Wild Visitors

Summer is heating up and changing the food and water sources for wild animals around the area. As things begin to dry out, local animals may have to begin searching out new water and healthy green vegetation for food and shelter. This summer search for food can bring wildlife close to residential areas with watered lawns and gardens. Sometimes these visitors are a welcome delight, sometimes they are a nuisance to gardens and landscaping.

Welcoming Visitors

Keep in mind that this time of year wild babies begin venturing out further and further away as they gain their independence. Just like human babies, wild babies are gangly and still learning to use all of their limbs. If you have a wild animal that is staying close to your home, it’s important to fight the initial urge to “rescue” that baby. Observe the animal from a safe distance and keep household pets inside to prevent conflict. What appears to be a wounded animal may just be a baby getting the feel for its gangly body.  Unless you can clearly see that the animal is sick or injured, do not intervene. Often the parent knows where the baby is and will return to care for it when it is safe to do so, and they do not consider you to be safe. In fact, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), “Birds are often fed on the ground for several days by the parents until they are able to fly.”  So don’t attempt to remove the animal from its natural habitat unless you are absolutely certain that it truly needs help. Even then it is recommended that you contact a licensed rehabilitator (DPGazette.com/wildliferehab) before handling wildlife.

Protecting Your Garden

While it can be fun getting to view wildlife so close to your home, they can wreak havoc on gardens nearing harvest, young trees, and flowers in full bloom. So how can you enjoy wildlife viewing while also protecting the garden that you have worked so hard to maintain? Green Matters has several beneficial suggestions on their website (greenmatters.com/p/protect-vegetable-garden-animals) that can help you protect your garden this summer:

  • Fences

Having a fence that surrounds your garden is the best line of defense against animals.  If you are dealing with burrowing animals, you may want to consider burying some of the fencing material to create a barrier both above and below ground level. Fencing can work around gardens and trees alike. When planting young trees, it is beneficial to create a temporary fence perimeter around the tree to protect it until the tree is well established. Otherwise, deer may eat accessible immature trees down to the ground if other food sources are scarce.

  • Plant Barrier Crops

Plants like rosemary, garlic, and oregano can act as deer deterrents, and may prevent them from entering your garden. A bonus of barrier crops is that these plants can be harvested and used to create some amazing and flavorful meals.

  • Cayenne Pepper

Many animals, including deer, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, moles, field mice, and even bears can be deterred by cayenne pepper. You can use dehydrated/ground pepper to sprinkle on your garden beds. Most birds, however, do not have the receptors needed to taste spicy foods, which allows them to help spread pepper seeds in the wild.  This means that birds will not be deterred from your garden by pepper or other spicy plants.

  • Plant Covers

For protection from birds or other above ground wildlife, hoops with netting or garden fabric can be used to cover your garden plants.These work in similar fashion to fencing, but may be a better fit for your garden.

Best Of Both Worlds

If you have the space available, consider creating a special garden to support local wildlife. A simple garden filled with native plants, a water source and shelter (like nesting boxes) can help local wildlife through the harsh summer months, while hopefully moving them away from your precious produce. The National Wildlife Federation has a wealth of information and videos available on their website for creating wildlife habitat “gardens.”  For more information on how to create a habitat garden visit: www.nwf.org/garden-for-wildlife/create

Living with wildlife can seem challenging; however, with a few updates to the design of your property, you can enjoy the rewards of your spring/summer long gardening projects while also enjoying the sight of an occasional wild visitor.

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