22 Ways to Help Washington Wildlife this Earth Day
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Keep bears wild. April is usually when hungry black bears emerge from their dens. It is a time of year when natural foods may be scarce, and bears often look to the easiest source of high-protein food, which may include bird feeders, pet food, and garbage. Please help keep bears wild by removing these temptations from your property. Learn more by reading our blog: Tips to coexist with bears this spring.
2. Know what to do if you find baby wildlife. If you discover a baby bird on the ground or a deer fawn alone in the grass, the desire to help is natural. Learn what to do if you encounter a wild animal that appears to be orphaned or injured, and whether it’s best to leave it alone or contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator on our blog: Spring babies — do they need your help?
3. Join the eBird community science project. The shift in human behavior due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak could have an interesting impact on birds in urban and suburban neighborhoods. We could observe a decline in noise and air pollutants with fewer cars on the road and planes in the sky. With park shelters, playgrounds, and sports fields closed, some places may also become a new refuge for birds to forage or build nests this spring.
Researchers at the University of Washington Quantitative Ecology Lab are launching a community science program through eBird to monitor birds in urban and suburban neighborhoods across the Pacific Northwest while social distancing measures are in place.
4. Add a water source to your property. A safe place to bathe and drink will act as a magnet to many animals. You can make a simple bird bath with things you probably already have. Visit the National Audubon Society’s website for an easy do-it-yourself bird bath using an old cake pan or flower-pot tray.
5. Buy a specialized license plate. There are two types of specialized license plates that support wildlife conservation and management activities in Washington — personalized license plates and wildlife design license plates. Plates can be purchased through the Washington Department of Licensing and carry an initial fee and renewal fee that varies by location and type of vehicle.
- Personalized plates: For more than 40 years, the sale of personalized license plates has been the primary source of funding for the management of non-game wildlife, including peregrine falcons, pygmy rabbits, and killer whales. $2 from each personalized license plate goes to support the care and rehabilitation of sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife.
- Wildlife plates: $28 from each wildlife license plate goes to support specific wildlife activities depending on the background, including wildlife watching, conserving native populations of steelhead, recovering Washington’s threatened and endangered species, or game management. Wildlife design options include a steelhead, bald eagle, killer whale, deer, elk, or black bear.
6. Keep domestic cats inside. Domestic cats can make great pets, but when they are allowed to roam outdoors, there can be serious consequences to local wildlife. Cats kill about 2.4 billion birds every year in the U.S. alone. Visit the American Bird Conservancy website for information on their Cats Indoors Program and learn how to keep pet cats and wild birds safe. You may even consider an outdoor enclosure for your cat, also known as a “catio”.
7. Let your dead tree stay (if it’s safe). Dead trees (snags) are valuable to wildlife, so try to keep them on your property if they pose no safety hazard. As the wood ages and decays, it becomes soft. This allows woodpeckers to excavate cavities, which provide critical nest and shelter sites for hundreds of animals, including bees, songbirds, ducks, raptors, forest carnivores, and many more!
Several species require dead wood such as swallows, bats, and woodpeckers. Swallows and bats eat up to 10,000 insects per day, and woodpeckers help control harmful forest pests. Leaving dead wood will attract these species and make your property the first place they forage for insects.
This 7-minute video from wildlife biologist Jeff Kozma with the Yakama Nation demonstrates how to identify cavities and snags and discusses the species that depend on them.
8. Avoid using pesticides on your property. It’s time to get outside and work in your yard. It’s also time to consider how to remove pests (problem insects, weeds, slugs and snails, plant diseases) with the least impact to fish and wildlife.
You can use a variety of natural pest management tools to get the job done while protecting native pollinators. These include using ladybugs in your garden to eat pests like aphids, pulling weeds by hand, and leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Many resources are available to help you, including your local Master Gardner Program, the Xerces Society, and the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Happy gardening!
9. Plant for pollinators. About 90% of all flowering plants and one third of human food crops depend on pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds. Unfortunately, the numbers of pollinators are declining due to habitat loss, disease, and excessive use of pesticides. By adding native plants to your property that provide food and shelter for pollinators, you can make a difference to both the pollinators and the people who rely on them. Download your free planting guide based on your zip code from our friends at the Pollinator Partnership.
10. Say goodbye to single-use plastics. A lot of energy and non-renewable resources go in to creating plastic, which is often discarded immediately after use. Single-use plastics, whether from lunch wrap or bags, take anywhere from 20 to 1,000 years to break down. In addition, thousands of birds and marine animals are killed each year when floating plastic makes its way to the ocean and is mistaken for food.
You can start having a positive impact today by simply cutting down your use of single-use plastics. One way you can do this is by using eco-friendly products such as reusable bags or sandwich bags.
11. Flush responsibly (The 4 P’s). What should get flushed down the toilet? Only four things that start with the letter P: Pee, Poop, Puke, or Paper (toilet paper). All other items should go in the trash including tissues, wipes, paper towels, hygiene products, ear swabs, and dental floss. Flushing the wrong things down the toilet can be expensive to fix, as well as cause raw sewage overflows into homes, businesses, and local waterways.