Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!

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 (

Even a jumbled pile of rocks can provide a safe haven.

Rock pile

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

14 thoughts on “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!

  1. I have been watching birds feed all morning and noticed that they find cover to eat the seeds they grab at the feeders. Almost anything will do – today they were under the fenders of my Jeep – dozens of them. I like this post – it gives me a reason to leave the limb piles where they are:)

  2. I wish more people would leave their garden a bit messy or not be so obsessive about keeping their yards free from tree debris, but I think people are slowly catching on. I’ve learned to see beauty (and bounty) from the eyes of the animals rather than my own. Thanks for all your comments!

    • We have a white-footed mouse living in one and every morning the birds poke around in the branches. Unfortunately, we have to remove the brush piles in late spring because we have rattlesnakes and they will move in to prey on the mice and other little creatures.

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  4. My lab Kiana can spend lots of time sniffing the brush pile in my backyard because she knows the rabbits shelter there. She does not catch them, thank goodness!

    • Callie sniffs around ours, but doesn’t want to expend the energy to go deeper into it – she’s too well fed to work that hard!

  5. I certainly agree in preferring gardens that are somewhat less well-tended — or perhaps tended with an eye to other animals’ needs. There’s so much richness and beauty out there to discover and enjoy; it’s a shame to stifle it all with straight lines and well-kept lawns!

    Thanks for giving other creatures a chance, Jo Ann, and for sharing your appreciation of them with us.

    • I used to be one of the well-kept lawns people, but saw the light after reading about a lady in Wisconsin who stood up to her homeowner’s association (because she wanted to leave a portion of her grass wild for the birds!). She gained so much attention and support that she started a nationwide movement and an organization called “Wild Ones.” She became my hero.

    • I know hawks have to eat too, but I’m always rooting for the songbirds. I guess it’s because they provide us with so much enjoyment.

  6. Brush piles also enrich the soil as they slowly dissolve and decay.
    And attracting animals and birds will result in those animals leaving their leavings, further contributing to the soil.

  7. Absolutely, letting Nature do her work is the best thing for the environment and it’s so easy to set aside a small area for a brush pile.

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