Creating a Wildlife Sanctuary

Cultivating a haven to attract feathered and not-so-feathered friends in your yard can be simple and fun.

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Speckled Eggs in Nest Inviting wildlife into your backyard or garden can be done on a small or large scale.

Trying to attract a bevy of birds, butterflies and other scampering critters to your garden? You may already be attracting wildlife without knowing it.

"The great thing about creating backyard wildlife habitats is that you can do it anywhere with any size yard and with any budget," says naturalist David Mizejewski. "All wildlife species need four things to survive - food, water, cover or shelter, and places where wildlife can raise their young."

Adding these elements to your yard can be done in very simple ways:

  • Consider using native plants in your garden. Native plants are adapted to the growing conditions in your area and typically require less water, fertilizer and maintenance than other plants. They are often good sources of natural goodies, like berries and nectar, for wildlife and have already been providing food to native wildlife for years. Be sure to select a variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year and have year-round seasonal interest in your area. If space is limited in your yard, select one plant that can be used by wildlife for a variety of purposes throughout the year.
  • Evergreen trees and shrubs provide shelter for wildlife year-round. Evergreens are useful for humans too; they serve as windbreaks in the landscape and can help to keep homes shaded and cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • Water is an essential element to any wildlife habitat. Animals need clean water sources to bathe and have drinking water. "The water feature that you have does not have to be big. It can be as simple as a small birdbath, a shallow dish on the ground that you change every couple of days so that you don't have mosquitoes. Or it can be something more elaborate. You might be lucky to have a big area with a natural pond or a simple pond off the patio," Mizejewski says. Be sure to add vegetation to aid critters in getting into and out of the pond easily.

Not all elements, like shelter and food sources, included in a wildlife sanctuary need to be created naturally. Manmade items, such as birdhouses and bird feeders, can be added to the landscape.

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