Once every five years the United States Fish and Wildlife Service surveys the participation of American’s in hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-related activities. The latest report (2018) documents the findings from the 2016 survey. Although the report revealed that, from 2011-2016, wildlife watching increased 20% (71.8-86.0 million individuals); Americans have not fully embraced the value of managing plants for wildlife in their yards.
The survey revealed that that around-the-home participants 16 years and older jumped to 81.1 million. They accounted for 94% of all of the Americans that watched wildlife. The most popular activity of these 59.1 million folks was feeding birds and other wildlife; they represented 73% of all around-the-home participants. Thirty-eight percent said they photographed wildlife. Those that fed other wildlife accounted for 18% of around-the-home participants. However, only 10% maintained plants for wildlife in their yards. In addition, just 9% maintained and managed natural areas for the benefit of their wildlife neighbors.
It is exciting that interest in wildlife watching is on the rise. However, it is concerning that we wildlife watchers are, largely focusing our attention on simply feeding the wildlife that we enjoy living just outside our backdoors. Meanwhile, we are losing thousands of acres of wildlife habitat each year. Unless we enhance the wildlife habitat that remains, the time may come when many of the wild animals that provide us with so much enjoyment will become rare or simply disappear.
One way to ensure this does not happen is to restore and create wildlife habitats in our yards. There are so many ways that we can provide backyard wildlife with suitable places to live, the task seems impossible. One of the best ways to tackle this daunting task is to begin by selecting a species or species that you are most fond of and direct your efforts at addressing their needs. Then begin by setting just a few goals to accomplish. For example, if you are interested in butterflies, incorporate a few host plants into your landscape. If you are fond of birds, plant one or more seed, fruit or berry-producing plants. Only after you have made these changes, make the decision as to whether you are going to try to accomplish anything else this year.
Whatever you do, make planting native plants a priority. These plants are often best suited to survive in your neck of the woods and require less care. In addition, the food they often produce more food and support far more insects than ornamentals.
When you start looking for lists of these plants, as other habitat enhancement tips, begin by checking out the Archive section of this blog. It contains a treasure trove of often hard to find information relating to backyard wildlife.
We can all be better stewards of our yards. With that in mind, can you imagine how much our backyard wildlife neighbors would benefit if each one of us made a conscientious effort to enhance our property for them this year? With that in mind, I hope you will make a New Year’s resolution to enrich your home landscape for wildlife. I know I plan to do just that.