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Wild Neighbors Seek Home

Your home may be your sanctuary from the world, and now your yard could be a sanctuary for some wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) administers a program that will teach you how to make your backyard a registered Wildlife Habitat. This not only makes you yard look nice, but it will also brings in a slew of four-legged and winged visitors you can observe from your living room.

Providing the four basic elements animals need--food, water, cover, and places to raise their young-is all you need to do to make your yard eligible for registration with this program. Basically, strive to have your backyard replicate the terrain found in undeveloped areas around your home.

Plants that are native to your area should appear in your habitat-this means less maintenance, less watering, and less fertilizers need to be used, which saves you time and money. Consult the NWF's website (listed below) for information on determining the types of plants that are native to your area. Also learn which plants will provide food for visiting wildlife. Hummingbirds and butterflies enjoy nectar from plants, while birds like seeds, and squirrels favor nuts.

Water is also an important element to provide in your yard. Animals will use the water for drinking or bathing. Reservoirs can be as small as a birdbath or as large as a pond. The important thing is that the water be available 365 days a year. For some parts of the country, this may necessitate the purchase of a thermostatically controlled birdbath heater to keep the water supply from freezing.

The cover, or plants, in your yard should include a minimum of one robust clump of evergreen trees and shrubs, which will provide animals shelter from weather and predators. Also consider using log, rock or mulch piles in your yard. These will provide homes for reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and insects.

Animals also need places to nest in order to raise their young. Evergreen and deciduous trees work well for birds, while "cavity-nesters," like flying squirrels and owls, prefer dead or dying trees. Those piles of logs, rocks or mulch are also favorite nesting spots for rabbits, mice or salamanders.

Once your yard meets the four conditions mentioned above, you can register it with the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat program. This means that you will join over 26,000 people who are preserving and protecting the environment. For more information on the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program go to the NWF's website at or call the NWF at 1-800-432-6564.

Source: Jan Riggenbach, Midwest Living, and the National Wildlife Federation.

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