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Wildlife

Wildlife Habitat: What You Can Do

Wildlife provides us with many enjoyable and beneficial activities from bird watching and wildlife photography to pest control, seed dispersal, nutrient cycling and pollination, to name only a few.

You may have some of the following property features already or you can incorporate them to help attract wildlife species:

Cavity Trees
Large trees with hollow cavities are a vital source of food, shelter and safety for many species. In Ontario, more than 50 species of birds and mammals (including pileated woodpeckers and barred owls) depend on cavity trees for nesting, rearing young, roosting, feeding, storing food, escaping predators and hibernating. By retaining cavity trees on your property, you provide important habitat for wildlife.

Fallen Logs
Fallen logs are essential habitat for small mammals, such as moles, certain woodpeckers, toads and many insects. As the log rots, reptiles and amphibians lay their eggs in the moist wood. A decaying log is also great habitat for beetles and ants that burrow under the bark or lay eggs.

Coniferous Forest
Conifer forests, also known as deer wintering yards, are areas of mainly coniferous trees (pine, hemlock, cedar, spruce) with a canopy closure of more than 60 per cent, which provides shelter, ease of movement and protection from predators. The land surrounding the core area is usually mixed or deciduous forest.

Mast Producing Trees
Mast is fruit and seeds produced by maple, elm and ash, and nuts from oak, black walnut and beech. Mast is the primary fall and winter food for most forest wildlife species as they build fat reserves for hibernation.

Vernal Pools
These are temporary wetlands formed in depressions by rain and melting spring snow. Short-lived, they last anywhere from a few days to three to four months before drying up. They are an important breeding habitat for amphibians since they do not contain predators such as fish and reptiles that are found in permanent water bodies.

Reptile Hibernacula
These are sites that can often be found in large forested areas that have rocky outcrops with crevasses. Rocky habitats also provide nesting, den sites and cover for many other species of wildlife including birds, amphibians, snakes and small mammals such as foxes, skunks, squirrels and rabbits. A male ruffed grouse may also find this an attractive drumming site.

Brush Piles
Brush piles can be constructed with the cut materials from trail clearing or woodlot management (pruning). Pile the brush waist-high on a stump, log or boulder, or along fencerows. These provide habitat for snowshoe hares, cottontail rabbits and others. For added benefit, train climbing vines, such as Virginia creeper, onto the brush pile.

Leave Dying Material in Place
When leaving or placing deadfall is safe, you can help attract wildlife by leaving dead standing trees, fallen logs and the mast fallen off of trees on your property. However, note that dead elm trees should be removed as they can provide habitat for elm bark beetles, which are carriers of Dutch Elm disease.

Attracting Aquatic Wildlife through Habitat

You can attract wildlife in the lake as well. 
•    Create or enhance a spawning bed for appropriate species in your lake
•    Plant trees, shrubs and flowers near the water’s edge as a source of food and shade
•    Leave hanging or downed trees in the water

For more ideas on attracting wildlife please visit the Canadian Wildlife Federation, or you can try your local fish and game club.

Wildlife Conflicts

There are times when some species can cause problems if proper precautions are not taken.  Some recommendations for minimizing wildlife conflicts include:

Block Access
•    Block all means of entry for insects, rodents and bats via foundations, porches and steps; through doors and windows; through holes in roofs or eaves; through cracks in floors, ceilings and walls; and through access points for wire and pipes. Be mindful that bats can have dependent young that are unable to fly between May and August
•    To avoid trapping animals or their young inside, be sure that all possible intruders have left before sealing up entrances; fall is generally a good time for pest proofing
•    Seal with caulk, weather stripping, expandable foam, crumpled heavy-duty aluminum foil, metal flashing and/or steel wool
•    Use fine wire mesh screens on all doors, opening windows and vents, including attic and underfloor vents

Discourage Contact
•    Trim tree limbs that touch your roof or the walls of your home or outbuildings
•    Store firewood and lumber away from main buildings or in a special shelter
•    Minimize outdoor light use and use yellow light bulbs in all outside light fixtures to reduce the number of flying insects attracted to the house light

Keep Food Away
•    Use animal-proof garbage cans and, if feasible, keep garbage cans in a shed or garage until garbage can be removed. If there are bears in your area and you can’t safely store your garbage indoors, construct a very sturdy container to put your garbage bin in and make sure it is sealed well to minimize any odours;  remove your garbage often
•    Keep pet food inside to avoid attracting wildlife; if you must feed pets outdoors, remove food dishes and any leftover food after feeding
•    Keep all food (including pet food) in sturdy rodent- and insect-proof containers
•    Maintain your compost; turn it regularly and cover with dirt or leaves; improperly maintained compost piles and bins attract many animals, including skunks and raccoons
•    If there are bears in your area, consider indoor worm composting
•    Keep barbecue equipment clean and store your barbecue in a secure area; wildlife is attracted to the rich odours
•    Prevent bird feed from accumulating on the ground; fill feeders only when bears are hibernating

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