With a little time and effort, you can create your own backyard wildlife sanctuary. It is possible to draw a wide variety of animals, such as birds, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, bats, butterflies, raccoons, owls, deer, and more. In order to be an attractive refuge for wildlife, your landscape must provide for the basic needs of animals, which include cover, water, and food.
A suitable cover is one that provides a hideaway from enemies, protection from the elements, and a safe place to rest and raise young. Because different animals require different types of cover, you will attract more animals if you provide an assortment of cover types. Dead or dying trees are used by woodpeckers, flying squirrels, and owls. A combination of various trees of different heights and species will attract birds. Nest boxes and houses appeal to martins, bluebirds, hawks, owls, wood ducks, flycatchers, and many others. Brush piles are easy to build and attract cottontail rabbits, white-footed mice, weasels, box turtles, and white-throated sparrows. Rock piles draw lizards, snakes, cotton mice, and chipmunks. Construct the piles so that the larger materials are on the bottom, to provide easy entry, and the smaller on top, to provide overhead protection.
Even the most carefully constructed habitat will go unused if fresh water is not included year-round. Depending on the animal, water is needed for drinking, bathing, breeding, or because it attracts their food (insects). There are many different ways to add water to your landscape. Birdbaths provide for the birds and a shallow dish or hose placed near a bushy cover will work for small mammals, reptiles, and butterflies. A small pond or pool set into the ground will supply water for the largest variety of animals. Pools can be homes for fish, amphibians, reptiles, and insects, and provide feeding areas for birds, bats, raccoons, and many others.
Because different animals need different types of food at different times of the year, it is important to supply food for them during each season. The best way to accomplish this is to plant a wide range of plant species that will provide nuts, seeds, fruits, berries, and nectar for the various animals. Native plants are often the best. See Table 1 below for a list of plants that attract wildlife.
When planning your backyard wildlife refuge, keep in mind that the animals will need space to eat, take cover, breed, and care for their young. Take advantage of your space by mixing open, grassy places with shrub areas and spaces with taller trees. Be sure to include a comfortable observation spot from which you can watch and enjoy the animal activity in the surrounding yard.
Table 1. Wildlife Attractants
oak (all species)
For more information, visit http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0778/
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