While Ponderosa forests support an abundance of wildlife,
some species are particularly dependent on an open, healthy habitat
Healthy, open Ponderosa stands provide good forage for elk and other grazing animals. These elk are taking advantage of early spring grasses in a well-managed forest.
The Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) is a secretive, inconspicuous owl associated with open, mature montane forests, primarily ponderosa pine. The species uses with large ponderosa trees and snags for nesting and adjacent openings for foraging.
The Flammulated Owl nests in cavities created by woodpeckers, such as the Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker and Williamson's Sapsucker. The owl mainly hunts insects by hovering and hawking, which requires a relatively open forest structure. The loss of mature, open forests is considered a factor in declining Flammulated Owl populations. Audubon lists Flammulated Owl on its WatchList of vulnerable bird species and estimates its global population at 37,000 (Audubon 2007).
The Northern Goshawk also depends on the structure and composition of healthy forests. This species, identified as “sensitive” by the Forest Service in the southwestern United States, is believed to have declined because of degraded Ponderosa pine habitat. The goshawk nests in open ponderosa pine forests dominated by large trees. The overcrowding of thick, dense stands of small trees impacts the prey species that sustain the goshawk.
Abert’s squirrel (or tassel-eared squirrel [Sciurus aberti]) lives in dry, mountainous forests in the southern Rocky Mountains and the Southwest. The squirrel favors ponderosa pine forests and feeds on pine seeds and uses Ponderosa trees as nesting sites and for shelter. Northern Goshawk preys on the Abert’s squirrel.
The Long-Legged Myotis (Myotis volans) depends on forested habitats, usually at elevations of 4,000 to 9,000 feet. It feeds mostly on moths, emerging to feed in early evening and foraging over open water, meadows and forest clearings. The long-legged myotis roosts in crevices in the bark of both young and old ponderosa pine trees and snags, and in cavities created by other species. The BLM has designated the long-legged myotis as a “sensitive species” in Arizona, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico. The Northern Region of the Forest Service also lists the myotis as a “sensitive species.”
The White-headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvaus) is highly dependent on open-canopied, multi-aged Ponderosa forests. The woodpecker uses large, decayed snags for nesting and roosting. It prefers to forage for insects on the scaly bark of live trees, and feeds heavily on seeds from unopened pine cones during winter.
The Forest Service lists White-headed Woodpecker as a “sensitive species” in the Northern and the Intermountain regions, and Washington has identified the woodpecker as a candidate for the state endangered, threatened and sensitive species list. Audubon lists the woodpecker on its WatchList and estimates its total population at 72,000 (Audubon 2007).
Give a HOOT, save our forests!