Why create a backyard wildlife habitat?


There are at least three good reasons why you should create a backyard wildlife habitat. Besides those, there’s the satisfaction you’ll gain from knowing you’ve revived what was once a native plot of ground for reuse by wildlife and plants.

Good reason one – habitat loss

The land we city folks live on was once a wilderness teeming with life. When developers moved in to bulldoze, scrape, and cement it over, they forced wildlife to either move away or die, and usually, most of the native plant life there was destroyed. That same pattern continues to this day, around the world, around the clock, to the tune of millions of acres per year. No wonder habitat loss is the single greatest cause of animal and plant extinction.

Wildlife are running out of places to run to, putting stress on their ability to survive. Not just on an individual level but species-wide. Based on fossil information, the baseline extinction rate of species is one species for every one million species per year. But, scientists say the rate is now hundreds to thousands of times higher than the baseline rate.1

Got limited space?

Bigger is better, but anything helps. If you can’t turn your entire backyard over to wildlife, then how about part of it or even a corner dedicated to butterflies and hummingbird plants? Or, a hedge of native berry-producing shrubs to benefit birds? Are you limited to an apartment patio or porch? Flowerpots of butterfly plants and a bird feeder will do nicely there. Start here to learn how

Good reason two – the privilege of observation

Here’s another good reason to create a backyard wildlife habitat: you’ll have the privilege of seeing animals viewed as exotic species in other parts of the world. Two hundred thirty-three mammals are found wild in North America and Mexico and nowhere else in the world, including the Northern Raccoon and Virginia Opossum. We also have unique species of insects, amphibians, reptiles, and other animals.

There are also 7,807 native plants unique to N.A. and Mexico. Many are under threat of extinction. Look for a list of threatened plants in your state, and plant some right in your yard. You’ll help save entire species while getting to enjoy their beauty.

Good reason three – improved environment

Plants produce oxygen, nourish the soil, and help to reduce erosion. Shade from trees will help cool your home. Shrubs can create privacy and buffer the noise of street traffic. Native plants add beauty and interest to a yard and increase the property’s resale value.

Here’s what’s missing in a yard that’s indifferent to wildlife:

All or most of the following used to live on your plot of ground. They were driven off or killed off by human development. When we give nothing back to wildlife, they have nothing to return to, perpetuating the ongoing tragedy caused by habitat loss. Here’s some of what goes missing when you don’t garden for wildlife.

  • Birds — no insects or desirable seeds for them to eat 
  • Rabbits — no tasty wild greens for them
  • Bats — no flying insects for them to feed on 
  • Bees — no nectar-producing flowers to rely on for survival 
  • Butterflies and moths — no nectar for adults; no host plants for caterpillars 
  • Ladybugs, fireflies, all other insects — dead from insecticides 
  • Tree frogs — no insects to eat  
  • Turtles — no insects or wild greens for them 
  • Carnivorous mammals — no prey available 
  • Wildflowers and other native plants — dead from herbicides
  • All of the above — no places for nest-building, rearing of young, and shelter

1 “Extinction Over Time,” Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

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