August 11, 2011
Create Your Own Wildlife Sanctuary
Welcome wild neighbors into your outdoor space and join our Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program
by Debra Firmani
Whether you have a big backyard or a tiny terrace, your outdoor space can help wild animals find the food, water, cover, and shelter they need. Our Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program is here to show you how!
Right in your backyard
With less grass and more native plants, your yard will become a magnet for nesting birds, butterflies, beneficial bees, small mammals, toads, turtles, and other creatures. Protect these vulnerable animals—and especially their young—by keeping your cat indoors. Be on the lookout for orphaned or injured wildlife who may need help.
A little planning goes a long way
With a rough plan for your yard in mind, you can begin to focus on individual elements, such as trees, hedges, and brush piles to provide cover and nesting places. Offer nesting materials and nest boxes. Add a bee block so bees can overwinter in your yard and pollinate your garden next spring and summer. Think about cultivating a wildlife-friendly garden, too.
Are you yardless?
Even the smallest patio or apartment balcony can hold a birdfeeder and plants that provide food for butterflies. You can also easily offer the most important ingredient of any wildlife sanctuary: clean water. Though especially popular on hot summer days, providing water in winter can mean the difference between life and death.
Keep it humane
Part of having a humane backyard means seeking humane solutions to any wildlife problems. If you need to use a wildlife control company, find a responsible one (such as our Humane Wildlife Services, serving the D.C. Metro area), and know the reasons not to use traps when evicting wildlife. Carefully evaluate when installing a fence makes sense and when patience and tolerance will suffice.
To everything there is a season
Winter, spring, summer, and fall each offer exciting wildlife viewing opportunities. Take time to watch and listen. You’ll learn about wildlife nesting and parenting, and you’ll have some amazing photo opportunities. Check out our list of helpful books and websites for more ideas and tips. In no time at all, you'll be enjoying beauty and diversity of nature every time you step outside. Don’t forget to apply for your yard to be recognized as an official Urban Wildlife Sanctuary!
Debra Firmani is a writer and long-time advocate for animals and nature. Her articles on wildlife, wild lands, backyard habitat creation, and nature education have appeared in print and online.