Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? May 15, 2019

June 5, 2019 3:23 pm

Field Notes: What's in the Woods Today? May 15, 2019

Brush Piles and ‘Possums and Other Little Surprises

By Area Forester Lisa Deaton

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As I was walking through a clearcut to help a landowner consider reforestation options, I saw an opossum cross a nearby dirt road. I thought to myself, “Surely I can outrun a ‘possum and take some photos.”

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However, I had to hop over logging debris and briars, while the opossum followed its well-worn path through the vines and vegetation to a large pile of branches and tree tops. Opossums are nocturnal, so I kept a distance in case it was rabid.  Once the opossum was safe inside this pile of tree limbs, it stayed put.

possum entrance door circled

The opossum’s entrance hole to the brush pile is circled in the photo above.

As I walked around the pile, I discovered a number of entrance/exit holes. Another hole and path are marked in the photo below.

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Brush piles are, in fact, one of the wildlife habitat structures that our agency promotes.


Building a brush pile can be a good alternative to burning branches and other unwanted yard debris. Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects can use brush piles for shelter from predators and weather, resting, feeding, and for nesting or den sites.

mouse nest

For example, in one week’s time, a mouse built the nest above in a fresh pile of firewood.


This little fawn was found in a brush pile by Joe Lehnen, forest utilization and marketing specialist.

Our agency’s brochure, Brush Piles for Wildlife, provides instructions for building a pile that is stable while also providing spaces for shelter and movement through the interior.

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