New Year's Resolutions to Help Wildlife
Updated: Feb 1
Pick up litter
We've all been taught that littering is bad, but it is probably even worse than you already think it is! Small bits of plastic and garbage often look like bugs or berries to wildlife, which leads to birds and other small animals eating it by mistake. Not only can this be toxic for them, it can also cause intestinal blockages, which leads to the animal slowly and painfully starving to death as it can no longer eat. Picking up a few pieces of litter each time you're out for a walk can really make a difference in your neighborhood. (Be sure to wear gloves for sanitary reasons!)
Install a bird box
While it may seem like an odd time to be thinking about bird boxes, there's still time to put up an owl box before breeding season. Owls get a jump start on spring and will start breeding in January or February. Some of our owl species like Western Screech-owls will readily use owl boxes as long as they are put up by February. If you have creekside or lakeside forest consider putting up an owl box if it's safe to do so where you are.
Consider a salt-free snow melting alternative
Walking around outdoors in the winter can be dangerous and putting down coarse de-icing salt melts snow and ice while providing some traction. However, all that salt (or even salt-free options like calcium and magnesium Chloride) doesn't disappear with the snow. Eventually, it enters storm drains or runs off paved surfaces and then makes its way into our water systems. And if you think of what all that salt does to your boots, your car, and your pet's paws, you can imagine what it does to wildlife habitat. High levels of these chemicals can kill shorline plants and even create 'dead zones' in our ponds and lakes. There are some alternatives to salt based snow melts - try using beet juice or alfalfa meal!.
Paper snow flakes could save a life
Window strikes are a common cause of bird mortality. Although it's a little late for this year making paper snowflakes and putting them up on your windows can help reduce bird strikes. If you are looking for a more permanent solution you can try marking the outsides of your windows with streaks from a bar of soap, or attach some string or paracord every 2 inches vertically on the outside of your windows. In a little time you'll hardly notice them but the birds will see them.
Help wildlife with your wallet
Many of our BC bird species migrate south to warmer climes in the winter. Some of them, like the yellow warbler, even end up in coffee growing regions of South America. Consider buying certified Shade-grown or Bird Friendly coffee which certifies plantations that keep an over-story of trees to continue to support birds and other wildlife instead of clear-cutting the rainforest to increase coffee yield. Closer to home, you can support local farmers that use sustainable, organic, and/or conservation-focussed agricultural practices.
There is no question that fishing practices have a huge impact on our oceans.The Marine Stewardship Council certifies sustainable fisheries and the Ocean Wise program helps consumers make smart choices regarding sustainable fish, for instance recommending on sustainable fish species like flounder and grouper, instead of endangered or highly unsustainable species like Red Snapper, Chilean Seabass, and many Tuna species.
Make your garden bird- and pollinator-friendly
Did you know that many bird and pollinator species prefer native plant species, if given a choice? Make your flowerbeds even more beautiful by attracting local birds, bees and butterflies by using native wildflowers and shubs in your gardening. As an added bonus, these plants don't need very much maintenance or water once they're established which means more time for you to relax on the patio!
Put out water for Wildlife
During the winter it can be hard for wildlife to find liquid water, while eating snow is an option it takes a lot of energy to warm snow up to body temperature. Not only is water necessary it is also a great attractant and can bring birds and other animals to your yard.
Keep your pets under control
Although it is really hard to view Fido or Mr Mittens as the bad guy, the truth is that unleashed dogs and roaming cats can seriously impact local wildlife populations. Cats, no matter how well fed, all have an undeniable drive to hunt and will instinctively do so when outside, even if they just had a meal. Dogs will also chase wildlife for fun and while many of them will not catch the animal, or perhaps not even know what to do with it if they do, this causes extreme stress to wildlife populations when it happens often. Keep your cats inside as much as you possibly can (ideally, all the time!) and keep your pup on a leash unless you are sure that you can call her away from wildlife.