Just in time for World Wildlife Day on March 3, here are quick, small changes you can make around the house and yard to help wildlife near and far.
How can we show our appreciation for animals—beyond cooing over a YouTube video of an otter playing basketball? These five easy steps take you from “awwww”-ing to assisting.
1. Think small
Most of us would never hurl an empty bottle into a delicate wetland. But we might be polluting—and harming wildlife—in much subtler ways. For example, kitty litter can be marine litter. It should never be flushed down toilets, as it can contain pathogens that damage water-dwelling critters.
And consider microbeads: miniscule plastic beads in some toothpastes, deodorants, cleansers, and other personal care products. When these tiny spheres go down the drain and reach waterways, wildlife consume them and may die as a result.
What to do: Read ingredient lists before you purchase personal care products, and steer clear of these “poly”-prefixed menaces: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).
2. Provide water … and escapes from it
It can be difficult for animals to find water, particularly in urban areas where natural water sources have been diverted or drained. Set up a birdbath or a small pool that other animals can access.
What to do: When assembling your water source, make sure it’s away from bushes that a cat or other predator could use as stalking HQs. Always install an escape route: a rough plank or branch that runs from the bottom to the top of the pool will give animals that fall in a way out, while a stick leaning out of a birdbath gives insects a helping hand. If winters are frigid where you live, remember to install an animal-safe water heater when the weather turns cold.
3. Get a wildlife sitter
You get a babysitter for your kids and a pet sitter for your pets … why not a wildlife sitter? If you have a bird feeder or water source, wildlife will come to rely on it. In fact, you may attract a higher density of critters to your neighbourhood as a result of your kindness. If you stop feeding, there may not be enough other food sources in the vicinity, and those animals could be in trouble.
What to do: Ask a friend or neighbour to keep bird feeders and water sources filled when you go away on vacation.
4. Be closed-minded
Cap your chimney: animals, especially raccoons, can become unwanted tenants in an open chimney. If you don’t like hearing your neighbour practise “Stairway to Heaven” on his guitar, you probably won’t like squeaks and squeals from above your fireplace. Convincing wildlife to leave can be difficult and traumatic for everyone involved; better to prevent it in the first place.
Windows that are left open without screens entice birds and other wildlife, and they may struggle to find their way out again. Secure/screen these windows, being especially sure to check outbuildings, garages, and attics.
What to do: If a bird or bat does get into a building, wait until dark if you can. Open doors and windows and put a light outside. Turn out all indoor lights. The bird should fly out to the light, while a bat should sense the air currents and make its exit.
5. Build a bat cave
You don’t need to go full Bruce Wayne and construct a den of crime-fighting technology. All you need to do is build a small, wooden bat house—or, alternatively, a little bee hotel. After all, birds aren’t the only ones who need housing assistance. Bats and bees, especially solitary bumblebees, could use a little help.
What to do: Use this guide to building a bat house or alive’s guide to building a bee hotel (room service optional).