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September 27, 2009

Drawing Wildlife to Your Front Door

All Animals July/August 2009 Wildlife feature bird

Kathy Milani/The HSUS

by Ruthanne Johnson

If you want an up-close view of animals in your yard, you may need to create a more inviting landscape.

Start with the basics: food, water, and shelter. Add natural plantings, build a pond, or create a brush pile.

As one of his backyard projects, The HSUS ’s Dave Pauli added a few plank boards to give insects a cozy hiding place, attracting a host of birds and other insect-eating animals. Many of the insects have brought benefits of their own; one species known as the ant lion helps keep ant populations in check.

Nature writer Debra Firmani and her family transformed their half-acre lawn into a mini wildlife habitat by resisting the urge to mow the grass and adding native evergreens, berry bushes, and other plants.

They also cut down an unsafe tree and sawed the trunk into segments that they placed around the yard for insects and other cavity-dwelling critters. Since the change, they have counted more than 50 species of birds in their yard—a ripe learning ground for Firmani’s bird-loving son, Marcus.

“We recently saw a pileated woodpecker land on the stump and heard two barn owls hooting one night,” says Firmani.

These minor changes were essential in creating a wildlife-friendly environment in which observation opportunities abound. The Firmanis’ small yard is a testament to the fact that nature lovers don’t need an expanse of land to provide a haven for wildlife.

Even a bird feeder or butterfly garden on an apartment balcony will send an invitation to wild animals, whether they are passersby or potential boarders.

Welcome, Neighbor!

The HSUS' Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program helps animal lovers roll out the welcome mat for their wild neighbors. All you need to do is provide food, water, and shelter on your land and commit to finding humane solutions to conflicts.

Once your property is an official HSUS wildlife sanctuary, you will receive a metal sign, certificate, and decal—all of which is sure to tantalize your neighbors into opening up their yards to wildlife, too.

For more information and to apply, click here.

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