Next to food and water, animals in the wild need places to hide from predators. Snakes, frogs, turtles, and salamanders can burrow under a log or pile of rocks or dive into the water when an enemy gets too close, and flight lets birds escape quickly out of harm’s way.
Other animals use overgrown areas and dense tangles of vegetation to hide and escape from predators. We’ve been letting our fields grow up to provide natural food sources for wildlife, and in so doing, some areas have turned into dense thickets of impenetrable vines and brambles, providing perfect hiding places.
Anyone who has read Walt Disney’s Uncle Remus tales as a child (I know I’m dating myself here!) likely remembers the one where Bre’r Rabbit pleads with the fox that has captured him, “Do whatever you want with me, but please don’t throw me into that briar patch!” Of course, everyone knows that rabbits just love briar patches. Have you ever seen a startled rabbit dart across your yard only to suddenly disappear? The rabbit likely dashed into a nearby den or thicket where it hid until the danger had passed.
As natural areas are converted to agriculture and development, man-made brush piles can provide safe places for wildlife. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries offers a simple how-to guide for building a brush pile that can be used by small animals for hiding, nesting, and den sites (http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/habitat/brush-piles-rabbit.pdf).
Even a jumbled pile of rocks can provide a safe haven.
Devoting just a small amount of space to provide a hiding place can benefit wildlife. Maybe there’s a corner of your yard or an area next to woods where you can pile up brush or rocks. In our human-dominated world, even the smallest oasis is welcomed by some creature.
I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. — Henry David Thoreau