Wildlife in the Suburbs
create a mini wildlife conservation area
I enjoy watching wildlife, and so does my husband. We used to get to witness lots of wildlife when we lived in the country, including deer, wild boar, coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, reptiles, and wild turkeys and many other kinds of birds. A couple of times, we even got to see a puma, or as they’re called around here, a “Florida panther.” Now that we live in the suburbs, we don’t have the variety of wildlife that we did living in a very rural area, but we still have some wildlife visitors to our back yard. We’ve seen foxes, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, flying squirrels, frogs, lizards, geckoes, snakes, and many bird species. We like the idea of wildlife conservation, so we do several things to attract wildlife animals to our back yard.
We sort of turned our yard into a mini wildlife conservation area. We provide wildlife animals with food, water, and shelter. In the spring, we leave bits of cloth and string outdoors so the birds can use them for building nests. Following are some tips for how to attract wildlife and turn your yard into a wildlife conservation yard. Enjoy the wildlife photos!
Just about everyone enjoys watching birds, and they might just be the number one subject for wildlife pictures. We have several bird feeders around the yard, including hummingbird feeders. We fill a couple of feeders with sunflower seeds for larger birds like blue jays and cardinals, and we fill other feeders with small seeds for small birds. The feeders we have for small birds are designed so that larger, heavier birds can’t feed from them. We also have a feeding shelf on which we can place suet and peanut butter-filled pinecones.
We have lots of squirrels! They’re probably the most abundant form of mammalian wildlife we have. We have several large oaks that produce a bounty of acorns, which attract squirrels. Once the acorns become scarce, we place food out for the furry rodents: pecans, peanuts, apples, pears, and dried corn. We also have plenty of places for squirrels to nest, and one of our big oak trees looks like a squirrel condominium!
We have at least one red fox that comes in our yard almost every night. Actually, I was surprised to see this type of wildlife in such a congested area. I also thought that foxes and similar wildlife would be scared away by dogs, but this isn’t the case with our fox. Sometimes when we let our Great Danes out at night, the fox will come into the yard and follow them around. I’ve wondered if maybe it’s lonely. Anyway, we leave food out for the fox, too: leftover chicken, grapes, strawberries, and other fruits.
Our rabbits aren’t as bold as our opossums and raccoons are. They usually stick to just the fringes of the yard, so that’s where we place their food. Sometimes we even take food and leave it at the edge of some nearby woods for the bunnies. This usually consists of carrots, carrot tops, lettuce and celery. Sometimes we buy a bale of hay for other purposes, and the rabbits like it, too.
We recently discovered that opossums like sleeping in large plastic trash cans. One day hubby found a young possum in one of our cans, fast asleep. I don’t think the little thing could ever have gotten out on its own, so we gently turned the can over on its side. Since then, we’ve seen the little critter napping in the can several times. We’ve also noticed that the possums enjoy spending time under our large deck. I guess they feel safe there. In the colder months, we place some pine straw under the deck so that the wildlife will have somewhere to burrow for warmth. Opossums love dry cat food, and we leave that out at all times.
Our raccoons love cat food, especially fish-flavored cat food. They like to dunk the kibble in water first, so we keep a shallow tray of water nearby. Raccoons also love grapes and other fruits. In fact, I don’t think there’s much a raccoon won’t eat, which is why they’re notorious for turning over garbage cans and plundering through them. We’ve seen the masked bandits under our deck, so I guess they like cover as much as the opossums do.
We have a “colony” of Mediterranean geckoes living on our porch. They come out at night to feed on insects that are attracted to our porch light. We make a point of leaving the light on for several hours each night so that the insects will come around. If you want geckoes, you’ll need to provide them some cover, too. Ours hide in our wooden columns or behind our porch shutters during the day and 24/7 in cold weather. We always know summer has arrived when we see the first geckoes of the year!
Reptiles and amphibians
We really don’t do anything to attract reptiles and amphibians to our yard, other than the geckoes I mentioned earlier. We have a deep drainage ditch at the back of our property, however, and it attracts several species of amphibian and reptilian wildlife. We’ve seen frogs, toads, turtles, and snakes. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any venomous reptilian wildlife. The snake species we’ve encountered here include garter snakes, rat snakes, and Florida ring-necked snakes. We usually catch the snakes and move them to the nearby woods. We have small grandchildren here often, so it would suit us just fine if the venomous snakes stayed out of our little wildlife conservation project!