Why provide for wildlife? As we enter the 21st century, natural places - and the plants and animals that inhabit them - face ever increasing pressure from human activity. Today, there are no places left on Earth that have not been affected in some way by our actions, and the quality of wildlife habitat continues to dwindle at a rapid rate. As a result, habitat loss has become the number one threat to wildlife today.
This loss of habitat results from a variety of human activities: sprawling development destroys wild areas; domestic animals compete for food resources or kill wildlife; overuse of chemical pesticides and fertilizers pollutes the air, soil and water; exotic plants from our gardens invade natural areas and replace the native plants upon which wildlife depends.
Wildlife species and the natural areas they need to survive are important and should be protected and restored. Imagine life without the songbirds and the chirring of crickets, the beauty of a windswept prairie, or the cool serenity of a green woodland. Imagine a child growing up without having the opportunity to watch a tadpole changing into a frog, to smell a wildflower, or to wade in a clear stream. Without natural areas, humanity, as well as wildlife suffers.
It's easy to feel like there is no hope for wildlife in our modern world of asphalt, smog, and traffic. Fortunately, there is a way for you to do something to help wildlife - right in your own backyard, school, community, park or farm! Start a Wildlife Habitat of your own today, and help wildlife in your environment.
The 4 Basic Needs for a Wildlife Habitat
A Backyard Wildlife Habitat site is a mini-ecosystem with multiple food chains. You should supply as much food as possible through native vegetation in order to meet the year-round needs of a variety of species. Trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, succulents, and even grasses produce foods such as acorns and other nuts, berries, fruits, and seeds. Buds, catkins, foliage, twigs, sap, nectar, and pollen are all other important wildlife food produced by plants.
For birds, natural food sources can be supplemented through feeders. The best feeder foods are sunflower, thistle, proso millet, cracked corn, and suet. In summer, you may provide sugar water in hummingbird feeders to supplements the insects and natural nectar that seasonal flowers produce.
Like food, every living thing needs clean water, for drinking, bathing, and sometimes breathing! Nature provides water to wildlife in a multitude of ways that can be replicated in your habitat.
How you provide water will depend upon how much space you have and how much money you want to spend. Water can be provided in something as simple as a shallow dish, like the drainage pan of a flower pot or the classic bird bath. If you have a lot of space and can afford it, a large, professionally excavated pond can be installed.
Be sure to keep in mind the different types of wildlife that might use your property when selecting and designing your water feature. An elevated birdbath is fine for flying and climbing animals, but creatures like toads, rabbits and turtles will need water provided closer to the ground to meet their needs.
Wildlife needs protective cover just as people need the shelter of a house - both as protection from predators as well as extreme weather. Plants again play an important role in creating this component of habitat. The same plants that provide food will do double-duty as cover. Native evergreens can provide excellent cover throughout the year. Densely branched shrubbery can provide cover even if the plants are not evergreens; thorns add another element of protection. Meadow and prairie areas also provide cover for a multitude of species. A brush pile is easy to make and provides good cover for wildlife.
A variety of wooden boxes designed to house wildlife can be built or purchased. Bat boxes provide excellent housing for bats whose natural cover has been removed. Roosting boxes will be used at various times throughout the year by many species of birds and mammals, like squirrels.
4. Places to raise young
Places to raise young are needed to make your Wildlife Habitat area complete. These are places where wildlife can engage in their courtship behaviors and where they can safely nurture and raise their young. Without this unique type of cover, wildlife may pass through your habitat area to utilize food, water, and cover resources you've provided, but will not be able to take up a truly permanent residence in all stages of their life cycles.
Brush piles, mature trees, ponds, tall grasses, and dense shrubbery will all be used by some species as places to raise young as well as for cover. Dead or dormant plants, such as dead tree snags or dormant meadow and prairie plants are also great places for wildlife to raise their young.
Bird nesting houses for native species provide a place for birds to nest and raise their young. Many species of insects and amphibians require standing bodies of water to lay their eggs. Tadpoles are fully aquatic for the first stage of their lives, as are dragonflies.
Union Twp. Fire Department
Clay Township Regional Waste District
Promoting the preservation, enhancement, and restoration of wildlife habitat, especially in urban and suburban areas, this program not only aims to minimize the loss of habitat in developing areas but also raise the public's awareness and knowledge of the benefits of wildlife habitat. IWF provides public support through signage and media opportunities at the end of the certification process.
IWF can help you transform your backyard into a Wildlife Habitat! Click here to find out which Certification Program is right for you.
There are many more state and federal conservation programs for private lands that provide incentive to landowners looking to make their land more wildlife friendly. You can also find contact information for your regional Soil and Water Conservation district by clicking here for more information on current or upcoming programs and incentives.