How to help wildlife beat the heat
Hot summers and heatwaves seem to be in the forecast for many areas. Most wildlife species are well equipped to stay cool with behavioral and physiological adaptations. But sudden and prolonged heatwaves can take a toll on even the most resilient of wildlife. You can help wildlife beat the heat with these simple tips.
Provide plenty of water
Water is the first step when it comes to helping wildlife deal with heatwaves and droughts. There are a number of ways to provide water sources including; birdbaths, fountains, misters, and ponds. When choosing a water feature, try to select something that will accommodate the needs of both small and larger bird species. For instance, bird baths that have different depths or sloped sides will encourage more birds to use it.
Maintain your water sources
Keep your water feature full and clean them at least once a week to prevent the spread of disease. Daily rinses will help prevent algae and bacteria from growing. To keep the water cool throughout the day you can add a chunk of ice to the birdbath or fountain each morning.
Create moving water
Features that create moving water and sounds like drippers, fountains, misters and bubblers attract more birds. Moving water will also inhibit mosquito breeding and it slows down bacterial and algal growth. You can create a drip feature by hanging a clean plastic container with a small hole in the bottom over your bird bath.
Additional water-filled containers
Placing containers on the ground can provide water for many critters like ground squirrels. Use containers of different depths to accommodate animals of different sizes and put rocks in the containers so that they can get out if they fall in. Be sure to clean these regularly and put them in areas that offer protection from predators and pets.
Help the pollinators
Bees (and many other pollinators) need a steady supply of water to survive. Put out shallow dishes of water with pebbles or rocks for bees to safely drink water. Your garden can also be a year-round food source for pollinators with native plants that bloom in different seasons.
Remember the hummingbirds
Plant flowers in your garden that attract and feed hummingbirds. Feeders are good substitutes when natural supplies are low. Make sure to change the sugar mixture every four days and more often if the temperatures exceed 90 degrees. Regular cleaning will prevent fermentation, mold and bacterial growth. Learn how you can make your own sugar mixture.
Shade and shelter
Provide shade and shelter with native trees, shrubs, vines and plants. Landscaping with native plants will provide food, shelter and shade for wildlife.
Recognizing heat-stressed wildlife
Heat stressed animals can show the following signs; confusion, lethargy, panting, abnormal behavior (out during the day when they are nocturnal etc.) and won’t move away when approached. Call a local wildlife rehabilitation center to get advice on the best approach to help the animal.
Keep pets indoors
Keeping pets inside will not only be cooler for them but will also keep them away from vulnerable wildlife.
Plan for next year
If your garden is lacking shade, you can start planning and planting now to provide better shade next year. You can also look to see if your bird houses and feeders need to be moved to an area that has more shade. Ideally, bird houses should be mounted in shaded locations and have ventilation holes to help with air circulation. Feeders that are in the shade will prevent food from spoiling and offer some protection from predators.
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