Prep backyard ecosystems for fall and winter wildlife

October 1, 2010

By Staff

NEW — 6 a.m. Oct. 1, 2010

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife encourages residents to add a few items to fall outdoor chore lists.

State wildlife experts said a typical neighborhood in Washington has more than 25 species of birds and mammals. The backyard ecosystem includes hawks, raccoons and even the occasional fox. More familiar creatures include robins, squirrels and chickadees.

Help prep the lawns and gardens for winter wildlife as daylight hours shrink, temperatures drop homeowners start to batten down for winter. Take some steps to make backyards more friendly to wildlife:

  • Leave some dead heads, or spent flowers, on flowering plants to provide seeds for birds and other animals.
  • Pile fallen leaves under some shrubs, bushes or other nooks and crannies to provide habitat for insects — a food source for birds and a free source of mulch.
  • Keep dead or dying trees — unless the trees present a hazard — so wildlife can feast on the insects inside the rotting wood or make winter roosts or dens in the cavities.
  • Give the mower a rest for at least a portion of your lawn, so wildlife has patch of taller grass in which to hide and forage.
  • Save a little of dead bramble thickets as winter cover for wildlife.
  • Fall is a good time to plant shrubs, so replace invasive Himalayan and cutleaf blackberries with native plants, like blackcap or red raspberry, native currants or gooseberries, or native roses, such as Nootka or baldhip.
  • Pile up any brush or rocks to provide another option for wildlife nests and dens.
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