Auto Tour Stop 11


While the sandy region of northwest Wisconsin was partially burned nearly every year, areas within the barrens escaped fires for decades due to chance or more frequently, location. An area surrounded by wetlands, lakes, or rivers might not be burned as often. Surviving mature trees often had holes or cavities in them that provided nest sites or shelters for certain birds and mammals. Species such as red squirrels, gray squirrels, flying squirrels, deer mice, bluebirds, kestrels, and chickadees managed to thrive in the barrens due to these tree cavities.

Dead trees with natural cavities currently exist on the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area (NBWA), but not as they would if fires burned naturally. Wildlife managers leave trees to become future snags and natural cavities, but they are not overly abundant since many dead trees eventually burn. In order to provide for more of the animals that would normally utilize natural cavities, nest boxes have been erected in several locations. Bluebird boxes, like the one you see here, are heavily used by bluebirds and also by mice, flying squirrels, chickadees, and nesting tree swallows. Managers have also placed Kestrel boxes high in large trees providing the small hawk a place to nest, as well as providing for other species such as saw-whet owls and squirrels.