cover is the protective element
within the habitat which may come in different forms for various wildlife species. It may
be a hedgerow for rabbits, a young hemlock thicket for deer, a spruce tree for a
golden-crowned kinglet or a brush pile for small mammals and birds. Whatever form cover
takes, it contributes to one or more of the necessary functions in the lives of animals:
breeding, nesting, hiding, resting, sleeping, feeding and traveling.
When natural cover is limited in wildlife habitat, brush piles may be
provided. If possible, brush piles should be a by-product of other land management
activities, rather than a specific practice. Timber harvest, timber stand improvements,
pasture or cropland clearing, and firewood cutting all provide woody limbs suitable for
Location of Brush Piles
Brush piles benefit wildlife most when they are located at the edges of
forest openings. They should not be further than 10 feet from the woodland border. Other
suitable locations for brush piles are along road edges, streams, marshes and yard borders
within or next to woodlands.
Four to eight brush piles per acre, spaced 100 to 150 feet apart, is a
sufficient amount and will supply the needed cover requirements for most wildlife species.
Construction of Brush Piles
Materials used in brush piles will depend largely on what is available.
Oak, locust and other hardwoods which are rot resistant make durable bases. Other suitable
materials include large stumps, cull logs, old fence posts and stones. The largest
material should form the base and layers of smaller limbs and branches should be added as
Brush piles are usually mound- or tepee-shaped. Ideally, they should be
six to eight feet high and 15 feet in diameter. An alternate method of providing cover is
to windrow the brush along a stone wall or woods edge. In this case, brush should be
piled in one direction with the tops facing the edge of the woods. Covering brush piles
and windrowed brush with evergreen boughs will provide wildlife with additional cover.
Brush piles are short lived (six to eight years). In order to provide
continual cover, new ones should be developed periodically.
When properly constructed and located, brush piles can benefit many
species of wildlife, including bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits, ruffed grouse, wild
turkeys, skunks, raccoons, opossums, woodchucks, chipmunks, mockingbirds, white-throated
sparrows and juncos. Predators such as foxes, bobcats, hawks, owls and coyotes benefit
from the small mammal and bird populations found in or around brush piles.
Grasses, forbs and vines, which are highly valuable to wildlife, will
grow up through brush piles and add density and permanence to the piles.
Copyright © 1997
Caution should be taken when creating brush piles in densely populated
areas, for they may lead to nuisance wildlife problems. Skunks, opossums and raccoons
will, on occasion, live in or under these brush piles and may cause a nuisance situation
for nearby homeowners.
trees, logs or lumber which have been rejected because they do
not meet certain specifications.
Forb any herbaceous plant species other than those in the grass,
sedge and rush families; fleshy leaved plants.
Stand plant communities, particularly of trees, sufficiently uniform
in composition, constitution, age, spatial arrangement or condition to be distinguishable
from adjacent plant communities; may delineate a silvicultural or management entity.
Timber stand improvement the use of methods, such as thinning,
firewood cutting and selection cutting, to improve the growth and condition of a stand of
References and Further Reading
Martin, C. O. and J. L. Steele, Jr. 1986. Brush piles, Section 5.3.1, U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers wildlife resources management manual. 19 pp.
Yoakum, J., W. P. Dashmann, H. R. Sanderson, C. M. Nixon and H. S. Crawford. 1980. Habitat
improvement techniques. Pages 329-403 in S. D. Schemnitz, ed., Wildlife management
techniques manual, 4th ed. The Wildlife Society, Washington, D.C. 686 pp.
The Technical Assistance
Informational Series is 75 percent funded by Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration -
Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Program. The P-R Program provides funding through an excise tax on
the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. The remaining 25 percent
of the funding is matched by the Connecticut Wildlife Division. (rev. 12/99)