While you might not think of your backyard or apartment balcony as a wildlife refuge, chances are there are tons of critters that scurry through your space everyday! Humans like to pretend that fencing off our individual properties makes that area exclusively “ours,” but that memo hasn’t exactly been passed along to the natural world. Which a lot of times is really awesome, if you have ever experienced the delight of seeing a chipmunk dart through your driveway or giggled at a bird perched on your porch, you know what I mean.

As I’m sure all my Green Monsters will agree, learning to live in tune with the wildlife that surround your living space is very important. Whether you just want to make sure that your actions/products are not harming wildlife or want to go all out and turn your backyard into a certified wildlife garden, it is important to know some simple tips on how to co-habitate with the many creatures of the world.

1. Don’t Let Pets “Play” with Wildlife

Even though your dogs and cats might play nicely with each other, the same can’t be promised for their interactions with wildlife. Make sure you supervise your pets when they’re outside, cats have an uncanny ability to sniff out baby rabbits and other small critters.

2. Only Use Non-Toxic Products on Your Lawn and Shrubs

Chemical pesticides used in landscaping can be incredibly harmful to wildlife (and your pets). If you are concerned about deer or other “pests” eating your shrubs use ONLY non-toxic sprays. Also consider planting flowers and shrubs that are unpalatable to deer, like daffodils, lavender, or forsythia. This can keep deer from nibbling while keeping your yard animal friendly.

3. Pick Up Your Litter

Wild animals are curious critters and will attempt to eat all the things you might consider trash. Six-pack casing is particularly harmful to animals that can get stuck in the plastic rings. Open or improperly fastened garbage cans are like an open diner invitation to raccoons and coyotes. Not only will these creatures make a mess of your trash, but they could get a hold of sharp objects or foods that are harmful to them.

4. Teach Kids How to Interact with Wildlife

To a small child, anything fuzzy that remotely resembles a toy is fair game. Be mindful of your children when they are outdoors and teach them not to disturb birds nests or try to catch squirrel and rabbit babies (no matter how cute they may be). If these baby animals smell like humans they can be abandoned by their mothers and starve, so keep an eye on your little ones to protect wildlife little ones! Teaching kids how to interact with nature from a young age is one of the best things you can do, check out this article for fun outdoor activities you can do with your child.

5. Do NOT Try to Adopt an Injured Wild Animal

One of the biggest mistakes well meaning animal lovers can make is trying to rehabilitate wounded birds, mice, or other wildlife themselves. Always consult a professional if you find a wounded animal, try the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association to find a local chapter that can help. If you suspect the animal has been orphaned, consult this simple guide.

6. Get Chimney Caps

Raccoons, birds and squirrels love to make nests in chimneys. Chances are you will be able to hear if there are animals living in your chimney, but it is important that you check to make sure it is clear before lighting a fire! A chimney cap is a simple solution to this problem and can help keep other debris out of your chimney in the process.

7. DON’T Clean Your Windows

Okay, that was an exaggeration, but, if you have large glass panels in your house they can be a potential hazard to birds. If you keep your windows impeccably clean birds will think they can fly straight through and glass strikes can be fatal depending on the size of the bird. Try hanging streamers in front of glass doors, or putting stickers of some sort on the glass. You can also just leave the windows a little streaky to help keep birds from colliding with them.

8. Plant a Wildlife Garden

Creating a garden that attracts and helps protect wildlife is a wonderful way to live in harmony with your critter neighbors. Planting certain plants can attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other native bird species.

9. Make Wildlife Hideouts

One of the largest problems faced by wildlife is habitat loss, making little nests and hideaways for small animals in your yard can provide important protection for wildlife. Get your kids involved by making bird houses, or bumblebee houses, even bat houses!

10. Drive Carefully

I cannot emphasize the importance of driving carefully around wooded areas enough! Not only is this beneficial to animals that scamper into the road, but for you! A deer or other large animal can do as much damage to you or your car as you can do to it, so watch out. If you see deer or wild turkeys wandering toward the road slow down and beep your horn to scare them back into the woods. Raccoons and opossums like to make an appearance at night so be on the look out!

Image source: Ken Thomas / Wikipedia Commons