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Dealing with Wildlife in the Garden and Yard

A Different Kind of Wildlife Challenge

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For Earth Day 2007, the Humane Society of the United States gave us 10 resolutions to consider incorporating into our daily lives. Most are things we seldom think about, like not cutting down dead trees in spring, because small animals and birds have begun nesting in them. All are easy, common sense ways to be a little gentler with nature.

As gardeners, we don't always concern ourselves with wildlife any more than wildlife treat our gardens with the respect. But most of us try to find a way to live cooperatively with the wilds around us. We like to bend nature to our tastes, but we try to do so with respect. Here are 10 more ways to appreciate the beauty and bounty of nature in our own backyards.


Take the Earth Day 2007 Backyard Wildlife Challenge

The Humane Society of the United States urges people to commit to
10 Earth Day Resolutions at Home

The Humane Society of the United States wants Earth Day 2007 (April 22) to kick-off a backyard wildlife awareness campaign that will encourage people to make a few simple commitments that can greatly benefit the earth’s wildlife. According to Laura Simon, field director of urban wildlife for The HSUS, “People can take some very easy steps with wildlife in mind -- that cost little time and no money – which will make a significant difference for our planet.”

  1. Clean it up: Think about streams and ponds. Every stream is connected to something else -- another stream, a pond, a lake. Trash finds its way from one to the other, and an array of wildlife along the way can be injured or sickened by it. Visit your local stream or pond and pick up trash that you find. The results will be felt far downstream.

  2. Let it grow: No matter how small a patch you dedicate, letting your lawn grow into a meadow not only cuts down on pollution and the use of fossil fuels, but it also greatly increases habitat for birds and butterflies and other interesting critters. This could be one of the most important commitments you will ever make to planet earth.

  3. Leave them wild: Make a commitment never to buy a “novelty” wild animal as a pet – it is very difficult to satisfy their needs in captivity, and that often means an unhappy outcome for all concerned. As cute as a baby turtle may be, it is far better off in the wild. Take your kids for a walk to the local pond where they can see these and other wildlife where they should be – in the wild.

  4. Go native: Use plants that are native to your area. Not only will they thrive better, resist disease and often injury or attack from plant eating insects and mammals, but they will also require less maintenance, freeing you up to do nothing but enjoy them.

  5. Keep cats indoors: Even the gentlest, well-fed house cat will prey on wildlife instinctively when given the chance. Outdoor-roaming cats are at risk for accidents and diseases that can drastically limit their own lifespan as well. Do wildlife and your cat a favor by keeping cats indoors.

  6. Save trees: Spring cleaning is in the air, but this is the worst time to cut down hollow trees because squirrels, raccoons, woodpeckers, flying squirrels, and others are nesting in them. “Dead” trees are anything but; they are thriving habitats for insects and animals who can benefit people and other wildlife. Keep them standing if possible.

  7. Scrap the trap: If you capture and relocate a “nuisance” wild animal this time of year, it is likely to be a mom, which means helpless young will be left behind to starve. Instead use eviction strategies (tips at www.wildneighbors.org ) to solve wildlife conflicts.

  8. Cut them up: Disarm (cut) plastic 6 pack holders before disposal so that wild animals cannot get tangled up, injured or die in them.

  9. Rinse it out: Thoroughly rinse and safely discard food jars. Hungry raccoons and skunks can get their heads stuck in peanut butter, jelly, yogurt or other containers. If you clean the containers before disposing of them, you will literally be saving lives.

  10. Check it out: Walk your yard and look carefully for rabbit nests before mowing in the spring -- the nests can be hard to see, the mother rabbit digs a shallow hole in the grass and puts her babies in it where they stay for 3 weeks until weaned and self-sufficient.

The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program promotes non-lethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife and cultivates understanding and appreciation for wild animals commonly found in cities and towns. On the web at www.wildneighbors.org.

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