Monday, December 8, 2008

Backyard Critters Appreciate the Generosity of the Season

This is the time of year when we can share our "bounty" with those around us, including the wild animals living outside our homes and in our neighborhoods, reports The Humane Society of the United States. Raccoons, squirrels, skunks and other animals in our yards are grateful recipients of any goodwill that humans are able to show them this season.

According to Laura Simon, field director of urban wildlife for The HSUS, "Although wild animals are able to adapt to survive cold winter temperatures and food limitations, there are some small but very significant things that people can do to help them survive this time of year." The HSUS suggests several acts of goodwill that can give our backyard neighbors a warm boost during the holidays:

Keep bird feeders full in the winter since food availability is very limited for non-migratory birds.

Fill large pinecones with peanut butter and roll them in sunflower seeds. Attach a string to the top and hang from trees for birds.

Invest in a heated birdbath and keep it filled all winter long. Birds need the water at this time of year when most natural sources may be frozen.

Put decorative snowflakes 4" apart on any windows where birds might hit, or have hit in the past.

Put a cover over any window wells around your house to prevent animals from becoming stuck. Animals, such as skunks, who have poor climbing abilities commonly fall into window wells.
Use only environmentally friendly sidewalk salt for melting ice such as Safe Paws Ice Melter.
Regular sidewalk salts pollute the environment and can irritate cats' and dogs' paws.

Get to know your backyard wild neighbors by going on an adventure around your own yard in the snow. Try to identify different species by looking at tracks and other signs they leave behind, such as partial remains of food like cracked nuts or twigs. Buy a good wildlife tracking guide - - or give one as a gift - - to learn more and to better appreciate these animals.

The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program promotes non-lethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife and cultivates understanding and appreciation for wild animals commonly found in cities and towns.

The program's book, Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife is a useful reference for individuals and communities faced with resolving encounters with wild animals who find their way into yards, gardens, houses, parks and playgrounds. On the web at humanesociety.org/wildneighbors.

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