Safe Pruning

The Puget Sound region is home to a wide array of wildlife species, many of whom make their homes in forests or in individual trees. Trees and forests provide critical food sources, cover, and nesting sites for many of these wild species. Woodpeckers, cavity nesting owls, squirrels and bats take advantage of standing dead trees, and a multitude of birds grace the branches of still-living trees with their amazing and varied nests.

pileated woodpecker nest with young

A Pileated Woodpecker feeds her young.

When the breeding season is underway, the trees in your area are likely teeming with life. Some species begin nesting as early as February, and others follow suit throughout the spring and summer. Please be aware that pruning or cutting down trees and hedges during the breeding season can and does displace, harm, or even kill wild animals. PAWS Wildlife Center receives hundreds of baby wild animals each year, many of which were displaced when their nest tree was cut down or their nest site destroyed.

Bushtit nest

Bushtit nest

Before pruning hedges or cutting down any tree, whether it is alive or dead, please consider the following information to prevent unnecessary loss of life or habitat:

  • Plan tree cutting projects for November through January. This is well outside of the breeding season for most species.
  • Inspect the tree for active nests and/or dens before you begin cutting or pruning.
American Robin building nest

An American Robin builds a nest.

  • If a tree does not present a safety hazard, please consider leaving it alone. Standing dead trees (snags) provide excellent habitat for cavity nesting animals. Please consider letting both live and dead trees on your property remain standing.
  • Many species will nest in brush piles or even in tall grass. Always perform a thorough inspection for nests before removing brush or mowing your lawn.
  • If you disturb or destroy an active bird nest, you may risk hefty fines. Most bird species are federally protected, and laws prohibit the disturbance or destruction of their nests.
Huttons Vireo nest construction

A Hutton's Vireo builds a nest

If a nest-bearing tree absolutely must be cut down, please call PAWS Wildlife Center at 425-787-2500 x817 to find out how you can minimize the chances that wildlife will be injured in the process.