Save Those Pinecones!
Have you ever come across a pile of pine cone scales? Usually you will find them under the Pine tree itself, close to the trunk. Most times, the culprit are squirrels. The scales (outer layer) of the pine cone are removed by both Grey and Red squirrels, so they can get to the pine nuts underneath, which are a natural part of a squirrels’ diet.
If you are lucky enough to watch a Red Squirrel go about gathering pine cones, it’s something to watch. The Red Squirrel, being so tiny, has a hard time pulling the larger pine cones off the tree and then carrying them away to eat the pine nuts. Instead, s/he will crawl to the end of the branches where the pine cones grow, and chew the end of off pine cone, severing it from the tree, so that it falls to the ground. Then it’s easier to grab the pine cone that way. Remember, this is a learned behavior handed down from adult squirrels to juveniles. Pretty cool.
Unfortunately, many home owners find squirrels, as well as the pile of pine cone scales, a nuisance.
But many others delight in watching squirrel behavior, and even are able to feed them by hand with time and patience.
Between the squirrels severing pine cones, and the trees naturally dropping them, in no time during the Fall, your lawn may have many pine cones lying around! But for squirrels and other wildlife, this is a wonderful thing.
Did you know? Pine cones are a food source not only for squirrels, but for woodpeckers and deer. Deer will eat almost anything during times when food is scarce even though pine cones are not part of their main diet and not their first choice. Woodpeckers will pull the scales apart to get at the pine nuts. Even wild rabbits benefit from pine cones, because the scale of the cone can be hard, which, when chewed on by rabbits, helps to wear down their teeth which grow constantly. Note: do NOT feed pine cones to domestic pets without first checking with your veterinarian.
With Fall here and Winter on it’s way, you can help keep squirrels, woodpeckers and deer fed during the colder months when food is scarce simply by relocating those fallen pine cones to another spot on your property that is clean and quiet.
We keep a few spots on our property wild and natural for our wildlife year around, and one of these spots is the perfect place for us to relocate our pine cones.
Now, all these pine cones probably looks messy to you, but it’s actually organized chaos! The majority of these pine cones will have been eaten by the end of the cold weather, and for anything left over, it’s easy enough to rake them up (along with the scale piles) to get ready for a new year. And, I love that we are able to help wildlife in this little way that will have a positive big impact during the winter months.
Speaking of pine cone scales, they are a good natural fertilizer, and a perfect way to add “mulch” cover to your gardens. We put down the pine cone scales first, and then top it off with regular mulch.
So, maybe the next time you are getting ready to do a Fall clean-up, you’ll think twice about tossing those very useful pine cones, and relocating them instead. It will make a world of difference to hungry wildlife this Fall and Winter.
P.S. – And, think twice before you rake up all your leaves and prune everything for the Fall Season! Find out why, HERE!