If you're like many, your backyard is your sanctuary from the craziness of the outside world. But did you know that you can also turn your backyard into a sanctuary for wildlife, as well? That's right. With just a little creativity and an investment in the right plants and features, you can actually create a wildlife habitat that you can even get certified by organizations like the National Wildlife Federation or your local branch of the Audubon Society.
Why Create a Wildlife Sanctuary?
Just like you, creatures big and small need a spot where they can get refreshed and also feel safe. These sanctuaries are especially important for migratory creatures, such as butterflies and birds. As they travel from their wintering grounds to their summer habitats, these creatures need places to recover from their long journeys. By adding native food plants and water sources, you can create an area that will become a sanctuary for both itinerant and local wildlife. And you don't need acres of land to have your habitat certified. You just need to prove that your little wildlife sanctuary includes:
Food sources. If possible, choose native plants, which are best suited to live in your particular environment and will, thus, require less water than non-native ones. Native plants will also be better able to thrive without added nutrients, such as fertilizer. And don't forget to add nectar plants to attract butterflies.
Cover. In general, wild creatures don't like being out in the open. So provide places where little animals can hide or escape from predators, such as your neighbor's cat. Rock piles, trees, and shrubs are good examples of cover.
Areas for raising families. Your habitat should also include areas where creatures can mate and raise their young. Good examples of that are shrubs, nesting boxes, and ponds.
Once your habitat is completed, you can apply to one of the organizations to have it officially certified. Each has slightly different requirements, so make sure to look over each organization's checklist to see what your habitat needs.
Add the Piece de Resistance
If you have the room in your yard, consider adding the piece de resistance to any backyard habitat -- a pond. Not only will a pond provide a living habitat to creatures such as frogs, but it will also provide water to visiting wildlife. Fortunately, adding a pond is a relatively easy project. You will first need to find a location in your yard that is preferably visible from your house and that will also have both shade and sunlight. Then:
Check with your utilities. Before digging, call 811 so you can learn if there are any underground utility lines in the area where you want to have your pond.
Add a pond liner. Before filling up the hole you dig with water, consider adding a pond liner. Without a liner, your pond water will slowly seep away even if you have clay soil. These liners are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and are very durable. It is important to choose a liner specifically designed for pools as some plastics may be toxic to fish. And if you use a pond liner that is not resistant to ultraviolet lights, it will break down faster. You can purchase a pond liner from a company like Billboard Tarps.
Consider adding a pump or other feature to keep the water moving. Circulating water will help keep your pond free of mosquito larvae and will also provide a pretty background sound for your sanctuary.
Landscape around your pond. Adding plants will provide a more natural looking habitat for your wildlife friends.
Add life. If you're lucky, frogs and turtles may discover your pond on their own, but if you want other creatures, you may need to add some fish and aquatic plants.
A wildlife habitat is a win-win for both you and the creatures that come to visit it. While the animals get a place to refresh and restore, you get to enjoy the company of beautiful wild creatures.