By Amy DeYoung
Updated Nov 22, 2022
Ready to welcome winter and cute critters to your winter wonderland? Here are the steps you should take to make your winter landscape a haven and optimal wildlife habitat for animals trying to stay warm.
All wild animals need a warm place to sleep and hunker down during winter storms. If your yard is primarily grass, consider planting bushes, shrubs, and trees, which provide shelter from the cold for many animals.
Evergreens can be especially helpful because they don’t lose their leaves at any point during the year, allowing birds and mammals to roost within the branches or hide from snowfall. If you plant trees, consider trees that produce berries, such as dogwood or juniper, as this will be a dual shelter and food source for birds.
If you can’t plant trees or shrubs, consider putting nesting boxes or birdhouses in your yard. If you’re reusing nesting boxes, make sure to clean them thoroughly in case there is nesting material from a previous animal.
Alternatively, you can use leaves raked up during your fall landscaping project. Collect these trimmings and make a brush pile behind trees, brushes, or in the corner of your yard. These piles of leaves are a healthy habitat for many types of wildlife, including reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
Insects often use flower gardens and beds as shelter to overwinter. Consider allowing your flowers’ stems to stay standing so that insects can use these for a winter habitat.
If you cannot plant berry-producing plants, consider other ways to add food and water sources to your outdoor space.
You can add a bird feeder with nuts, grasses, grain, seeds, or acorns. However, you’ll want to be careful to choose a pest-proof bird feeder so that you don’t end up attracting unwanted guests, like raccoons or rodents.
Dehydration is even more dangerous to wildlife than running out of food, mainly because water can be challenging to find when everything is frozen.
A pond or birdbath is an easy way to provide birds and small critters with water. If you don’t have a birdbath, take several garbage can lids or plant saucers and fill them with a few inches of water. Three inches deep is recommended for small birds.
Keeping water liquid during winter can be challenging. So, if you live in an area where the water continuously freezes, consider purchasing a heated birdbath or adding a heating element to an existing water container. You can also pour hot water on iced-over water sources or swap them frequently to keep liquid water available.
If you have a pond, regularly break the ice to keep water available for wildlife throughout the winter. Check your pond frequently for debris and clear it. Rotting vegetable matter depletes oxygen in the water, placing hibernating animals, like frogs, at risk.
Many birds and wildlife species rely on stalks and seeds from certain plant species. These stalks also provide camouflage from predators, so you can keep these plants untrimmed during wintertime.
In addition to not deadheading, consider planting new bulbs for next season. These plants will provide extra food sources for wildlife year-round. Make your backyard the perfect buffet with a wide variety of plants that produce flowers, nectar, acorns, leaves, and much more.
This time of year is hard on wildlife, so pat yourself on the back for providing them with a welcoming habitat. Many of these tips for creating a healthy wildlife habitat can also provide increased functionality and enjoyment for you. Watching new plant life sprout come spring, birds feeding on a bird feeder, and a beautiful pond circulating water are all activities you and your family can enjoy for years to come.
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