Ways to Help Wildlife in Autumn

A bucket of water is a quick and easy way to help in drought.

A bucket of water is quick and easy.
This year’s drought has caused many water sources to dry up, leaving wildlife looking for new ones. If you decide to leave some water out, make sure it is weighted at the bottom (a large stone will do the trick) and has a limb or branch in it. Placing these water sources at the base of trees or beside large shrubs allows animals to have plenty of hiding places and escape routes while they’re trying to get a drink.

Leave the leaf litter for wildlife.

Consider leaving leaf litter!
Another wildlife-friendly fall practice is letting the leaves stay where they fall, instead of raking them up and sending them to the landfill.

Here are a few of the many benefits:

  • Leaves add organic matter back to the soil.
  • They provide shelter and trap moisture for insects and amphibians that depend on leaf litter to survive the winter and reproduce.
  • Leaves also provide an ideal habitat for the microorganisms that are essential to healthy soil.
  • Birds and mammals rely on leaves for their nesting material, and having a warm, well-insulated nest is critical for surviving winter.
  • Fallen leaves provide temporary, miniature pools; squirrels, chipmunks and songbirds can grab a drink from a perfectly curled leaf after a rain event.
  • Leaves offer hiding places from both predators and the cool, dry air of fall.

Keep the leaves and your grass, too…
Many folks worry that an excess amount of leaves will smother their grass, leaving unsightly dead patches in their lawn. A thick layer of leaves can quickly be reduced by mowing them into smaller pieces. You don’t need a fancy mower to do this, simply mow over the leaves a couple times. This is enough to break down larger leaves to a fine, effective mulch that will decompose faster, adding organic matter back to the lawn.

If you’re considering raking up the leaves to keep your yard “tidy”, consider raking them into your compost pile or garden beds, where they can serve as a “natural mulch” by retaining moisture and releasing nutrients back into the soil as they decompose.

For more information on the benefits of  leaf litter, you can visithttp://blog.nwf.org/2013/11/6-excuses-to-avoid-yard-work-this-fall/.

What About That Pumpkin?

Squirrels will be happy to take your leftover pumpkin.

Halloween is over and you may be eyeing that pumpkin and wondering what to do with it. Consider several of the following ways you can use your pumpkin to benefit native wildlife.

REMEMBER: Whatever you do, keep your pumpkin away from the road. Wildlife may be lured to the area by the pumpkin smell, and wildlife and roads NEVER mix!

Make it “To-Go”
Cut the pumpkin into pieces and place them on a rock or stump. Many critters like to “grab-and-run” so they can eat their snack from a safer vantage point. Cutting your pumpkin into smaller pieces will make it ideal for them.

Autumn Feast
Cut your pumpkin into two halves, and hollow them out to make two “bowls”. Drill some holes for twine or wire and fill with birdseed. Hang this buffet on a nearby branch so you can watch songbirds, and squirrels, enjoy the fall treat.

Plant the seeds
Save those seeds and watch pumpkins grow next spring. Set aside the seeds and allow them to dry. Then place them in the freezer to ensure they stay dormant until you’re ready to plant them. Pumpkin flowers attract pollinators to your garden and enhance the benefits of native insects.

If you already have a compost pile, or perhaps you’re short on time, putting your pumpkin in the compost bin may be the easiest way to make sure it benefits the bacteria and other organisms that breakdown composted items. After a few months, the composted material will make an excellent addition to flower beds and vegetable gardens.

Cut your leftover pumpkin into chunks to-go.

Prevent Wildlife Conflicts This Winter

Even though the fall season has been relatively hot and dry, wildlife knows cold weather is on the way. And this is the time of year many animals seek places to build nests and burrows for the winter. Unfortunately what sometimes appears to be a “perfect”  spot for them is actually the attic or crawlspace of your home!

These conflicts can be prevented by carefully going over the seams of your home, and identifying places that may provide access. Even a small crack or loose board is enough to entice a resourceful animal to make it a winter retreat.

Identify places that may provide easy access.

Many access points can be sealed with galvanized hardware cloth that has been stapled into place and covered with dirt and gravel where appropriate. Other spots may be sealed with aluminum flashing or an extra piece of trim.

Keep in mind that once an animal is living in or under your home, there are still humane ways of evicting it without trapping. Trapping often causes enough stress to put the animal into cardiac arrest. Other times, the animal will die of self-inflicted wounds sustained will panicking or trying to escape the trap.  Many individuals fail to check the trap on a regular basis and some animals die of dehydration.

Seal openings with aluminum flashing or extra trim.

Even if the animal survives the trapping process, due to the stress of being handled by humans, they often will not survive the relocation process. Wildlife depends on having a territory that is familiar to them, where they know dangerous and safe areas, the water source, and where they likely have siblings, parents, and offspring. Relocating a wild animal removes all these important resources and often forces them into conflicts and dangerous situations while they frantically try to find a water source and safe place to live.

In addition to directly or indirectly killing the wild animal, trapping does not resolve the fact that an access point into the home remains, and inevitably more animals will find it.

Once an animal has decided to live in your home, there are humane and effective ways to encourage wildlife to relocate.

Used cat litter, ammonia moth balls and/or ammonia-soaked rags can be make an area less attractive to smaller wildlife. Lights and noise can deter others; a radio and spotlight left on for a few nights can discourage wild animals from trying to make a nest or burrow in the area. A one-way door placed over the access point can allow an animal to leave but not return.

There are humane ways to evict wildlife from your home.

Humanely evicting wild animals requires a basic knowledge of their daily habits and natural history. Doing so makes it less likely your efforts will compromise the animals’ survival or separate them from their babies.

Often a temporary shelter (such as a nestbox) placed outside of the newly-sealed access point will keep evicted animals from being left “out in the cold” and vulnerable to predators while they secure a new, natural nest site.

There are numerous resources for learning more about sealing and securing your home and humanely evicting wildlife. Some of our favorites include UrbanWildlifeRescue.com andwww.greenwoodwildlife.org. These websites offer helpful and practical tips for wildlife conflicts.

Another great resource is the book, Wild Neighbors, by John Hadidian, which offers a thorough overview of various wild animals, their habits and how to handle potential conflicts with them.