August 30, 2008

Trees Provide Food, Shelter for Wildlife

By Staff Report

TROY -- This is a log of the questions called in or brought into the Horticulture HelpLine run by the Miami County Master Gardeners. The help line operates from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through the end of August. Master Gardeners are available on these Mondays to answer questions on the ground floor of the courthouse in Troy. The number is (937) 440-3945. Jack Hepler, Ed Smith and Marian Moeckel helped with the HelpLine on Aug. 11.

Q: I have a neighbor who has a hackberry tree and a mulberry tree and wants to remove the trees. I would like to save them. What can you tell me that might influence my neighbor to keep them?

A: Both the Red and White mulberry and the Common Hackberry are important wildlife food. As we continue to remove natural habitats from our wildlife, keeping some of these food sources provides wildlife with nourishment.

The Common Hackberry, unfortunately, is not the most tidy of deciduous trees. However, it does provide cover for nesting birds and food for birds, butterflies and mammals. Wild Turkeys, ringnecked pheasants, quail, grouse, cedar waxwings, robins and many migrating species consume the fruit of the hackberry. The fruit is a round, somewhat oblong drupe with a thin, orange-red to purplish skin and sweet, yellowish flesh. Deer browse common hackberry leaves in the absence of preferred browse species. Common hackberry provides good cover for species such as whitetailed deer, upland game birds, small non-game birds and small mammals. The hackberry's deep root system makes it effective in controlling soil erosion or disturbed sites. It also is included in windbreak plantings to control wind erosion.

The Mulberries are deciduous trees with a fruit that is borne in an aggregate like a blackberry. There are two species of mulberry: white and red. The fruits of these trees may be substituted for blackberries in recipes.

Any plant, herbaceous or woody that provides food and cover for wildlife should be kept in the landscape.

Q: There is a groundhog living under our house. We have young children and a dog and are worried about a confrontation with the animal.

A: Groundhogs, or woodchucks, are a type of marmot and closely related to ground squirrels and gophers. The natural habitat of the groundhog is forest edges and grasslands. However, groundhogs also are a familiar species in agricultural landscapes within its range, occurring along roadsides, fencerows, pastures, the margins of fields, and even in some suburban habitats.

Groundhogs are sometimes perceived to be pests. They can cause considerable damage by raiding vegetable gardens, and also can consume large quantities of ripe grain and other crops.

If the groundhog is a threat to your pet or children or is causing damage in your yard, you should call someone who could remove the animal legally and safely. There are laws in Ohio about how to trap and remove problem animals. Permits must be obtained. Live trapping of wild animals and releasing them on private or public property without permission is against the law. Contact your local wildlife officer to find out the best safe and legal method to control the problem animal. For information about Nuisance Wild Animal Regulations, visit 1501:31-15-03.

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