A Guide: How To Help Wildlife While Social Distancing

Carolina Gonzalez

Last Friday, North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper, announced the initiation of a state-wide mandated stay-at-home order beginning at 5 p.m. on March 30. This announcement came shortly after the first COVID-19 related death in North Carolina. Those who are not considered essential workers are being encouraged by the state to not leave their homes without a probable cause. With thousands of people left at home, many are now faced with the struggle of trying to fight off boredom in ways that keep them active and motivated. While it’s easy to sit around at home watching TV all day, there are many ways that people can use this time to help bring about change without having to leave their homes. There are countless statistics showing the harmful effects of human involvement on the environment. Among the most shocking studies is one published by the National Academy of Sciences which stated that despite making up just 0.01% of all life, humans have managed to destroy 83% of wild mammals. With 1 in 4 wild bee species in the U.S being at risk of extinction and a sharp decline of 29% in bird populations, it’s easy to see how we, as humans, have damaged the planet. However, with this abundance of time that quarantining has provided for many, helping wildlife is something that can be done by anyone who is willing to take the time to do it. Here are ways to help:

 

Plant a bee-friendly garden (skip the pesticides)

While this may require one to leave their homes to buy plants, it’s an excellent way of providing food and shelter for bees as the weather gets warmer. It’s important that these gardens only consist of native wildflowers such as crocus, hyacinths, borages, calendulas, and wild lilacs. Using bee-friendly colors like blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow and choosing plants with varied bloom times ensures that the garden supports all species of bees. Not only will it be a beautiful addition to one’s home, but it will also go a long way in helping the bee populations around your home remain stable. When planting these gardens, it’s important that chemicals and pesticides are avoided, as they can cause harm to other wildlife. This video provides an in-depth explanation of how to plant one’s garden, along with information about what plants work best.

 

Provide clean and fresh water for wildlife

an excellent and simple example of a wildlife water dish

Leaving water outside can be incredibly helpful for birds, bats, butterflies, and other wildlife who may need it to drink or bathe. One can do this by providing animals with birdbaths and small ponds. However, a cheaper alternative is to use shallow, non-metal bowls and fill them up with water. Make sure to add a couple of rocks or sticks inside the bowl, so small wildlife can crawl out if they accidentally fall in, and to leave the bowls in shady areas. Remember to change the water every few days to keep it fresh for the animals. Keeping water outside could save an animal’s life on a hot day.

Many animals also prefer drinking or bathing in privacy, so it’s important to give them space after putting out their water dish.

 

Create an amphibian basking site

an example of an effective toad abode

Toads, frogs, lizards, turtles, and snakes can all be incredibly beneficial to one’s backyard, so providing them with appropriate shelter is a great and easy way of helping them. This can be done by piling several rocks in sunny areas and by adding thick layers of leaves and planting shade-tolerant plants under trees to provide them with cool shelters. Another cool shelter alternative is to leave broken flower pots on their sides in shady areas– while this is less natural, it also provides cool spaces for frogs that can work equally as well. If the flower pots are painted on, it’s important to ensure that the paint used isn’t toxic for the environment.

 

Create a butterfly basking site

Basking sites of butterflies are incredibly easy to make and also provide them with spaces where they can warm up on cool mornings. One can easily provide butterflies with basking sites by adding large, light-colored rocks and/or concrete sculptures in gardens.

 

Feed butterflies overripe fruit

Placing overripe or rotting fruit on plates in gardens or near trees can attract butterflies and provide them with a good source of food. Fruits that butterflies are known to enjoy include oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, peaches, nectarines apples, pears and bananas

 

Build a bat house

Not only are bat houses incredibly beneficial for wild bats, but they also encourage bats to serve as natural pest control by reducing the mosquito populations. While building the bat house may take lots of time and effort, the effects of having one will prove to be worthwhile as the summertime comes along and brings mosquitos. Not only that, but it’s the perfect project to work on while in quarantine. The following video gives detailed instructions on how to build an effective bat house.

 

Give up on the classic green lawn and instead grow a sustainable lawn

Every year in the U.S., lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year, 200 million gallons of gas, and 70 million pounds of pesticides. This is incredibly damaging for the environment and is having drastic effects on wildlife. Turfgrass, the green grass used in lawns, provides no habitat for pollinators and other animals that make up healthy and diverse ecosystems. Furthermore, the use of pesticides on lawns causes great harm to animals who may accidentally ingest the pesticide and die as a result. A safer and more eco-friendly alternative is to join the no-mow movement. Now-mow yards fall into four different categories:

  1. low-growing turf grasses that require little grooming
  2. unmowed turfgrass lawns
  3. landscapes where turfgrass is replaced with native plants
  4. yards where vegetables, fruit trees, and shrubs replace a portion of turfgrass

Not only is it an incredibly beautiful and more natural-looking alternative, but it also has amazing effects on wildlife and plants who will no longer be harmed by pesticides and lawn-mowing.

 

Sources:

http://gardenswithwings.com/what-is-a-butterfly-garden/other-ways-to-attract-butterflies-page.html

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/more-sustainable-and-beautiful-alternatives-grass-lawn

https://www.audubon.org/news/17-tips-making-your-backyard-wildlife-friendly-budget

https://www.friendsofanimals.org/news/8-ways-to-make-your-backyard-wildlife-friendly/