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What Kind of Animals Burrow in a Tree?

Trees are strong. Some of them might even stand tall and wide enough to feel intimidating to you, but they’re not impenetrable. Not by a long shot. Surprisingly, some very special small animals can break through a tree’s tough exterior and start nesting inside of them. But what are those animals?

Maybe you have a tree in your backyard, or you passed one while walking down the street, and you saw a pretty sizable hole right in the middle of it. You might step a little closer to it and even dare to peek inside, but your curiosity likely all stems from the same place: is there an animal living inside there right now, or are the Keebler elves just back to work on their latest batch of cookies?

While I can’t assure you that there isn’t a tree somewhere out there with a bunch of elves hiding inside it, I can say for sure that there are only a handful of animals that might be inside of your tree. But just because they’re inside the tree doesn’t mean they were the ones who created the hole in the first place. In this blog post, since we’re talking about tree burrows, we’ll focus on animals that may have created a hole and then animals that may be nesting inside.

Our team over at Mr. Tree Services believes that tree owners, and just about everybody, should know the answers to any tree questions they have. While you have nothing to worry about if there’s a hole in the tree in your front yard, let’s discuss what it means to “burrow,” who is creating these tree burrows, and who is nesting inside of them.

What does burrow mean?

Before we get too far into identifying which animal might be in a given tree, we should first make sure to differentiate “burrowing” from “occupying.” When an animal burrows into something, they dig a tunnel or a hole into a given thing (such as the ground, rocks, or sand) in order to find temporary refuge from their current situation or in order to live inside of it for a long period of time. However, if an animal is occupying a space, it isn’t digging into that location first; it’s finding it and then resting inside of it.

But some animals aren’t so lucky. Rabbits, mice, and many more animals need to create their own spaces through burrowing. Many people might recognize this concept when they learn more about hibernation.

Sometimes, entire animal families end up living inside of a burrowing animal’s new tunnel home. If they create the hole in the ground, it could potentially be an elaborate underground system that’s multiple feet long and deep. These animals (which are often mammals) start to burrow to escape extreme temperatures, to eat, or even to feed their offspring.

The types of animals that burrow in the ground, hills, and more include moles, gophers, groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and more. Now that you understand burrowing, let’s ask ourselves the tough question:

What kind of animals burrow in a tree?

Well, simply enough, it’s birds! For the most part, woodpeckers are the ones who are pecking away at a given tree and “burrowing” into it. They create these holes in order to find food. They particularly enjoy insects (especially carpenter ants) and delicious tree sap. If they’re not looking for food, they’re trying to break into the tree in order to nest inside it. They can crack open tree bark in ways that not many animals are capable of doing, so if you’re seeing a hole in a tree, there’s a good chance a woodpecker was behind it.

Larger birds create bigger holes, just like smaller birds create smaller holes, so it’s possible this is why it’s so noticeable that something dug a hole through your tree. Some woodpeckers choose to target trees that have been previously made softer by fungal disease in order to drill their nests, so some pieces can fall off a bit easier than others.

When the woodpecker is done hunting for food or temporarily nesting, other animals might come along and increase the size of the hole or hide from predators or weather, but they’re not the ones breaking through. For that reason, we can’t say that they burrowed into the tree.

While birds are the ones breaking into these trees, we don’t often consider it a “burrow.” They are the ones creating the holes (or pits) and resting there, but it doesn’t fit too neatly under the burrowing term.

What other animals use the holes in trees?mr-tree-what-kind-of-animals-burrow-in-a-tree

If you feel like something is running around inside your tree or nesting in there, you’re probably right. All sorts of animals see the preexisting cavities created in trees by woodpeckers and use the holes as shelter. We promise it’s not just your overactive imagination or memories of Pooh, Eeyore, and the Hundred Acre Wood that are making you search for which animals are inside of a tree.

So, which specific animals use these holes or pits? It could be any number of them, such as a new bird coming along that can’t create a cavity on its own. It could also be a tree squirrel or flying squirrel taking a brief rest from the dangers outside. It could even be mice or chipmunks, and of course, perhaps the most notorious animal you see (or don’t see) is an owl.

If you think this is a problem for you or you’re running into any other problems with your trees, I hope you consider giving us a call at Mr. Tree Services in Portland, Oregon. We pride ourselves on our extensive knowledge and deeply enjoy sharing our wisdom through articles like these and through at-home visits.

You won’t have to worry about what kinds of animals are burrowing in your tree (especially since you know now that it’s probably just a bird), but if you ever need a consultation to ease your mind about residential, commercial, or industrial tree services, we’re the team to call.