There are several grand old maples on the property, the kind so large that even two people could not encircle it holding hands. One of them has been rotting out its core for a few years, and this spring an enterprising raccoon mom-to-be realized that with a little “fix up” work this would make a great apartment!
Over a period of days, we noticed a pile of wood chips around the base growing as she excavated a cavity in the lower crook of the tree where three major stem branches divided about 8 feet up the trunk from the ground. Looks like it was a lot of work but she sure did create primo lodgings, dug far enough in and down to be both protected from the elements and protected from view. Well, mostly protected. I mounted my old compact digital camera on a stick, set the timer for 10 sec, and held it up to get a few pictures.
You might think that such a large excavation from its core would be the end of the tree, but I have seen Sugar Maples virtually hollowed out and still showing significant leafing. This big, beautiful tree is beginning to lose a branch here and there during wind storms but, even though it will be weakened, I predict it will continue living for several years. And even when it does finally die it will continue to nurture life both as a major cavity tree for wildlife habitat and, in time, a nurse tree which provides nutrients for new trees and other plant life.