COLUMBUS, Ohio – All sorts of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife can find a use for a live-cut Christmas tree once the holidays are over, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Before you toss your tree to the curb this year, remember that it can find life after Christmas as shelter for Ohio fish, birds, 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. Private pond owners may also want to consider this approach of repurposing trees to add habitat to their ponds. Many species are attracted to this newly created habitat, including crappie, bluegill, and other panfish, as well as largemouth bass and saugeye.
Each winter, Christmas trees are placed at select wildlife areas and public lakes around Ohio, which vary year to year. GPS coordinates where trees are placed as fish attractors are recorded for each site and the information is available on the interactive lake map at wildohio.gov. Anglers can target these locations, which are often very productive for several species.
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 northern cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches travel in and out of brush piles for food, nesting, and to escape predators. Small mammals, such as cottontail rabbits and chipmunks, also use brush piles for shelter and raising young.
Live-cut Christmas trees are also useful as compost, mulch, and more beyond wildlife habitat. Here are some options for your live-cut Christmas tree following the holidays.
- City of Columbus residents can set out their tree on the curb and it will be picked up during the regular yard waste collection day.
- Summit Metro Parks accepts trees at various locations until Jan. 31, 2022. Trees are used for mulch and compost.
- Lake Metroparks accepts trees until Jan. 22, 2022 at its parks. Place a tree in a provided tree bin.
- Parma residents can donate a tree to the Stearns Homestead Farm in Cuyahoga County. The address is 6975 Ridge Road, Parma.
- The Mahoning County Green Team collects trees until Jan. 31, 2022. Cut trees are used for fish habitat at area lakes.
- Local compost and yard waste facilities accept trees, according to the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. See a list of registered compost facilities.
- The City of Chillicothe picks up trees for residents through a special collection through January.
- Caesar Creek State Park. 8570 E. State Route 73, Waynesville. Drop off your undecorated tree at the North Pool Boat Ramp until Jan. 17, 2022.
- Eastwood MetroPark, 1401 Harshman Road, Dayton. Drop off trees until Jan. 16, 2022.
Another option is to move your tree outside and add edible ornaments or strings of popcorn to feed birds and squirrels during times when food resources can be scarce. Try creating homemade suet or seed cakes, covering pinecones in peanut butter and seeds, or hanging slices of oranges and apples.
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. Be sure to have 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. The Your Wild Ohio Explorer Facebook page provides wildlife watching tips and useful information as you get outside this season.