Heather W. Barron, DVM, DABVP
Hospital Director, CROW
Many people have an interest in seeing wildlife flourish, but are not sure how they might make a positive contribution. Here are ten ideas that are easy to implement.
- Plant a wildlife friendly garden (and don’t forget to use native plants). Help the birds and the bees! Even very small spaces, such as window boxes, can make a big difference for insects and other wildlife. One of the best current trends is using city rooftops as planters. Not only does this provide employees with a quick avenue to “get back to nature” and decompress on their lunch break, but is an excellent way to absorb storm run-off (up to 75% in one study!) and conserve energy by insulating the building and mitigating the “heat island” effect of cities.
- Watch pesticide, rodenticide, and other chemical use. It has been over 50 years since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, but the term “biocides” is still appropriate for much of these chemicals today as their level of destruction is rarely limited to the target species. For example, at CROW, we see a number of birds poisoned every year by herbicides and secondary rodenticide toxicosis is a leading cause of death in many species of wild animals. In several studies involving raptors and large carnivores (such as coyotes and bobcats), nearly 90% of animals tested had commonly used anticoagulant rodenticide residues in their livers. While the clinical significance of this is not fully understood, illness and even death can be a sequela.
- Provide nesting sites or shelter. Bird or bat houses, for example, will not only provide much needed habitat in areas that may otherwise offer little shelter, but they can also be attractive and fun to build! Encourage your children or local scout troop to try their hand at building a clever bird house and watch the local wildlife set up housekeeping. Having them as tenants has the added bonus of often decreasing pests in a more natural way.
- Keep your cat indoors. Domestic cats are the leading cause of death in wildlife worldwide. They are estimated to kill 2.4 billion wild birds and 12.3 billion wild mammals every year in North America alone. If this isn’t enough to motivate you to keep your kitty indoors, remember that in some studies domestic cats have been found to be the food item of choice in urban coyotes.
- Don’t feed the wildlife. Anthropogenic (human provided) food sources are harmful to wildlife in a myriad of ways. If you wish to have bird feeders in your yard, educate yourself on best practices to minimize the diseases these can spread.
- Preserve wildlife habitat. While highly manicured and cultured gardens may seem pleasing to the eye, they rarely attract the same wildlife that natural spaces do. A dead tree may be an eyesore to you, but it is home to any number of insects and other wildlife.
- Watch for wildlife traps. Properly dispose of cans, plastics, or other things that may harm wildlife. For example, cut the plastic off a six pack so that the rings won’t snare wild animals scavenging in local landfills. Support local organizations, such as Clear Your Gear here in Southwest Florida, that will keep monofilament line out of the environment where it can harm wildlife.
- Support legislation and politicians that are “green”. Become politically active and let your voice be heard. There is only one earth and we must be good stewards in order to protect wildlife and survive as a species ourselves. Being environmentally conscious as well as economically viable are not mutually exclusive propositions.
- When you travel, go as an ecotourist. Educate yourself about your options to travel in a way that promotes good stewardship of the earth and all her children.
- Support your local wildlife rehabilitation facility through membership, volunteering or donations. We can be even stronger when we work together, so join local concerns that support wildlife. Additionally, care of wildlife requires special knowledge, tools, and supplies (such as appropriate food). It is both illegal and unnecessary to keep ill, orphaned, or injured wildlife yourself. Please contact a wildlife hospital, such as CROW, if you find an animal that needs help.