Staff at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Colville get a lot of questions from the public. One asked recently is: I don’t have a lot of property or expertise when it comes to wild animals but would like to support local wildlife however I can. What do you suggest?
Every little bit helps and WDFW’s new “Habitat at Home” program is a great way to get started. It assists in offsetting the acres of habitat that are lost to housing and urban development each year in Washington.
Habitat is a combination of four elements; food, water, shelter, and space for animals to raise their young and survive. Your yard or garden may already be providing all of this for several species, including birds, squirrels, deer and others. Which is a good thing because wildlife habitat doesn’t just benefit wildlife, it can also benefit you. For example, planting native plants that are adapted to the natural rainfall in your area will require less maintenance on your part.
By encouraging bats to take up residence in your trees, you can cut down on mosquitos and other bugs. It’s a good idea to keep an open perimeter your house and outbuildings to be fire safe, but have an outer border of low maintenance, but pretty, native plants. A few hardy, easy to grow shrubs are ninebark, snowberry, serviceberry, and chokecherry. These provide browse for deer and food and nesting habitat for a variety of birds. They are great for pollinators too.
You can find lots of other ideas on how to make your property more wildlife-friendly at wdfw.wa.gov. Type “habitat at home” into the search bar. Some possibilities include creating a rain or container garden, making window decals to keep birds from flying into windows, and making and installing bat houses. You can also order a free starter kit at that site.
If you have a question for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, send it to email@example.com or call 509-563-5495. One question a week will be answered. In the meantime, you can find a lot of answers to fish, wildlife, and habitat questions at wdfw.wa.gov.