Supporting Wildlife

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Supporting Wildlife

By Donna Vanbuecken

Last week it was my turn to make a presentation to this winter’s Hunter Education class. Naturally, I do the session on the importance of supporting wildlife through conservation and preservation.

One of the things I cover in my talk (Study Guide for Wisconsin Hunter Education Safety Certificate Unit 9) is that there are five essential elements that make up a wildlife habitat: food, water, cover, space and arrangement. It has occurred to me that these five elements are also the basis of any good design for natural landscaping.

Sandhill Crane spotted in my prairie in early spring. My backyard which is primarily prairie and old growth Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) and Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) provides food, cover, water, space and biodiversity.

Food — to provide a healthy diet for wildlife means habitat that supports a variety of plants as well as smaller animal and insect species that serve as food for larger birds and animals.

Water — needs to be readily available, easy to get to and not polluted.

Cover — should provide protection and be suitable for feeding, breeding, roosting, nesting and traveling.

Space — capacity to allow for adequate nourishment, mating and nesting, and disease-control.

Arrangement — close placement of food, water, cover and space to preserve energy while satisfying the daily needs of wildlife. (Add: and the aesthetic and sustainable needs of the owner.)

I then add a sixth need to the discussion: biodiversity. This is a rather big word for 10-12 year olds. It is the contraction of two important words — biological and diversity. The term biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms in a habitat. It is the variety of life: the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes and the ecosystems of which they are a part.

Maintaining biodiversity brings balance to a habitat in order to support wildlife and to provide a sense of place for the owner. Designing to maintain all six of these elements will provide you with a wonderful landscape.

For more information about gardening for “wild life,” read Doug Tallamy’s Gardening for Life.

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