Tree Cavities

Squirrels, racoons, owls, chickadees, and many other creatures find safety and shelter within trees.

March 8, 2019 | | Notes from the Wild

The wild wolves of winter
swept through the streets last night…

The wind of their howling a thousand blood-curdling moans,
the teeth of their hunger endless fields of aching snow…

From the “Wild Wolves of Winter” by Canadian poet Raymond Souster

Souster’s poem captures the menace of the powerful winter winds we’ve recently experienced.

How wonderful it is to escape these “wild wolves of winter” and step inside your house to warmth and security. To cast aside hats and gloves, boots and coats, and sink into the comfort of a favourite easy chair.

Birds and mammals seek similar refuge from the cold and the howling winds. Often that refuge is a tree cavity. Squirrels, racoons, owls, chickadees, and many other creatures find safety and shelter within trees.

And like us, some animals enjoy the warmth and comfort of close bodily contact. We call this “cuddling”. But in proper scientific parlance, flying squirrels and golden-crowned kinglets “huddle” when they press their bodies together in tree cavities.

The tenants of tree cavities can thank woodpeckers. These feathered construction engineers excavate holes for their nests, which in subsequent years become homes for other animals.

Screech owl red phase Ian Jarvie racoon at home Screech owl gray phase Ian Jarvie
Birds and mammals seek refuge from the cold and the howling winds.

The vital ecological role of dead and dying trees in this process cannot be overstated, for they are the woodpeckers’ preferred construction sites. Unless they pose an imminent danger to passersby, they should always be left standing. Such trees, with multiple woodpecker holes, are sometimes referred to as “wildlife apartments”.

As the wild wolves of winter howl, all animals including us, seek warmth and security. Home Sweet Home can be a bungalow, an apartment … or a hole in a tree.

About the Author More by Don Scallen

Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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