As the temperatures drop and many critters settle in for a long winter's nap or fly the coop, many other critters stick around to brave the storm. Many people opt to help out the little guys (and some not so little guys) by putting out various types of feeders, myself included. While this is done with the best of intentions, it can also create problems as well. These animals become dependent on these easy food sources and stop foraging for more natural resources. What happens when you go on vacation, forget to fill the feeder or even move? One signal for migration is when food sources begin to become more scarce. What happens when food is constantly plentiful? Seed also encourages white-tailed deer to come onto your property by offering them an easy constant food source. This contributes to the over-population issues concerning white-tailed deer and is damaging to your property.
Watching wildlife in my own backyard is one of my favorite things to do and I am sure other people feel the same way. It is also a good way to educate and develop an appreciation of wildlife in children. So how can we do this and appropriately help the critters we love at the same time?
Let's think spring! Take the down time this winter to create a spring planting and management plan for your yard. Include native trees and shrubs that fruit at various times of the year or maybe specifically in winter to provide natural food sources and shelter for birds and other wildlife. Think about what species you would like to attract to your yard, your soil type, sun and shade areas, and at what time of year you would like to provide food sources and pick your plants accordingly.
Some native trees and shrubs to consider:
- Serviceberry (Juneberry), Amalanchier spp.: Summer fruiting shrub/tree.
- Spicebush, Lindera benzoin: Fall fruiting shrub. You will need both a male and female plant.
- Prairie Rose (Climbing Rose), Rosa setigera: Fall fruiting shrub.
- Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosa: Fall fruiting shrub/tree.
- Winterberry, Ilex verticillata: Winter fruiting shrub. You will need both a male and female plant.
- Red Chokeberry, Aronia arbuifolia: Winter fruiting shrub.
Some helpful links for habitat planning:
- Ohio Native Plant Vendors and Information
- Birdscaping: Creating Your Landscape to Attract Birds
- NRCS/USDA Wildlife Habitat
So snuggle up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate, think spring and start creating a native planting plan for your backyard wildlife oasis! Wildlife need all the help they can get in this ever developing world.
Blog author: Kelly Parker, Urban Conservationist