It’s finally officially spring! SPRING! Spring spring spring! It comes as no surprise to most people who know me that spring is basically my favorite season! . . . Okay, it’s neck-and-neck with summer, which is also absolutely amazing. But don’t let the bright colors of new flowers and happy buzzing of insects fool you, early spring is a harrowing fight for survival. Winter is rough on everybody, and often there’s not a lot of precious resources to go around when the frigid temperatures first begin to let up. While I generally advocate against most interference with nature, there’s things you can do at home to make a positive impact on the survival of fantastic wildlife near you while still keeping a safe, healthy distance from the wildlife.
3 Ways You Can Help Wildlife This Spring
1. Feed the Needy
Whether they’re waking up or coming back, springtime animals are in dire need of calories. Throughout the hibernation months, many animals do little eating if any at all, and waking up for spring can burn through most of what they have left as they bring their body temperature up to normal. Birds migrating back north may have traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles, an intense endurance workout that would get most of us down to our goal weight and then some. Insects born in spring are coming into the world seeking their first ever meal in an ecosystem that’s just begun to emerge. Life is tough right now!
While I wouldn’t suggest you leave a cheeseburger and fries in your backyard, you can definitely do things to help the locals start their year off with fuller bellies. A healthy ecosystem has many different species of birds, which require a diverse diet. Keeping multiple feeders stocked with varied types of seeds and suet (waxy blocks of food) can support a diversity of feathered friends who need to start fattening up and get ready to make babies. Make sure to keep your hummingbird feeders stocked and regularly cleaned as well or these tiny avians can get sick from any number of microbes that can thrive in sugary water. For all other pollinators, you can ask your local nurseries or plant shops for native wildflower seeds to bring a balanced early diet (though best results come from planting and seeding in the fall). Just take it easy on the pesticides, or you can end up doing more harm than good!
2. Provide shelter
Most critters out there will find suitable shelter on their own, but there’s plenty of ways to lend them a hand, especially in more urban spaces where habitat can be scarce. As long as you have some space on your property, you can build cheap and simple DIY wildlife shelters and insect hotels, for which you can easily find instructions online. If possible, try to set aside an area around your property that is “wild”, which won’t be actively gardened, groomed, sprayed, or otherwise touched by humans. These little spaces can be essential safe spaces for all kinds of little critters that otherwise might not be able to survive among humans. Which leads into the final, most important thing any of us can do to help out wildlife:
3. LEAVE IT ALONE!
Nature was here before us, we just moved into their space and decided to call it ours. Though it may be tempting to get directly involved in the lives of the critters around us, they generally know what to do, and human interference can easily become exactly that: interference. Aside from shooing slower animals across a road (REMEMBER YOUR ROAD SAFETY, PLEASE!), it’s best to keep your distance and let them live their best lives. Animals, especially in spring, are hungry, weak, vulnerable, and desperate to find food and safety. What may be a friendly gesture from us can seem like a harrowing life-or-death encounter to animals, resulting in attacks, stress, or other kinds of negative interactions that can result in needless injury and even death.
Aside from direct encounters, it’s important to consider other ways our presence and actions can impact their habitat and survival. A well-groomed clean lawn may be the American dream, but these areas hurt the diversity of the local ecosystem, and many of our chemicals and tools can injure and/or kill important, even endangered species just trying to find their place and get by. Don’t forget, leaving a section of your property alone where nature can reclaim itself can be tremendously important to protecting the wildlife we love. Not only that, these spaces may harbor natural enemies of many insect pests, a tactic many sustainable farms use.
Spring is gorgeous, refreshing, bursting with life, and it never fails to get me excited seeing everything come back after the long, cold, dark days of winter! But it’s also incredibly challenging for wildlife. Luckily, you can follow these tips at home, and help give these critters more of a chance to make this spring a happy one. Stay safe!