Oaks and Wildlife

A squirrel in an oak tree

For forest dwellers, oaks are one-stop shops: they provide a rich food source, shelter for nests, and nutrients for the surrounding soil and water. It’s not surprising that oak woods support more wildlife than many other habitats. Some of the animals that live in or benefit from oak woods include:

  • White-tailed deer, black-tailed deer and other deer species, which can eat upwards of 2 pounds of acorns per deer per day
  • Foxes
  • Squirrels, raccoons, rabbits and other small woodland mammals
  • Many migratory and resident birds, such as wild turkeys, ruffled and sharp-tailed grouses, field sparrows, brown thrashers, barn owls, red-headed woodpeckers, bobwhite quail, wood ducks, mallards, orioles, blue and scrub jays, the whip-poor-will and cerulean warblers. Some of these birds are declining, rare or endangered.
  • Prairie ringneck snakes, timber rattlesnakes, black rat snakes, bull snakes, ornate box turtles and other reptiles
  • Amphibians, such as tree frogs, wood frogs and salamanders, that eat understory insects and benefit from small pools of water enriched by oak leaf litter
  • A vast variety of insects, including wood lice, beetles, millipedes, centipedes, caterpillars, butterflies, earwigs, ants, spiders and bees

Whether they’re feeding on oak acorns, leaves or saplings, nesting in oak branches or cavities, or preying on oak-fed critters, many animals benefit from oak trees. And if you help protect the oaks in your woods, you too can benefit from this rich mix of wildlife.

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