Regardless of whether your backyard is a suburban lot, 100 acres of forest, or a small city terrace, anyone can turn their backyard into a refuge for wildlife by following any number of conservation practices. The following are suggestions from the National Wildlife Federation on how to add wildlife habitat value to your outdoor space.
- Provide Food for Wildlife: Plant native forbs, shrubs, and trees. These produce the nectar, pollen, seeds, and fruit that native wildlife relies on to survive. Since native plants are adapted to local climate and soil conditions, they tend to require minimal maintenance. In addition, consider hanging feeders for birds, squirrels, or butterflies to increase food availability and add fun activity to your yard.
- Supply Water for Wildlife: Global warming and human activities have led to reduced and sometimes polluted sources of water available to wildlife. If your property already contains a body of water such as a pond or stream take steps to ensure a healthy wetland area by checking that there is no point source pollution on your property (such as fertilizer leaking from a garden or oil from a car), allowing vegetation to stand in riparian areas (or replanting these areas if needed), and by managing surrounding areas to have minimal impacts on water quality and quantity. If no water supply currently exists on your property consider installing a rain garden or even a simple bird bath. If you are feeling really inspired and you have the space and funds, look into installing an eco-pond. They not only provide an important resource for wildlife and can require very little maintenance if installed properly, but can also look very attractive, potentially increasing your property value.
- Create Cover for Wildlife: Native shrubs, grasses, and trees provide important cover for animals looking to hide from predators, people, and severe weather. Brushpiles, downed trees, and other natural or man-made shelters can also make for excellent shelter for many species.
- Give Wildlife a Place to Rear Young: Many of the same features that are good for cover such as brushpiles and flowering meadows can be used for this purpose as well. Other useful structures include ponds where amphibians can lay their eggs, specially designed birdhouses, and caves where bats can roost.