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Repurpose a Christmas Tree as Wildlife Habitat

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After the holidays, live-cut Christmas trees can be repurposed as habitat for all sorts of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Before you toss your tree to the curb, remember that it can find life after Christmas for Ohio’s birds, fish, small mammals, and more.

Recycled live-cut Christmas trees are used as fish habitat in both public and private waters. Christmas trees are donated to the Division of Wildlife by community recycling and drop-off programs. The trees are bundled together and weighted down so they sink to the bottom, attracting fish and providing cover.

Sunken trees provide structure for many baitfish, which in turn attract sport fish. Decomposing trees also feed zooplankton, which provide food for aquatic invertebrates and attract larger fish. Private pond owners may also want to consider repurposing trees to add habitat to their ponds. Many species are attracted to this dense cover, including crappie, bluegill, and largemouth bass.

Each winter, Christmas trees are placed at select wildlife areas and public lakes around Ohio, which vary year to year. An interactive lake map showing where trees are placed as fish attractors is available at wildohio.gov. Anglers can target these spots, which are often productive for both panfish and their larger predators.

A live-cut Christmas tree can also be recycled as the centerpiece of a wildlife-friendly brush pile. Place the tree in a selected location and stack limbs around it in a square arrangement, layering more brush until a desired height is reached. Cover the top with additional brush to create a unique and valuable shelter for small animals.

Songbirds, including cardinals, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and wrens travel in and out of brush piles for food, nesting, and to escape predators. Small mammals, such as rabbits and chipmunks, also use brush piles for shelter and raising young. Brush piles are valuable shelter for overwintering insects like bees, moths, and butterflies, as well.

Live-cut Christmas trees are also useful as compost, mulch, and more. Here are some options for your live-cut Christmas tree following the holidays:

Northeast Ohio

  • The Mahoning County Green Team collects trees at designated drop-off sites until Jan. 31, 2023. Cut trees are used for fish and wildlife habitat in partnership with ODNR.

Southeast Ohio

  • The City of Chillicothe picks up trees for residents with regular curbside garbage service between January 3 and 31, 2023. The trees will be repurposed for fish and wildlife habitats in partnership with ODNR.
  • Lawrence County residents can drop their trees at designated locations for collection by Wayne National Forest staff. The trees will be used for fish structure in coordination with the Division of Wildlife.

Southwest Ohio

  • Caesar Creek State Park, 8570 E. State Route 73, Waynesville. Drop off your undecorated tree at the North Pool Boat Ramp until Jan. 17, 2023.

Before repurposing or disposing of a live-cut Christmas tree, remember to remove all trimmings including tinsel, garland, lights, and ornaments as these can be harmful to the environment and wildlife. Please obtain proper permission before discarding your tree on public or private property. Discarding trees without permission could result in a litter violation.

Interested in learning more about the fish and wildlife near you? Check out the Division of Wildlife’s collection of field guides and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for instant news stories, outdoor recreation ideas, and local wildlife information.

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