Back Yard Landscaping for Wildlife

May 7, 2005

Part IV

Gardening for wildlife is rapidly increasing in popularity. Home landscapes can help offset the habitat loss that occurs in urban areas. This allows a greater variety of wildlife to live near us.

Plants are the key to attracting wildlife to your property. Your plant choices and your landscape design both will determine what animals you will attract. A yard landscaped with wildlife in mind need not appear “wild.” A more traditional landscape design also can have great benefits.

What wildlife would you like to see in your yard? Perhaps you enjoy the chirp of the gray tree frog, echoing through the night air. If you’re like most people, songbirds and butterflies probably top your list.

If you want to attract particular animal groups by selecting food plants, follow these general guidelines .

  • For mammals, select vegetation that produces large fruits such as persimmons, pawpaw, and crab apples and nuts such as acorns and pecans.
  • Butterflies can be lured to your backyard by planting flowers that produce nectar for the adults and by planting vegetation that can be eaten by Laval caterpillars. Since reptiles and amphibians are primarily carnivores, furnish vegetation that provides food for their animal prey.

Tip VIII: Manage Pets

Pets can have a huge impact on wildlife. Both cats and dogs can drastically impact wildlife populations. Cats are extremely good at hunting. Their small size, agility, and speed are a lethal combination for the small animals on which they prey. Loose dogs will also harass and even kill a wide variety of wildlife species. Scientists estimate that cats are responsible for killing hundreds of millions of birds and possibly more than a billion small mammals in the U.S. each year. Just because an animal is well-fed does not mean that it won’t hunt. Cats and dogs hunt for fun, not necessarily for food. A well fed pet or stray is even more adept at hunting since it has lots of energy. Pet predation is especially problematic if you are attracting birds and other wildlife to your yard. Please take steps to insure that your yard is not the last yard that these wild animals ever visit.

Tip IX: Reduce pesticide use

Anything you can do to reduce pesticides in your yard will benefit wildlife. Most pesticides do not target one species of insect but will kill any type of insect that comes in contact with it. Thus, when you spray yard with pesticides to kill one pest species, you area also killing lots of beneficial species. Almost all wildlife species eat insects in some way. Most birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals eat insects. Even if they do not eat insect directly, their prey eat insects.
Instead of broadcasting pesticides over a large area, spot treat or use baits that target one pest species. If you spray indiscriminately, you also kill the natural predators of pest insects. The pest will actually come back quicker than their predators.