How to Have a Wildlife Friendly Summer Garden
Updated: Mar 4
Our wildlife need the same basic things we need – food, water, warmth and safety (thanks Professor Maslow). They also need a home, access to food, and protection from harm (predators) and the elements as they move around or hunker down for the day. It’s a tough world out there and summer poses extra problems:
1. Staying cool
Wildlife can suffer from dehydration and heat stress. They may be found on the ground, weak and confused with an open mouth and open wings, not moving to shelter. To help, provide shade and water and keep your pets away while they recover. A shady birdbath/water station at various heights is the best thing you can provide in your garden. Mist spray your hose in the wind to cool an animal slowly but NEVER hose them directly and never pour water directly into an animal’s mouth. If their normal shelter is heating up (under that hot tin roof), cool it by placing shade or wet towels over the top or some cool water within reach. If the animal is lethargic or semi-conscious then pick it up in a towel and pop in a box in a cool area. If you are concerned take it to a vet or ring a wildlife rescue service. Long-term, consider planting shady trees and shrubs for shelter. Wildlife carers or your local council can provide you with a list of suitable native plants.
2. Finding water and drinking in safety Provide water stations of different depths and heights for a variety of species. Make sure there is shelter and a way out for any smaller animals if they fall in: Pebbles or sticks in a birdbath or ramps or ropes for bigger waterbodies. Swimming pools are also a great source of water – most animals can swim should they fall in, but they need a way to get back out. You can buy a floating platform, use a floating mat or tie a piece of rope to the fencing and drape it into the pool, making sure the knot is at the water’s surface. Check your pool daily and call a wildlife rescue if you are concerned.
3. Hot roofs and gutters
After a few hot days our metal roofs, gutters, fences and other metal objects that may be wildlife highways can burn feet. If you see wildlife on the ground, their burned paws and claws may prevent them to climb or perch. This needs medical treatment. Get them to a vet or call wildlife rescue group.
4. Keeping away from non-wildlife friendly netting Unfortunately a lot of wildlife food has been removed for our housing and plants. Some people put up fencing and nets to inhibit wildlife eating domestic flowers and fruit. If you can stick your little finger through the netting and it is not tightly secured, it is capable of causing serious entanglement and injury. This is not only traumatic for the wildlife, but for wildlife rescuers too, having to cut creatures out of trapped entanglements and deal with the serious injuries.
5. Tidying up gardens: tree lopping, mowing and whipper-snipping hiding places
Always check for nests before tree trimming, and poke a stick through tall grass before getting stuck in with that power tool. We rescue birds and possums that have fallen from their nests when branches get lopped, bandicoots and blue tongue lizards that have been whipper-snippered or mowed over, as well as possums that have been cut by chainsaws and hedgers.
6. “Interesting” visitors (Thank you to Lynleigh Greig for the snake info)
A garden with lots of wildlife is a healthy and productive garden. Birds eat insects, insects eat insects, bandicoots turn the soil and eat insects, bats and bees and birds pollinate, and eat insects, but sometimes you can get visitors (you think) you don’t want. These can include non-native rodents, but remember Australia has plenty of native rodents and small marsupials. PLEASE don’t use poisons as you could kill native rats, lizards or possums that eat bait, or our owls or tawny frogmouths that eat the baited animals. Don’t use nasty sticky paper that trap our small birds and mammals. If you need to get rid of non-native rodents have a look online for humane trapping or talk to pest control about targeted removal.
There are some visitors you do want, even though you think you don’t. These include some of our spiders and snakes. Reptiles are more active in summer, and you may find them wandering through your backyard. They do a fantastic job of removing rats and other unwanted visitors free of charge and really only ask that you leave them in peace to do their job without interruption. We have a number of snakes on the Northern Beaches and not all of them are “6foot brown snakes”. There are many small and innocuous species that use our gardens as their homes. The harmless blind snake, which often gets rescued from the pool filter box, lives a mostly subterranean existence eating termite larvae and other pest insects. Diamond pythons may live in your garden or roof-space performing the rodent extermination service.
If you do see a snake in your garden, don’t panic. Remove your pets and children and allow the snake time to recover and pass through. If it doesn’t pass through, call Sydney Wildlife Rescue for advice. We have volunteers who are happy to identify different species of snakes living in your gardens and we can often allay any fears about their intentions.
Snakes generally don’t move through if there is food or good habitat. So, if there’s nowhere to hide (debris, wood piles, long grass) they generally won’t stay.
When gardening wear sturdy boots and gardening gloves and don’t leave your shoes outside. If a snake does enter your house, again, don’t panic. Remove pets and kids, close the door to the room the snake was sighted and place a rolled-up towel at the bottom of the door to stop the snake escaping. Call Sydney Wildlife for advice or professional snake-catching company to have it relocated. Keep an eye on the snake’s whereabouts to reduces the snake-catcher’s need to turn your house upside-down in an effort to find the hiding critter. And never try to catch or kill ANY snake. Not only are they a protected species but it is well documented that most snake bites occur when the tough guys attempt to attack or remove them.
To report injured or distressed animals please ring Sydney Wildlife on 9413 4300 (open 24hours). Or contact WIRES on 13 000 WIRES or 1300 094 737
If you would like to donate or assist, please contact Sydney Wildlife on 9413 4300 or go to www.sydneywildlife.org.au