Seattle Parks has found a tree near the trail inside Interlaken Park that their experts say is decaying and needs to be taken care of before it falls across the trail. Only one problem: the old tree is also home to a new family of barred owls. Details on the situation and what Parks needs to do to make things safe for humans without harming the owl family, below.
A neighbor living in the area posted about the tree removal on a neighborhood message board:
Today while taking my daily walk in the park I was very surprised to see a sign on one of the trees marking it for removal.
I have over the last several months watched an owl and her family make that tree their home. I have even been lucky enough to see her flying in pursuit of her next meal!
According to Seattle Parks, a tree crew found that the tree has a decay pocket. Parks says that indicates serious structural problems and that the tree has a high potential for “failure.”
“It’s in the middle of the switchback, so it’s likely that it would fall onto the trail,” Parks’ Dewey Potter tells CHS. “A similar tree fell across the trail just last week.”
This slideshow of photos taken in March shows a barred owl family resident in Interlaken.
Potter says nothing will happen until the young owls are ready to leave the nest and that the department is looking at options to keep some portion of the tree in place so that the owls can continue to utilize the wood they chose as home:
Park will not remove the tree until the owls have fledged – I have a naturalist checking on when that is, late summer/early fall. If we can leave it as a tall snag we will do that to ensure some ongoing habitat. The removal also has cost implications. Because of the height of the tree, and depending on how high the decay goes, if our crew can’t safely climb it to take it down/create the snag, we would have to hire a large crane to get the crew up there.
Even with the precautions, there is worry that disruptions could scare the mother owl away from the quiet, leafy area permanently. “I am concerned that the tree removal will disrupt her home and make her leave the park,” the worried neighbor writes.
The owl tree project isn’t the only in Interlaken the city will have to be patient on. Interlaken Drive is expected to be closed through September as engineers assess options for repairing a cracking section of the old road.