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It is a well-known fact that the human population is growing.  As suburban sprawl continues, wild animals are forced into smaller and smaller habitat ranges for survival.  This means that your backyard garden can be a refuge for local wildlife.  Some nature lovers enjoy helping out species like birds or squirrels by leaving out nuts and seeds for the animals to come and eat.  They also provide special feeders and baths for birds but many wildlife enthusiasts do not think of all the other species that need homes.  Looking for alternative solutions to protecting wildlife  in our hometowns will become more and more important in our lifetime and deserves serious consideration.

Here are five tips for providing a garden sanctuary to a number of local animal species, such as skunks, raccoons, squirrels, possums, or rabbits, which may be looking for food and shelter.  Not only will you be helping local wildlife, you can also make the backyard décor look very natural and peaceful.  Animals need a place to call home in order to raise their young, so timing your sanctuary with breeding season is a smart technique.  For most of the species listed above, this means springtime.

1. Provide a source of fresh water.  Creating a small pond in your garden will attract wildlife and it will also increase the attractiveness of your garden and could increase your home’s equity.  You can do this by installing a bubbler that shoots water a few inches up in the center of your pond liner.  Surround it with mulch to prevent runoff into your yard.

2. Include an entrance by cutting a hole in your fence.  If you have a barrier to entry, please make a pathway for the critters to find their way in.  This can mean a hole in the fence, or a crawl space under your compost pile.   

3. Plant native wildflowers and allow some overgrowth to occur.  The more diversity you can add to your garden, the better.  The key behind planting native wildflowers is that they will attract local insects and in turn, animals because they mirror what is happening in the animal’s natural habitat.  If you have fruits and vegetables, these can be a direct food source for the animals also but their growth season may not align with that of the local wildlife in your area.  Native plants signal a natural environment to insects and animals, and help create an environment similar to their original habitat while also providing a source of food in the form of pollinating insects, grubs, and worms.  Finally, allowing the garden to become a bit overgrown will give shelter for the nesting animal to feel safe enough to stay.

4. Avoid Chemicals.  Please do not use any pesticides or herbicides on your garden plants.  This means checking any purchased mulch or fertilizers to make sure they only contain organic materials.  On top of this, composting is a great way to enrich your soil naturally and allow for a safe environment for local fauna. 

5. Keep your distance.  Finally, it is important to remember to give the animal space.  You may become really excited when you finally see some wildlife but remember that wild animals do not want to be close to you or any pets you might have.  You are seen as a predator and will scare them off if you get too close.  Giving them some space will make them feel safe and want to remain on your property where they are protected.