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Oregon State researchers study how fallen trees, logs in waterways benefit land-based animals

For decades, scientists have known that wooden features in streams benefit fish. A recent study looked at how they also benefit terrestrial animals.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — For decades, researchers have known that fallen trees, logs and branches in water help fish survive. It turns out these things also benefit land-based creatures, from birds to bobcats, according to a recent study out of Oregon State University. 

Ezmie Trevarrow worked on the project as an undergraduate researcher. He said 13 unmanned cameras set up along Rock Creek west of Corvallis showed just how active wildlife were around downed trees along the creek.

"We kept those cameras running for an entire year to capture what terrestrial animals were using these structures, how they were using them, when they were using them,” said Trevarrow.

The motion-activated cameras captured eagles perched on logs, resting and preening their feathers.

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Altogether, 40 species were observed during the year in nearly 2000 videos. The most common activity observed was wildlife crossing the creek.

“So I have a lot of videos of cougars, a lot of bobcats. I have a black bear crossing a few times. I have a lot of videos of kingfishers smacking crayfish on logs, claws flying everywhere, so that was really exciting to see,” said Trevarrow.

Although downed trees end up in the water naturally, river restoration efforts going back to the 1980s have included adding wood to the water in places where it's lacking. 

Now we know it's good for land critters, too. 

OSU is expanding the research by installing 30 cameras in the Cascades this summer.  All of the findings will help fish and wildlife officials better manages waterway habitats for wild critters. 

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