LIVES IN THE HOLLOW HOLLY TREE?
we walk down the trail from our cabin in the woods, we pass a tree we
call the Hollow Holly. We always poke a stick inside to see if anything
will run out. Nothing has, but we knew something had to live in there.
nature-oriented person would be intrigued by the almost 50-foot-tall,
2 feet in diameter tree with its gray-barked trunk covered below by
a skirt of bright emerald green moss. Ruby red holly berries against
sharp-pointed dark green leaves are a pretty sight in winter. But the
real attraction is a large, cavelike opening at the base with an apron
of soft dirt marked by many animal tracks. On the inside, three well-used
burrows, each large enough to accommodate a possum, lead away from the
hollowed-out base in different directions. The tree is unquestionably
the home, or at least a stopover site, for wildlife.
to find out what visits the Hollow Holly by setting up wildlife cameras
aimed at the trail and at the base of the tree trunk. Hunters use trail
cameras to ascertain when and where the best hunting opportunities are
for particular game species. Wildlife biologists use the cameras to
assess population abundances, feeding patterns and general behavior
of various species to understand the basic ecology of the animals. Our
more modest goal was simply to determine what happens at the Hollow
a lot happens. We recorded seven different mammalian visitors. Upon
viewing activities on the first night the camera was set up, we saw
an armadillo enter the opening and disappear down one of the tunnels
without hesitation. Presumably we had witnessed one of the original
architects of the burrow system. Later in the evening, an adult woodrat
emerged from a different tunnel. Woodrats are large native rodents with
chubby bodies and somewhat furry tails. The Hollow Holly is probably
home for a family of woodrats.
midnight, three raccoons moved over the ground in front of the hollow.
One disappeared into it and came out a minute or so later. A passing
possum later did the same thing. Were both checking for an easy insect
meal inside the tree or did they actually have a room in the wildlife
deer, a young buck, stuck its head into the photo shoot, sniffing the
grass and chewing a blade. It turned its head and looked in the tree
hollow as if curious what might be inside.The most impressive visitor
showed up around 4 a.m. This was just after a possum left, which proved
to be fortunate timing for it. A huge bobcat appeared, stuck its head
inside the hole like someone peering into a refrigerator wondering what
there was to eat, looked around and left. At early light, a pair of
gray squirrels came into view, not from under the tree but from above,
and foraged around in front of the opening at the base.
wildlifes hidden biodiversity brings a greater appreciation for
natural habitats in a region. Knowing that our little woodland habitat
has such a rich assortment of mammals is not only gratifying but also
exciting, although we seldom experience any of them face to face because
most come out only at night. Also, the educational lessons learned from
a wildlife camera are many. For one thing, even an old stump can be
somebodys home and needs to be appreciated as a safe haven for
most important message for everyone, especially commercial developers,
land managers and anyone interested in conservation of native wildlife
is that when we destroy habitat we are destroying wildlife that lives
there even though we may never see the animals. The Hollow Holly is
living proof that our woodland communities are full of fascinating treasures
that may be out of sight but that should never be put out of mind.
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