Creating a backyard wildlife habitat is not only a fun project for the whole family, it is also a great way to “go green.” According to the National Wildlife Federation, backyard habitats can reduce wasted water, re-establish native plants, and generally improve the health of the environment. It also has an economic payoff: it reduces water bills and increases the value of a home.
Backyard Nature
Building Your Habitat:
1. Learn about wildlife in your area. You can do this by reading field guides for your region, consult the state department of wildlife, talk to neighbors or look for local organizations and clubs. Once you’ve determined the most common wildlife, decide what you would like to attract. This can range from a large variety of birds, butterflies, mammals and reptiles. Also plan to discourage unwanted visitors. There may be bear or coyote in your area, but it’s not advisable to attract them to your habitat. Native wildlife prefer native plants, so inspect your yard for invasive non-native plants and replace them with sustaining native plants.

2. Water is essential to any backyard habitat but often overlooked. The wildlife simply won’t show up without a steady supply of fresh water. You may be lucky enough to have a pond or stream in your yard, but most people will need to create a water source. You can have a lot of fun with this feature. There are a large variety of kits for water features that make it easy to put together an attractive feature, but you can also make one. Just remember that your goal is to attract a variety of wildlife, so consider all of their needs, and remember to change the water often and keep it chemical free.

3. In order for your wildlife to sustain itself year after year, you need to create shelters for safety and to raise young. Check your resources to find out what is best for the animals in your area, but there are a few essentials that belong in nearly every habitat. Birds need some sort of bush or low tree to take shelter in case of predators, and small mammals like brush piles or thick coverings. Human-made shelters are fine too, and there are a variety of butterfly, toad and bat houses that can be bought or made.

4. Foods can either be found naturally in your habitat or supplied by you. While you will probably supply most bird seed or grains for mammals, consider planting plants to feed your wildlife. A hummingbird/butterfly garden is functional and beautiful, and small animals will thrive on their own vegetable garden. Don’t forget some wildlife, like bats and toads will help you with unwanted insects. In addition to a variety of foods, provide your wildlife with appropriate feeders that make it easy and safe for them to feed.

Maintaining Your Habitat:
1. Avoid chemicals in your habitat. In order to create a healthy environment, you need to keep pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals out of the area. You will find that after a while, a healthy balanced environment is easier to take care of.

2. Re-assess every season. Are you attracting the wildlife you want? Is your habitat healthy? Is maintenance too time consuming? You may want to change tactics, size or type of wildlife based on your experiences.

3. Check for and remove invasive plants. You’ll find that after a few years of eliminating non-native plants, your environment will be healthier and easier to maintain.

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