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Certify Your Backyard as a Wildlife Sanctuary

By Mary Robichaux

There are hundreds of wildlife sanctuaries in California, several just within our local area. Did you know that you could make your own property into a backyard sanctuary? If you enjoy feeding and watching wildlife, then you could apply to certify your backyard or your neighborhood as a wildlife sanctuary. It’s very simple.

Wildlife need four things to survive including food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young. Plants provide food and shelter and are life sustaining for animals. If you make a list of all the plants and trees in your backyard, you’ll be surprised that you most likely are providing the four basics to many species of wildlife. Try to understand which plants and trees have food for habitat like seeds, fruits, nuts, and nectar and which plants provide nesting places or shelter.

  • Do you have water on your property? Water is necessary for habitat just as it is for humans. Providing water is an essential part of being able to certify your backyard.
  • Do you have bird feeders or birdhouses? Nesting boxes for birds or bats? Providing food and water for wildlife is what will attract them to your yard but providing a safe shelter is why they will stay. Shelters can be as small as birdhouses and nesting boxes or as large as huge trees.
  • How is the sun exposure in your yard? Do you have both sun and shade to provide wildlife a variety of conditions?

It’s a good thing to have native plants and trees in your yard, but putting out food is ok too. Scattering seeds such as sunflower and millet provides nutritional benefits that wildlife may not be able to find elsewhere. For that reason, once you decide to feed your backyard friends, make a habit of it. It’s hard on the animals to continually search for a new food source and once they leave your backyard to search for food or water, you may not see them again for a while, if at all.

As for water to drink and play in, you might have a birdbath, pond, waterfall or seasonal stream. Water attracts and supports many animals. Wildlife live, hide and raise their families among trees and shrubs. Rocks, logs and dead leaves make great places for small creatures to raise their families.

Certify Online
By completing an application from the National Wildlife Federation, you’ll be on your way to certifying your backyard as a wildlife sanctuary. You will need to provide a picture or drawing of your property, which can be as large as acreage or as small as a deck off the back of your condominium. As long as you are providing the four basics for the habitat including food, water, shelter and a place to live, you qualify.

So start gathering the names and estimate the numbers of plants and trees in your yard. If you do not know the scientific name, that’s fine. You can list the common names. The purpose is for you to provide a general idea of what you are providing to your wildlife friends.

What kinds of wildlife have you seen in your yard? Have you seen frogs, birds, dragonflies, or rabbits? Have you seen deer, raccoon, squirrels, or eagles? As you see these different animals, log them on your application for the chance to have your own wildlife sanctuary.

You can purchase a starter kit with an application at your local feed store or online from the National Wildlife Federation. There is a small $15 processing fee for applying. Once you send in your application, it’s reviewed within 6-8 weeks. Once your backyard is certified, your certification is entered in the National Registry of Backyard Wildlife Habitat Sites. Along with a personalized certificate, you will receive an application for a Backyard Wildlife Habitat sign to post in your yard. This sign will tell your neighbors and your community that you’re doing all you can to provide a natural habitat for the wildlife that visit and live in your yard.