Maryland's Wild Acres
Creating a Wild Backyard - Brush Piles
Proper wildlife habitat requires four main components: food, water, shelter and space. Shelter is a very important element which is often limited in backyard habitats. One way to provide additional shelter for wildlife is to create a brush pile. Brush piles are a deliberate collection of brush or branches, sticks and other plant parts placed over a supporting base or foundation.
Why are Brush Piles Important?
When naturally sheltered places are removed for crops or for construction, brush piles can help to replace them and can serve many of the needs that wild animals have for dense cover. All wildlife species need dense cover throughout the year for several reasons:
Where Should Brush Piles be Built?
Though brush piles will be used by wildlife almost anywhere, there are certain areas where they are most helpful to the animals:
In areas cleared of natural wildlife cover, it is best to build at least three or four brush piles per acre. To help conceal wildlife traveling along woodland borders, place a brush pile every 200 to 300 feet. The best brush piles are located no more than 10ft from a woodland border. Brush piles can also be located near gardens to entice bug-munching birds.
How to Build a Brush Pile
A finished brush pile should be at least ten to 15 feet wide and 25 feet long. It should be dense enough to protect the animal while still allowing wildlife to easily run inside. However, smaller brush piles can be of benefit to birds, lizards, chipmunks, and other small animals. A brush pile has two parts:
The base is formed from two layers of logs, evenly spaced, to allow easy access. Within the base, you can also put drainage pipes, or tiles, cinder blocks, or tires with holes cut along the tread. Animals may use these as dens.
Pile of Plant Material on Top
The “brush” part of the pile can be made from a variety of plant parts, including old Christmas trees.
Take note: Though brush piles are tremendously beneficial to
wildlife, they can also attract woodchucks, skunks, and snakes, all
of which may become household pests. Because of this, it is best to
keep brush piles away from your home. Brush piles may also conceal
predators, so it is also good to keep them away from bird feeders
located on or near the ground. Also be aware of local and community
ordinances before creating a brush pile habitat.
Invite Wildlife to Your Backyard!
For Additional Information, Contact:
Wildlife and Heritage Service
580 Taylor Ave, E-1
Annapolis, MD 21401
Black-capped Chickadee photo by: USFWS
We want to hear from you!
Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on your property. Complete the online Habichat Reader's Survey.
Write to Me!
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401