Friday, April 6, 2012

Backyard Woods - Attracting Wildlife

Like you, wildlife requires food, water, shelter, and space. Your backyard woods has all of these things and is likely already home to a host of wildlife species. But not all woods are created equal. In some, wildlife merely survives, in others it thrives.
No matter how large or how small your backyard woods, there are choices you can make and actions you can take to increase the number and variety of wildlife species. Getting to know the local wildlife and the capabilities of your land, setting clear objectives, and understanding your options will help you maximize the appeal of your backyard woods to wildlife.
Planning is key. Remember that every piece of land has its limits, and all the things you want may not be possible. Sound planning will help you avoid disappointments down the road.

Get to know the local wildlife
Learning the types of wildlife in your area will clue you into the possibilities for your woods. Next, hone your expectations—it’s important to be specific. Consider whether you will be viewing, photographing, trapping, hunting, or just appreciating the wildlife in your woods. Keep in mind that not all wildlife will make your woods their permanent home. Some will come to raise their young, while others may simply pass through on their way to other places. Still others will visit regularly, but be unable to meet all their needs in your woods alone.

Learn the lay of your land
The more you know about your land the better able you will be to enhance its value for the wildlife you desire. Explore your woods and discover what makes it unique. Also visit others’ woods to help you identify what sets yours apart. Here are some things to consider:
• Are the trees all of one type, or are there lots of different types?
• Are there trees and shrubs of varying heights?
• Are the trees needleleaved or broadleaved?
• Are the trees large or small, old or young?
• Are there lots of trees close together, or fewer trees farther apart?
• Is your woods dark and shady, or relatively sunny?
Wildlife habitat can take many forms. That isn’t to say all habitats are equal. There are a number of key habitat features that are especially valuable to wildlife. As you walk through your woods look for these features:
• Streams, ponds, or other wetlands
• Openings without trees
• Trees and shrubs that produce nuts, berries, or other fruits
• Standing dead trees and fallen logs
• Fencelines and hedgerows
• Rock outcrops and caves.
The more often you visit the woods and the more carefully you look, the more you will learn. Be sure to keep a record of what you find. If you have not already made a made a master plan, draw a map of your woods that displays its prominent features.
A map is a handy way to record what you learn, and a useful tool in identifying backyard woods improvement projects.

Understand your options
Once you know your land, and the kind of wildlife you want to attract, you are ready to identify those things you can do for wildlife in your backyard woods. Food, water, shelter, and space are the cornerstones of any wildlife habitat. Changing the amount or distribution of one or more of these can make your woods a more welcoming place for wildlife.

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