Dead trees are very important to wildlife.
|Dead and dying redcedars|
in a secluded old cemetery.
If you are worried about the dead limbs breaking off and causing damage, you can shorten them or even remove them and leave just the trunk of the tree standing. Don't cut the tree back more than you absolutely must -- the higher the better for snags (standing dead trees).
Figure 9 in the document, Managing Cavity Trees for Wildlife in the Northeast, depicts some bird uses of the snag at various heights.
A vine can be trained to grow up the trunk if you can't stand the look of the bare snag. In Kentucky, vines including wild grape, trumpet vine, and poison ivy will often spring up from bird-dropped seeds and cover the trunk within a few summers.
Hawks and other raptors use tall snags as perches, and in fact, will not live in an area without high perches. A few birds that nest in cavities are woodpeckers, sapsuckers, chickadees, tufted titmice, some warblers, owls, kestrels, swifts and eastern bluebirds.
|A large ground-level tree cavity|
Here's a peek into a large tree cavity. This hole is at ground level, and the hollow area is big enough that I'd be able to sit in it with lots of room left overhead! Leaves have drifted in and accumulated on the floor. This tree cavity could shelter a small bear, if we had any in Christian County, Kentucky!
We do have bobcats here. They use tree cavities as dens, but they would probably want something higher in the air. Gray fox (a good climber with its hooked claws) sometimes nests in tree cavities off the ground. Raccoons and opossums are also frequent users of both dead and living hollow trees.
|Wikimedia image by BS Thurner Hof|