40 Ways to Help Wildlife in Your Backyard

Ways to Help Wildlife in Your Backyard

Whether you own a house or rent an apartment, have a large backyard garden or a planter box under your window—you can make a big difference toward helping the wildlife around you survive and thrive. Learn how to create a garden that will attract and feed a variety of wildlife and help restore and protect wildlife habitats. Here are some easy ways to create a welcome and safe environment where wildlife can prosper.

  1. Keep fresh water outside for birds and wildlife – All animals need fresh water. You can help them by keeping water in birdbaths, fountains, and ponds in shady areas of your backyard. You can also place water bowls outside around your house or garden for thirsty wildlife when they visit. Urban and suburban wildlife can have difficulty finding water depending on where they live. Refresh the water every few days. Remove any ice from frozen-over ponds and birdbaths, replacing it with fresh water.
  2. Plant a butterfly garden – Help butterflies survive and thrive by adding plants to your garden that will attract and feed them. For more about creating a butterfly garden and for a list of plants that attract butterflies, visit butterfly-friendly plants. Want to create a Monarch waystation on your deck? Here’s how.
  3. Plant a hummingbird and bird-friendly garden – Consider adding native flowering and garden plants and shrubs that will attract and feed hummingbirds and birds to your garden. Several species with red trumpet-shaped flowers can sustain hummingbirds throughout the season. See this list of plants to get you started.
  4. Plant a bee-friendly garden – Help bumblebees and honeybees in your garden or window box, with flowers that supply nectar and pollen throughout the season—like lavender and salvia. Here are some helpful tips for bumblebees and native bees. For container gardens, here’s a video on native pollinators.
  5. Plant a wildlife-friendly garden – Plant native species that provide berries, pollen, nectar, seeds, and foliage for wildlife. Include spring-, summer- and fall-flowering plants that offer a succession of blooms. Sunflowers are a good multi-purpose plant that will feed pollinators while they are in bloom and the seeds will feed the birds.
  6. Put up a bat house – Bats are great pollinators, seed dispersers, and insect predators, plus they are fascinating to watch. But they are suffering from habitat loss and environmental pollution. Help the bats by giving them an inviting home outside, and you’ll be making sure they don’t find a warm place inside your home! Here are some good tips for building a habitat and bat house.
  7. Attract beneficial bugs to your garden – Learn how you can attract insects that will help your garden and yard thrive. Here are more ways to attract beneficial insects to control garden pests.
  8. Hang birdfeeders to feed wild birds – Providing birdseed especially during winter months can help birds survive the cold, snow and ice. If you do start feeding the birds, be sure to avoid abruptly or periodically stopping your feedings, as birds can depend on your food source. If you do start feeding, keep your feedings as regular as possible. Try to feed high-quality, non-commercial birdseed, and select a food mixture that is specifically made for the birds that visit your backyard.
  9. How to attract dragonflies to your backyard – Learn how to attract beautiful dragonflies to your backyard. Dragonflies feed on mosquitoes, gnats, flies, ants, and termites so they’re very beneficial for your garden.
  10. Make a pond for wildlife – This is one of the most important things you can do to protect wildlife. Make sure your pond has shallow edges for easy access for frogs and newts. Here are easy instructions for building a backyard pond. Stock your pond with plants that are specifically used for stocking ponds and will keep your pond clean. Control the algae without using harmful chemicals.
  11. Help the frogs! – Frogs are encountering serious threats from humans due to residential and commercial development, habitat loss, water pollution, climate change, disease and invasive species. Learn why frogs matter and how you can help them. Visit how to bring frogs into your backyard.
  12. Avoid feeding mammals – Mammals such as deer, raccoons, skunks and possums should never be fed. By feeding them, they become dependent on humans, will lose their fear of us, and can lose their ability and desire to find their own food sources. Feeding them leaves them more vulnerable to starvation and harm by humans.
  13. Found an orphaned or injured baby animal? Not sure if the baby animal you found is actually orphaned or injured? Here are some signs that a wild animal needs your help.
  14. Avoid using insecticides, pesticides or herbicides outside – By using these chemicals, you risk killing and harming wildlife, birds, bees, reptiles, pets and even humans. All animals’ nerves work in the same way, and these chemical killers work to kill small and large animals alike and endanger human and environmental health. Insects are food for birds and wildlife and are needed for a healthy ecosystem. Pull your garden weeds instead of using herbicides. Here are ways to maintain a chemical-free lawn.
  15. Grow plants that are natural insect repellents – Among your flowers and vegetables, you can add plants that will naturally repel insects, instead of using any noxious chemicals. Plants like citronella grass, clovers, common lantana, dill, fennel and other herbs will keep a variety of insects at bay. Here’s a more complete list.
  16. Avoid using any poisons or chemicals outside – It’s not necessary to use harmful, toxic chemicals or poisons to get rid of ants, slugs or other natural creatures. If you want to get rid of beetles, grasshoppers, ants, earwigs, slugs and more, then see these ingenious natural and harmless tips.
  17. Avoid using chemical fertilizers in your garden or yard – Chemical garden fertilizers use dangerous levels of phosphorus and nitrogen that can pollute water systems, causing algae blooms and killing mammals and fish, while damaging the environment. It’s best to use only natural fertilizers such as compost, and use only the amount you need. Here’s more about different types of organic fertilizer.
  18. Avoid using “bug lights” or “bug zappers” – These lights and zappers end up killing many good and harmless insects that are food for birds, bats, reptiles and many other animals. Instead wear insect repellent and protective clothing. Here’s more about bug zappers.
  19. Rake and pile leaves in a corner of your garden – Leave a pile of fallen leaves, twigs, branches and other yard debris in a shady corner of your property. Let it pile up and decay. It will eventually break down into mulch. Meanwhile it will provide a great home for frogs, newts, worms and other kinds of tiny creatures.
  20. Replace your lawn with a natural wildlife-friendly garden – Create a humane garden in place of your lawn. Or replace your lawn with a type of fescue grass. By doing these, you’ll give a boost to nature.
  21. Keep domestic cats inside your house – Since cats are predators, keep them indoors. Train them to be indoor-only cats. To help them, you can build a kennel or cat enclosure on a patio, or along a side or back of the house. Add shelving, a ladder, and a cat door for cats to access the kennel. This way your cats can enjoy the best of both worlds in the safety of an enclosure. Here are some ideas for building an enclosure.
  22. Create needed cover and protection for wildlife – Wildlife needs safe places to hide as well as cover from the elements and weather. Add plants that provide cover like native shrubs, vegetation, brush and even dead trees! Find out which plants are native for your landscape.
  23. Let the worms, bugs and beetles keep the soil healthy – Healthy soil will produce plants that are better able to resist insects and disease. You can add organic matter and nutrients, but avoid synthetic fertilizers.
  24. Add a birdhouse or two to your backyard – Consider helping your backyard birds “nest” by providing a safe nesting place with a birdhouse. Identify which birds inhabit your backyard, then design and build a birdhouse factoring in the proper size birdhouse for that particular bird; the right diameter hole; and the best placement for the birdhouse to attract them. Here is a helpful article about building birdhouses.
  25. Avoid cutting trees down – Trees provide critical habitat for wildlife and birds. When making a decision to cut down and remove a tree or shrub, consider the impact to wildlife. A single tree can provide wildlife with much needed shade, protection, nesting territory, food, shelter and even a permanent home. Dead trees have great value for wildlife for food.
  26. Don’t use wildlife traps – Trapping wildlife is not only illegal, it’s cruel, severely painful, and causes the animal to suffer profoundly. Even if using “humane” traps – it is illegal to trap and remove or relocate wildlife. Find ways to learn to live with the wildlife around you instead. Read about alternatives to trapping and relocating wildlife.
  27. Rehabilitate wildlife – Learn how to rehabilitate the wildlife living in your area by becoming a trained wildlife rehabilitator. Attend a training course through your state Audubon chapter. See the People Helping Animals page. Visit the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
  28. Help kids get connected to wildlife – Help kids get connected to wildlife through wildlife and nature lesson plans and resources. Visit National Wildlife Federation for resources and ways to connect kids with nature and conservation.
  29. Help kids learn more about animals – Here is a great list of animal-related websites that are educational, provide loads of resources, animal facts and tools for teachers.
  30. Plant a garden on your school grounds – Attract wildlife like birds, bees, butterflies and frogs and have your garden certified by the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Wildlife Habitat program.
  31. Dispose of waste properly in a container – Avoid injuring wildlife in your backyard or area, by properly disposing of waste and litter into a container with a secure lid. Many forms of plastic can be ingested causing suffering and a painful death. Plastic bags can suffocate animals. Open containers of paint, car and household products, or yard products can cause harm if ingested. Keep all containers tightly closed and inaccessible to animals. Here’s more about disposing of household waste properly.
  32. Want to learn more about wildlife? – The website All About Wildlife publishes a list of websites that include top wildlife organizations, environmental organizations, scientific websites, favorite wildlife blogs, green websites and governmental and non-profit websites for wildlife, see the list here.
  33. Get out and vote for politicians that support and protect wildlife! – Get to know the voting record of your state and federally elected politicians and whether they are helping or hurting wildlife and the environment. This is one of the most important actions you can take to protect wildlife. Visit the Humane Scorecard , Humane Society Legislative Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, and Vote Smart for more information about political candidates and elected officials, and how they vote.
  34. Volunteer at wildlife centers, sanctuaries and wildlife preserves – Be a helper to wildlife by volunteering!
  35. Join Wildlife Gaining Ground Initiative – Simple actions benefit wildlife and help conservation efforts. Help to build a healthy relationship between people and nature. Join the Initiative!
  36. Join a conservation organization – Protect wildlife by joining, volunteering and donating to a conservation organization. Here are 10 excellent conservation organizations that are effective at protecting wildlife and wildlife habitats.
  37. Hold a school Arbor Day native tree planting – Visit the National Arbor Day Foundations website for more information.
  38. Celebrate National Wildlife Week – Explore nature and wildlife in your neighborhood or at your children’s school. Learn more through the National Wildlife Federation.
  39. Find humane solutions to all wildlife problems – When animals come to live in your house or garage, learn how to find humane solutions for relocating these creatures outside.
  40. Consider a career in conservation – Join the thousands of people that work to protect wildlife and the environment everyday—worldwide! Visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Careers in Conservation.

 

 

 

 

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