Easy Steps to Creating a Certified Wildlife Habitat
- What does it take to make a certified wildlife habitat?
- Do you need a large yard?
- Are lots of trees a necessity?
- I don't have a yard, can I still make this work?
- How do I obtain certification?
- What's the benefit?
One of the best gifts I ever gave my Mom, as it turns out, was to have her property certified as a wildlife habitat. She was so proud of her park-like backyard, which attracted deer, rabbits, foxes, coy dogs, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, pheasants, wild turkeys, grouse, quail, bob-o-links, and all kinds of songbirds.
One side of her property sported a 10-foot deep hedgerow; the back of her yard was edged by a boggy swamp; there was a stand of aspens and a huge bramble field filled with blackcaps, wild raspberries, choke cherries and wild blackberries. Her whole backyard was planted with rows of evergreens and hardwoods like maples and Russian olives. It was a veritable wildlife haven!
A natural spring with a tiny pool interrupted the hedgerow to provide a cool drink of clear water for the deer and other wildlife, as they paused to quench their thirst. That spring stayed active in all kinds of weather, even in the coldest winters.
I had seen something about the National Wildlife Backyard Habitat Certification program and decided to investigate further. Knowing all the essential elements were present in my mother's rural backyard, I was confident it would be no problem to obtain this special acknowledgement for her.
Three to four hours was the time it took for her to finish mowing all the grassy areas, which included my Dad's old go cart track that had become overgrown. There was enough gravel still present on that track to make the best nesting areas for the killdeer that raised their young every year.
My Mom also had bird baths that she filled every day with clean water, and song bird feeders she could enjoy. Hummingbirds buzzed in and out of her snowball and Rose of Sharon bushes. Across the dirt road was a huge overgrown pasture full of wildflowers and weeds. The butterflies were a delightful sight every summer, along with the plentiful fireflies. There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies as well because of the swamp at the back of the property. The tree and swamp toads along with the crickets sang us all to sleep each summer night!
For a long time we picked wild strawberries from the side yard next to the hedgerow. I can still remember picking enough of those tiny berries for dessert once a week in the warmer months. It was labor intensive and made for red-stained fingers, but boy was it worth it! We always wore regular sneakers instead of sandals because of the garter snakes that loved that strawberry patch as well.
Yes, my Mom had all the ingredients for a certified wildlife habitat. Her framed certificate was hung proudly right near the front door for all to see as they came to visit. It was the best gift she ever received, and I was very happy to have been able to give it to her.
My Mom's YardClick thumbnail to view full-size
National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat
- Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat - National Wildlife Federation
Learn how to garden for wildlife and create a Certified Wildlife Habitat
What Do I Have to Do to Create a Wildlife Habitat?
According to the National Wildlife Backyard Habitat Certification Program, here are the requirements:
1. provide food
2. supply water
3. create cover
4. give wildlife a place to raise their young
5. receive a certificate and become a part of the NWF certified wildlife habitat program
Provide any 3 from the following:
- Seeds, nuts, pollen, sap, nectar, fruits, twigs, foliage, berries from trees or plants
- Suet, bird feeder, hummingbird nectar feeder, squirrel feeder, butterfly feeder
So you see, even if you don't have any trees at all, you can still qualify by providing supplemental feeders for the wildlife in your yard.
Use any 1 or more to qualify for the water requirement:
1. Natural spring, stream, creek, pool, pond, lake, river, ocean
2. Rain garden, water garden, butterfly puddling area, birdbath or fountain
Shelter & Protect Your Wildlife
Give your wildlife 2 or more of the following to help provide protection from bad weather and any predators:
- Prairie, meadow, shrubs, woods, hedgerow, thicket, evergreens, bramble patch
- Roosting box, birdhouse or nest box, brush pile, cave, rock wall or rock pile, water garden, pond
Wildlife Needs Places to Raise Their Babies
Provide 2 or more places for mating, nesting and raising their young:
- Nesting box or birdhouse, host plants for caterpillars, dense thickets and shrubs, water garden or pond
- Meadow, prairie, wetland, dead trees, burrow, cave, large live trees either deciduous or non-deciduous
As you can see, your yard does not have to be huge or situated within a deep forest in order to be a certified habitat.
Submit Your Property to Be Certified
The last step in the process is to take pictures of your yard, preferably with a member of your family in the images. Make sure you show the NWF that you have fulfilled all their requirements.
Then go to nwf.org/create a habitat, and follow their guide for certification. After they have reviewed your materials to determine that all their requirements have been fulfilled, you will receive your official certificate.
Do You Think You Will Submit Your Property to Be a Certified Wildlife Habitat?
Participating in this program will provide you with a deep sense of accomplishment in helping all the wildlife in your area. Your efforts will be far reaching, as they will affect generations of birds and animals for a long time to come.
Please remember that you should not use toxic chemicals on your yard or gardens. Not only are they deadly to all the wild animals, birds and beneficial insects, but they pollute the very water supply we all rely upon. Opt for non-toxic organic controls. Or better yet, let nature take care of the bugs and weeds. After all, that's what they do, and they are very good at it if we just let them do their thing!