Creating a Wildlife Habitat Plan

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atural habitat in this country, and the world at large, is disappearing at a frightening pace. Buildings and parking lots have replaced forests and prairies, ponds have been filled for additional land, and the list of endangered species grows longer every year. Much of the habitat that remains is polluted by insecticides and industrial wastes. It is easy to get discouraged, but by planning and providing the four essentials for wildlife – food,

water, shelter, and space –
each individual can help to restore the natural habitat which benefits all of us.

Step 1 Set Your Objectives The first step in designing your wildlife habitat plan is to define your personal objectives. While you are helping wildlife, you also want to create an environment that complements your own interests. Some possibilities to consider include: Wildlife watching Nature photography s Fishing s Gardening s Hunting s Sharing nature experiences
s s

Congratulations! By deciding to enhance your property for wildlife, you are on the way to providing beauty for your home, creating excitement for your family, and affecting the future survival of wildlife in your area. No matter what the size of your property or budget, you CAN make a difference.

Maybe you want to attract more species to your property, or just want to start by installing new feeders or birdhouses. Adding a water feature and planting new trees and shrubs

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for food and cover are other possibilities. If you have an acreage, you might consider setting some land aside to plant soybeans, millet, grain sorghum, or sunflowers, then leave the crop for winter food for wildlife. Be reasonable, taking into account the amount of both time and money that you are prepared to invest.

round feeding and watering station. Food s Berries s Nuts s Seeds s Nectar s Insects s Worms Providing a variety of foods is one of the most important aspects of your wildlife habitat, and the best way to attract more species. Water s Pond s Birdbath s Stream s Spring Is there water year-round. Do you have space to build a pond. Water is essential for all wildlife, and adding a water feature can create a focal point for your habitat plan. Cover s Evergreens s Tall grasses s Rock piles s Snags (dead trees) s Nest boxes s Brush piles s Dens s Rock walls Wildlife needs protection from both weather and predators. It is important for cover to be close to food and water. If you have the room, consider hedgerows, which provide food in a protected environment. Suitable plants include

dogwood, redbud, elderberry, locust, and wild cherry. You should also analyze the amount and location of sunlight during the day, temperature range through the year, soil moisture, and what percentage of the property is already covered by structures and plants.

Step 2 Study Your Property Look around and list what features already exist on your property. As you consider what resources you want to add, you should keep in mind the four requirements of wildlife: Food Water s Cover s Space
s s

Step 3 Measure Your Property Measure the boundaries and the outside dimensions of all existing structures. Sketch a rough map, then use graph paper to draw it to whatever scale you choose. Indicate any plant and water features. Show compass direction and prevailing wind patterns. Include habitat elements on neighboring properties. Sometimes you can team up with neighbors to combine assets in a “cluster" plan. If you have already observed specific wildlife species in a certain area, show that also.

Strive for diversity. A variety of plants and trees reduces the impact of disease or insect damage, as well as providing food and cover at different times of the year. Consider the following: Plants s Large trees s Small trees s Shrubs s Perennials s Grasses s Annuals s Wildflowers s Vines If you can’t plant more trees and shrubs, set up a year-

Step 4 Deciding What To Add Try to include native, or at least non-invasive, plants. Be patient. Even if you can only add one component at a time, it will make a difference. Add your proposed projects to your map. Leave room for anticipated growth. Develop an action plan with a schedule and budget for the projects that you have chosen, and plan to re-

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evaluate your habitat each year. If you need additional help, contact a local Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist. Dead Trees Also known as “snags," dead trees are important food and nesting sites for over 40 species of birds and more than 20 kinds of animals. If they are not endangering people or structures, consider letting these resources remain as part of your wildlife landscape. Feeders There are many types in addition to the common birdseed feeders: suet, fruit, hummingbird, squirrel, moth, deer, pheasant, and quail. Do some research to learn what the species you want to attract likes to eat. Space Although this may be the hardest element to provide, everyone has room for wildlife, even if it’s only an apartment window box to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Different species have different range requirements. For example: Red Squirrel: .8 to 3.8 per acre Woodchuck: 1.3 to 10 per acre Eastern Chipmunk: 2 to 4 per acre White-tailed Deer: 100 per mile Remember, as your habitat matures, the less “manicuring" you do, the better it will be for wildlife. Let tree branches hang to the ground, leave some yard areas unmowed, and consider seeding part of your property in wildflowers and grasses.

Recommended Species
The following are just a few of the species and varieties that are suitable for your wildlife habitat. Many offer more than one benefit, such as cover and food. Study your plan, especially the temperature and moisture factors, and discuss with a local nursery what will grow well in those conditions. Talk to a Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist about what plants will attract the species you prefer. Above all, have fun with your new habitat! LARGE TREES: Ash, green and white Beech, American Birch, river Cherry, black Cypress, bald Gum, Black Hickory, Bitternut Maple, red Oak, many varieties Persimmon, Common Poplar, tulip Sassafras Sourwood Sycamore Walnut, Black Chokecherry, common Dogwood, white Fringetree Serviceberry, downy Hornbeam, American Pawpaw Arrowood Azalea, flame Blackhaw Elderberry Sumac, several varieties Spicebush Wax myrtle Witchhazel Cedar, eastern red Hemlock, eastern Pine, white Pine, Virginia




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Butterfly Gardening
While many people plant pretty flowers that are attractive to adult butterflies because of their nectar, if you want lots of butterflies you must also provide host plants for the caterpillars. Often individual species will only be attracted to one type of plant, and will look for the garden that provides it. It is also important not to use poisons, such as insecticides, since these may kill the butterflies in their larval stage. Some types of butterflies and their favorite host plants are listed below. NAME Monarch HOSTS Milkweed family Butterfly Weed Spreading Dogbane Thistle Sunflower Burdock Wild Cherry Birch Poplar Ash NECTAR Milkweed

This article was written by Thomas D. Patrick, President, WindStar Wildlife Institute. It was edited by Maryland Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist Cathy Gilleland. For more information or for the name of a Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist in your area, please contact: WindStar Wildlife Institute E-mail:

Painted lady

Aphid Honeydew

WindStar Wildlife Institute is a national, non-profit, conservation organization whose mission is to help individuals and families establish or improve the wildlife habitat on their properties.

Tiger swallowtail

Thistle Milkweed Honeysuckle Bee-Balm

Black swallowtail

Queen Anne’s Lace Milkweed Aniseroot Thistle Wild Parsnip Phlox Caraway Water-Hemlock Yellow Pimpernel Golden Alexanders Violet Black-eyed Susan


You can find many more examples in butterfly field guides or other WindStar Wildlife Institute literature. Just as butterflies have plant preferences, so does other wildlife. Once you decide which species you want to attract, you can provide the appropriate habitat. When buying plants, avoid nurseries that sell stock collected in the wild. Remember that native plants will often perform the best in your landscape because they have developed natural defenses against many insects and diseases, are generally low maintenance, are acclimated to your area, and appeal to local wildlife.

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