Winter is often a hard season for our wild, non-human neighbors It is true most animals are better adapted than we are to the harsh weather of winter. They have hairier bodies (except for that guy I saw at the mall last week), they build up a layer of fat (come to think of it, I've done that) and many of them go into full or partial hibernation so that they don't burn as many calories during our cold months. They also find good places to live. One such place is under or in a brush pile.
A brush pile offers some insulation and is a good wind break.
It is also good protection for an animal who has chosen to burrow under such a pile.
The animal can come out of its hole and look around for trouble while it is still protected by the brush.
Jeff has built these brush piles while cleaning up debris on the edge of the fields or from around our home. He has also had some help from his father and uncle who need a good place to dispose of the results of their pruning. These piles are usually more than haphazardly thrown-together piles of branches. They are usually laid purposefully to take up the least space with the least work and often so that the pile will burn well if Jeff later decides that it needs removed. This also happens to be good construction for an animal that would like to live associated with such a pile. The branches are usually laid in such a way that water runs off to the ground, not pooling anywhere on the pile.
They are scattered along the edge of the fields or just off one of the larger trails.
As you can see, they come in all shapes and sizes. The one right above and below has large chunks and pieces of tree trunks while many of the piles are made up of gathered branches that have fallen during storms.
Not all are as safe as they might appear. The one at the very top of this entry is a pile that changes often. Once or twice a year it is burned to the ground, making it a poor choice for any animal. I always hope that the noise of the tractor and all the human commotion that accompanies the beginning of a burn is enough to frighten any animal residents away.
Humans are not the only species to build brush piles, for what is a nest but a small carefully articulated brush pile? True, it is much smaller than the ones my husband builds, but it is the same principle of gathering brush and arranging it with a purpose.
This one has been deserted by its owner who, perhaps has fled to a warmer climate.
Two books you might find helpful for planning wildlife habitat . . .