Begin With the Basics
So you want to launch a community project. Great! The first thing you need to do is select an area in your community for your project. Then, investigate the area to determine what kinds of changes, if any, would improve it for wildlife. You already know, for example, that wildlife requires four basic things to live comfortably: food, water, shelter, and space, all arranged to suit its needs. Are these elements on, or close to, your area? Could they be added?
Consider the following factors when planning your project. And remember that each wildlife species has different needs and preferences.
- Food: What's available?
- Water: Where's the nearest source?
- Shelter: Is there a place where animals can rest, hide from predators, and seek cover from the weather?
- Space: Is there enough room for plants to grow or for animals to raise their families?
- Arrangement: Are the sources of food, water, and shelter close together?
- Availability: Are the four basics accessible all year long?
- Diversity: Are there a variety of environments? The greater the range, the more types of plants and animals that can be sustained.
Keep in mind that wild animals can sometimes become a nuisance. Raccoons, for example, may seek lodgings in the rafters of houses if they can't find old trees to build dens in. You can prevent many problems by anticipating the animals' needs — and by keeping their living quarters separate from yours!
Make an Action Plan
When you finish studying your area, start thinking about developing an action plan. Good planning is essential to any project. And an action plan is a perfect vehicle for this purpose because it will help keep you focused and organized. It should clearly answer or address the following questions:
- What are you going to do?
- Who's going to do what?
Patrol for Potential Projects
Before you decide on a specific project, consider organizing a community "walkabout" in your area, which can now be regarded as your project site. The site might be your schoolyard, a wood lot, or a street block. Invite community representatives, such as foresters, naturalists, wildlife biologists, or members of a local wildlife organization, to help you decide on a project.
Bring a pencil and notebook to list what's on your site so you can draw a map of it.
Sketch a Map
Now, sharpen your pencil! Pretend that you're a bird flying over your site and begin to draw a map of what you see below. Look at how things relate to one another. Besides seeing what is on the site, you'll be able to see what isn't there.
Here are some examples of things you should include on your map. Can you think of any others?
- Existing vegetation
- Parking lots
- Water sources
Organizing Potential Projects
Be imaginative when envisioning potential projects. But consider these factors:
- Who owns the site?
- How will you get permission?
Outlined below is a sample of how you could organize your ideas. Now think of other projects using the same criteria.
- Potential Project: Plant a clump of berry-producing shrubs.
- Site: Left corner of schoolyard.
- Benefits to Wildlife: Provide shelter and food source for small mammals and birds.
- Benefits to the Community: Increase wildlife diversity by attracting new species; provide fall food source for migrating birds.
Make a Wildlife Wish List!
Now that you're rolling, it's time to do some wildlife research. Learn as much as possible about the species you want to attract. Start by making a list. Beside each species' name, put down examples of the types of food, water, shelter, and space that it needs. Make sure it's feasible to meet all the needs of your chosen species.
So you've found the perfect project. Congratulations! But before you get to work, make a list of the materials you'll need. Here are a few examples to start you off:
- Garbage bags
- Garden tools — rakes, hoes, shovels
- Wood for nest boxes, bird feeders
Select a Slogan
How about giving your project a catchy slogan? Think about it and choose something that will capture the interest of your audience.
Ask the Experts
Need some expert advice? Federal, provincial, and territorial wildlife agencies (see the list on the back cover of this booklet) are a great source of information. Nature clubs and environmental organizations are also fountains of knowledge. The best place to learn more about these groups is — you guessed it — at the library!
Use Native Plants and Seeds
Before you start any planting, remember that it's always best to use native plants and seeds, because they're used to local soil and weather conditions. They usually survive longer than non-native species and need less tending because they are hardier and more resistant to disease. A local nature club, nursery, botanist, or wildlife biologist can help you choose the best ones for your area and soil type.
Keep a Wildlife Journal
You might want to keep a wildlife journal. How many kinds of wildlife can you spot around town? Keep a record of what you see, where, and when. What was it doing when you spotted it? Eating? Resting? Drinking? What were the surroundings like? Were there lots of trees? Shrubs? Herbs? Jot down notes and draw pictures in your journal. Share your entries with family and friends. You could even start an exchange with another school! Maybe everyone who sees your journal will want to start one of his or her own!
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