Your yard could be a wildlife habitat

Published 8:09 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2015

By Susan and Biff Andrews

I hate status seekers — most of them — and even “do-gooders.”

This column, however, is in praise of those who brag about their yards, schools or businesses as being Certified Wildlife Habitats. You may have seen a framed certificate in a school office, a flag in someone’s front yard, a garden stone in some office landscaping. Good for these folks!

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This certification is not hard to obtain. Nearly 200,000 locales have already done so. Most yards in our neighborhood would qualify. Either they don’t care that they’re doing good things for wildlife or they’re doing the right thing unwittingly.

Either way, they’re good people who love flowers, shrubs, trees, birds, bunnies and butterflies, and they could be bragging about it. They SHOULD be bragging about it! The positive peer pressure would be beneficial.

There are five criteria to fulfill. Let’s examine them individually to see if your yard would make it.

First, there must be three sources of food for wildlife. Most of them come naturally from flowers (seeds, pollen, nectar), trees (nuts, fruit, sap), bushes (berries, foliage), or man-made sources (bird feeders, squirrel, hummingbird or butterfly feeders). Surely there are three such elements in and around your house, business, or school.

The yard must provide some source of water. It could be man-made, such as a birdbath, pond or water garden. Many homes are near a pond, lake, stream, river, spring or seasonal pool. At the very least, a shallow bowl dug at ground level would suffice.

Third, there must be at least two sources of shelter available from weather and predators. Again, these can be manmade brush piles, rock piles, ponds or nesting boxes. Or they could be naturally occurring thickets, evergreens, shrubs, brambles, densely wooded areas or a meadow. A burrow or small cave may be located on your property.

Fourth, there must be some place for wild critters to rear their young. The sites listed in the above category do double duty here, along with dead trees, mature trees, wetlands, host plants for caterpillars, and so on which can be added to the list.

Finally, the habitat must use at least two sustainable gardening practices. These include mulching, composting, planting native species, reducing erosion through ground cover or terracing, or eliminating pesticides and fertilizer. Reducing lawn area and limiting water use in general, using rain barrels and soaker hoses help qualify.

So there they are: food, water, shelter, shelter for the young and good garden practices. Your yard probably qualifies. If it does and you wish to be certified, go to There is a fee to register, which will get you a certificate suitable for framing and lots of options for yard plaques, flags, garden stones and so on.

This is a national drive to show commitment to wildlife. Please consider registering your child’s class or school, your business or your own home as being a good place for wildlife. And then brag about it.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at