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Ask the SPCA: Attracting wildlife to your yard

June 13, 2016

Question: I just moved into a house with a large yard, and I’d like to attract some wildlife. What can I do?

Practically everywhere, wild animals are facing increased pressure from urban development. Creating wildlife-friendly green spaces, therefore, is an excellent way to help relieve at least some of this pressure. ‘Humane backyards’ offer wild animals natural sources of food, water and shelter, a place to care for their young, and even a corridor they can use to travel safely through the city.

Red squirrel. Photo by Colin Franks

More important than the planning and implementation, perhaps, is the shift in perspective that a humane backyard requires. In urban areas especially, we are used to tidiness; neatly planted flowers, manicured bushes and trimmed lawns have become the norm. A yard that attracts wildlife, in contrast, usually looks a little ‘wild’ itself. But the reward of giving safe haven to wildlife is well worth the effort – and the ‘mess’!

Here are just a few quick tips on attracting wildlife to your yard:

Home grown. Native plants are adapted to local climates and can provide food to wildlife year-round. They also attract native insects which, in turn, attracts the wild animals who eat them.

Just a litter bit. Piles of leaf litter can provide a place for insects, birds, and amphibians to find food, hide, nest and overwinter in. They also serve as a natural mulch to fertilize the soil.

To mow or not to mow. Let a part of your lawn grow long. Long grass retains moisture better (less watering!) and provides great habitat for insects, which draws in insect-eating wildlife too.

Brush up. Brush piles made from logs, branches, flower stalks, leaves and twigs can give dense cover to small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. As the piles slowly decay, they attract more insects, providing additional food for birds.

Rock it. Rock piles, especially when positioned near water and on sunny south-facing slopes, can provide great habitat for frogs and snakes.