Pine Beetle Infestation Displaces Wildlife
Wildlife will not suffer during the first few years after most trees in a forest are killed by mountain pine beetles.
Yet once the pines drop their needles, 3 to 5 years after dying, then critical habitat vanishes for many species of birds and mammals.
Fishers, woodland caribou, red-backed voles, pine grosbeaks and other species that require mature forests in British Columbia will decline or could disappear from pure pine stands that were heavily hit by beetles.
Death of pine trees will also cut off supplies of tree seed eaten by songbirds and squirrels, and live bark browsed by voles, porcupines and moose. As snags, lodgepole pines are generally useless for wildlife. Many are too small for housing cavity nesters, or don't decay enough while upright to excavate.
A review of the literature concludes that the value to wildlife of an unharvested beetle-killed forest is primarily determined by what grows in the opened understory once pine snags start toppling. After a decade, the sites with the best habitat for wildlife will grow plenty of shrubs, mature conifers that survived the infestation, and a mix of younger trees.
Mammals such as snowshoe hares and various shrews and voles that use shrubs in open habitat or along forest edges will benefit most.
Ann C. Allaye Chan-McLeod. 2006. A review and synthesis of the effects of unsalvaged mountain-pine-beetle-attacked stands on wildlife and implications for forest management. BC Journal of Ecosystems and Management. 7(2): 119-132.