12 Ways To Help Animals In Our Own Backyard

So I’ve warned that I was inspired the animals I saw on my trip. Well, that is still true, so I’m taking a break from talking about just the wastefulness and how it effects so to talk about the other things on the planet that it effects.

How can we help endangered species? Every time I hear about endangered animals, it’s always the tigers, eagles, pandas, elephants, rhinos and etc, nothing that’s really in our backyard or anything that we can really help without volunteering or giving away our retirement funds. Well, turns out that there is an overwhelming amount of endangered species in America. 99% of them I’ve never heard of.  So what can we do?

1.      Slow down and pay attention when driving

I say this first and foremost because it wasn’t that long ago that I saw and by saw, I mean saw, a turtle get run over. I saw guts and it’s head fly off his body just flop across the road. I was on my way to the gym. I cried all the way there and when I was done I cried all the way home. It was pathetic, but it was an awful experience. I almost chased down the car, but what was I going to do? Say, “Hey go apologize to the turtle you just killed!” No, I didn’t see the point. I don’t know if they did it on purpose. They’re lack of reaction and the way it happened made it appear that way, but I have no idea. For the sake of my sanity it would be best if I believed it was an accident and they just didn’t know they did it. I almost wrote a post about it, but I had nothing nice to say, I was too emotional and I didn’t want to write something I would regret. So I’m writing this. One million animals are hit every day by cars. http://www.culturechange.org/issue8/roadkill.htm  We have plopped our concrete death traps right in the middle of their habitats, I think the least we can do is be careful when driving through their homes.  This is just a reason not to text, drink, and mess with temperature or radio controls while driving. Stop lights and stop signs are annoying, but you have to obey them, so use them to do those things except drink. And yeah, I know that accidents happen, animals are unpredictable, but I think most deaths could be avoided by just paying attention.

2.      Place decals on windows to help birds

It is estimated that one billion birds in the U.S. die each year due to collisions with windows. http://www.birdscreen.com/PDF/Klem_AFO_Collisions1990.pdf  I honestly didn’t think this was an issue. But one billion birds is quite a lot. Birds can’t see glass, so putting multiple decals on your windows, drawing blinds, relocating bird feeders, installing tinted windows and putting screens on the outside edge of windows are just a few ways to help our flying friends stay clear of the danger. http://www.flap.org/residential.php

3.       Minimize use of Herbicides and Pesticides

Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice but the fact is they are made to kill. They may kill what we want, but they even after their death, the little bothers are still doing harm if they’re killed by either of the cides. When the cided plant or bug gets eaten, the poisons then reside in the stomach of the eater. It travels in the blood stream and if the animal is small enough it may die right away or resides in the animal that eats that animal. Not only does it affect the food chain, but herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade and build up in the soils or throughout the food chain. These poisons also cause harm to innocent insects such as bees (which are said to be responsible for getting 1/3 of what we eat started. They’re vital) and butterflies. Some groups of animals such as amphibians are particularly vulnerable to these chemical pollutants and suffer greatly as a result of the high levels of herbicides and pesticides in their habitat.

Many types of chemical fertilizers, including “treatments” to help lawns grow greener, can and do find their way into water sources, where they cause algae blooms and cause other sorts of environmental harm.

Use as few chemicals outdoors as you possibly can. Instead, research natural ways of discouraging pests and encouraging your lawn and garden to grow.

In addition, avoid using “bug lights” or “bug zappers” to kill mosquitoes and other biting insects outdoors. While these devices use light to attract insects, mosquitoes, blackflies and other blood-seeking pests are not attracted to light; they are instead attracted to heat and carbon dioxide. The result is that bug zappers end up killing thousands of harmless insects—ones that otherwise could have served as food for birds, bats and fish—while doing nothing at all to curb mosquitoes and biting flies.

4.       Recycle and Reduce Energy and Goods Consumption

By recycling and (reusing as much as we can, we reduce our impact on the environment. Additionally, by reducing the energy we consume, we take a little of the burden off our natural resources.

5.       Reduce the Threat of Invasive Species

In my environmental science class we learned a lot about this. It seems to be one of the more effective ways of killing a native population. Invasive species compete with native species for resources and habitat. They can even prey on native species directly, forcing native species towards extinction. You can encourage the growth of native species by incorporating them in your garden and find ways to welcome them into your yard. Native grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees are more likely to attract native birds, butterflies and other insects, and maybe even some threatened species.

6.       Join a Conservation Organization

There is a wide range of  conservation organizations working to protect endangered animals and habitats. Different organizations have different objectives—some work to protect a small plot of land or to protect whales, others focus on establishing good environmental policies in local government.

If you have a specific area of interest, you can often find an organization that is working to protect the species or habitats you’re most concerned about. By joining in, you can support well-organized, ongoing efforts to protect species and habitats. And if you want to participate in conservation field work, you can often get involved in specific programs within many conservation organizations that rely to a great extent on help from volunteers.

Charity Navigator is also a good website to find information on particular groups and find out if they would be good stewards of your money.


7.      Preserve Wildlife Habitat

If you are fortunate enough a person who has the say-so over what happens on an undeveloped piece of property, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant—take wildlife into consideration whenever you make a decision. A single tree can provide permanent or seasonal habitat for all kinds of wildlife, including birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles such as snakes, and small mammals.

A dead tree can often be even more beneficial than a live one. Not only do all sorts of creatures, from nuthatches to flying squirrels, like to nest in the cavities of dead trees, but mammals and birds alike often feast on the wood-eating insects that infest their trunks and branches. If possible, it is good to leave standing deadwood—dead trees that are still upright—right where it is.

Likewise, vernal pools—”wet spots” in woods or open areas that usually dry up in the middle of summer—often are not the useless puddles they may seem at first glance. Vernal pools often provide important breeding habitat for such amphibians as frogs, salamanders and newts—as well as dining facilities for animals and birds that like to eat amphibians!

8.      Set Out Water

Wild creatures are usually quite capable of finding all the food they need on their own—especially in areas where people have taken care to leave some of their natural habitat intact. Water, however, is sometimes a problem for them, especially in summer, when it dries up, and in winter, when it’s frozen. This is especially true in areas where human development has made natural sources of water difficult for wildlife to get to.

People can help by maintaining and regularly replenishing a source of clean drinking water for wildlife—a birdbath or even a small pool that other types of creatures aside from birds can reach. If you live in the North, your water supply will require some type of small heating device in winter to keep it from freezing.

9.      Set Out Food

Not all commercial bird feeds are created equal, and not all of them contain the right kinds of nutrition for many wild birds. It’s good to do a little research into the nutritional needs of the wild birds in your area, and to select a food mixture that will be of most benefit to the species you’re hoping to attract.

Keep in mind that a backyard feeder tends to attract more birds than would naturally concentrate in an area. If you then stop feeding for any reason, the birds may suffer because there isn’t enough natural food in the area to satisfy all of them. So, if you start feeding, you need to keep feeding, at least until spring arrives and natural food is more plentiful.

10.  Rehabilitate

Most states license specially trained volunteers to serve as wildlife “rehabilitators”—people who care for injured, sick or orphaned wildlife.

Wildlife rehabilitation requires special knowledge, and you should never undertake to care for a wild bird or animal yourself unless you have that training. Instead, if you find a creature that needs help, you should first take steps to make sure that bird or animal is temporarily safe and secure, and then contact someone who is a wildlife rehabilitator. Your state fish and game department probably has a list of people who can help; your state Audubon chapter can also probably be of assistance.

If you are interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator yourself, you will probably need to apprentice yourself to someone who is already doing the job. Here is a good link for information on getting started. Also, contact your state fish and game agency for licensing requirements and other information.

11.  Provide Nesting Sites And Shelter

Development by humans has not only destroyed areas where wildlife searches for food, it has also deprived birds, animals and insects of places to live and raise their young. One way we can all compensate for this loss is to replace some of these lost nesting and resting sites.

Probably the most familiar artificial nesting site is the birdhouse. And birdhouses certainly do help, especially if they are built specifically to suit the requirements of one or more of our beleaguered native bird species.

If you plan on putting up a few birdhouses, why not do a little research ahead of time to find out which birds in your area are most in need of artificial shelter—and then build or buy the types of houses that are most likely to attract them? Not unlike humans, different birds have different needs in a house, including preferences in the size of the house, its location, and the diameter of the opening. There are also precautions you can take to make sure predators can’t get into the house to kill the birds or their young.

Another type of creature that has suffered greatly from habitat loss is the bumblebee and other “solitary” bees—the bees that were pollinating America’s flowering plants for thousands of years before Europeans introduced the honeybee to our continent. You can help native bees by either building or buying a bumblebee “house” and establishing it in a suitable location. Here are some plans for a simple bumblebee house; an internet search will turn up more, as well as more information about these important and fascinating creatures.

And, speaking of important and fascinating creatures . . . bats, which help humans by eating millions of flying insects, also need places to live. Here’s a great site on building bat houses.

12.      Don’t Litter!

Check out Pictures Say a Thousand Words for a visual effect that litter has on the environment and on our animals.

Litter and improperly disposed-of refuse can trap or injure wildlife. Carelessly discarded fishing line or other plastic twine can ensnare birds and other animals, making them easy prey for predators or bringing on a lingering death. Plastic bags can also trap and suffocate some kinds of creatures, as can open containers of paints, motor oil, and other liquid chemicals. Sometimes animals mistake such products for food and end up choking on them