Happy National Wildlife Day!

Happy National Wildlife Day!

September 04, 2022

National Wildlife Day was established in 2005 by animal advocate Colleen Paige.1 The following year, she set a second National Wildlife celebration for February 22, honoring Australian conservationist and TV personality Steve Irwin (“the Crocodile Hunter”) on the date of his 2006 death.2 These dates remind us twice each year of the creatures great and small with whom we share Planet Earth. And of why and how we might want to help protect them and their ecosystems – for them, and also for us.

 

So here we are, one week before Saturday’s Harvest Moon, preparing to celebrate Fall 2022 National Wildlife Day – even if the Houston Gulf Coast area hasn’t actually entered summer hurricane season yet.

 

Fall may be a great time of year to welcome friendly creatures into your yard, but who will show up? And, who will survive the experience? Wildlife doesn’t exist only in the forest or outside the city limits. Look closely. As Henry David Thoreau wrote “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”3 Note, he didn’t write “in wilderness”, but “in wildness”. We couldn’t agree more.  

 

No matter where you live, opportunities abound to learn and participate in the day. Here are some things you can do to attract and protect wildlife in your garden – including the endangered migrating Monarch Butterfly.4 And other ideas, in case you don’t have access to any garden.

 

Want butterflies? Go native! 

 

Wherever you may live in North America, you may be able to help save the iconic migrating Monarch butterflies by planting Milkweed, the only food for their caterpillar babies. Or by sharing this post with friends and family who might have gardens. Or, by writing your public officials, to ask them not to cut roadside Milkweed during Monarch migration in your area.

 

After wintering in the mountains of central Mexico, migrating Monarchs flutter north, breeding multiple generations along the way for thousands of miles. The offspring that reach southern Canada then begin the trip back to Mexico at the end of summer. So, it’s time to plant Milkweed!5 And, not to cut it down! And, not to kill those yellow black and white caterpillars!

 

No Garden?

 

If you have access to no garden, you can still help!6

  • Milkweed is commonly found along roadsides, often continuously mowed – which of course kills the precious milkweed that keeps monarchs alive. No Milkweed, no Monarchs. No Monarch caterpillars, no Monarch butterflies. Consider emailing your local government to ask for no roadside mowing during Monarch migration in your area.
  • Research brands before you buy. Yes, that can take a little time. But, due to the increase of illegal logging and deforestation,forests that migrating monarchs call home have been destroyed. Some companies are part of the problem, some are part of the solution.
  • Consider donating to these and other organizations working to preserve and repopulate monarch butterflies: Forests For Monarchs, The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV), The Save Our Monarchs Foundation. Or, start your own!
  • Spread the word. Share, re-post, tell your friends.

 

More!

 

Going native can bring you more wildlife than “just” endangered Monarch butterflies. Native plants provide nectar for pollinators ranging from hummingbirds to native bees, myriad butterflies and moths, and even bats. They provide protective shelter too. Native nuts, seeds, and fruits offer essential foods.  How to find out which native plants to put in your own fall garden? Check with your local extension office to find out what kind of plants are native to your area and for help planning.7

 

Avoid a fall garden overhaul
We all want our gardens clean and free of debris no matter the season. But, uprooting plants and removing dead leaves removes vital protection for some critters. Try cutting dead leaves and sprinkling them over your garden as fertilizer. Consider allowing weeds and other plants to wither through the winter. How about a brush pile in a corner as a refuge?By creating a native space, you can make room for endangered animals in your own garden.8

 

Clean Water

Much of the world is in a drought. Barron’s article “Beyond the Drought” (August 29, 2022, page 16) may be of interest for a discussion of economic, financial, and investment implications.9

 

Whether a pond or lake, fountain or a bird bath, river or spring, consider providing water in your wildlife refuge. Wild life needs clean (clean!) drinking water to survive. Birds need it to bathe, to keep their feathers in good working order. Other species actually live in water. The National Wildlife Foundation recommends bird baths and container water gardens for smaller spaces; gardens, ponds, or backyard marshes for larger areas: “Certified Wildlife Habitats not only provide water for wildlife, they use sustainable gardening practices that help ensure our human demands on water are kept to a minimum.”10

 

Caution! Stagnant water is a dangerous breeding ground for bacteria and disease. Wild Care’s  list of cautions includes risks of disease and also of territorial disputes with humans and other animals: “if you do choose to provide water in an extreme situation, the container MUST be emptied and refilled with fresh water daily, and must be bleached once a week with a 9:1 bleach solution (9 parts water, one part bleach), then rinsed and dried thoroughly before refilling, to prevent the spread of disease. Only putting water out for a short period will also minimize the risks.11

 

  1. See https://www.colleenpaige.com/about. Coleen Paige is an animal behaviorist, interior designer, writer, photographer, mother, wife and the brainchild behind a plethora of lifesaving philanthropic holidays, such as National Wildlife Day, National Dog Day, National Cat Day, National Puppy Day, National Pet Day, National Wildlife Day, National Beach Day. Her book “The Good Behavior Book For Dogs (Rockport/Quarry Books), gets great reviews at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/598806.The_Good_Behavior_Book_for_Dogs.
  2. See http://www.nationalwildlifeday.com/.
  3. Henry David Thoreau, essay Walking, published in The Atlantic (June of 1862).
  4. On July 21, 2022 the migrating Monarch was added to the IUCN “red list” of threatened species and categorized as “endangered”, two steps from extinct in the wild. https://www.iucn.org/press-release/202207/migratory-monarch-butterfly-now-endangered-iucn-red-list. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), composed of both government and civil society organizations, is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. Its experts are organized into six Commissions dedicated to species survival, environmental law, protected areas, social and economic policy, ecosystem management, and education and communication. https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/oceans-seas/what-we-do/working-regional-seas/partners/international-union.
  5. To help protect endangered migrating Monarch Butterflies, plant Milkweed. See generally, information at these websites: Nature Conservancy, tinyurl.com/MonarchsWhyBother; Center for Biological Diversity, https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/; World Wildlife Fund, https://www.worldwildlife.org/species?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9Kqq0Mvn-QIVaWxvBB1fnAXDEAAYBCAAEgJKbPD_BwE.
  6. Elizabeth White-Olsen and Glenn Olsenfor the Houston Chronicle, Ten ways to save monarch butterflies”, https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/Ten-ways-to-save-monarch-butterflies-6186594.php (April 8, 2015); https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/Ten-ways-to-save-monarch-butterflies-6186594.php; “16 Ways to Help SaveTheMonarchs”, https://vermontwoodsstudios.com/blog/tips-help-save-the-monarchs/#:~:text=The%20best%20thing%20you%20can,south%20for%20the%20winter%20time.
  7. What’s a “local extension office”? https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/extension-search. Check out “Gardening Know How: Wildlife In Gardens: Protecting Endangered Animals In The Garden”, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/beneficial/protecting-endangered-animals-in-gardens.htm. State and federal organizations, like U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, can help too – their programs, for example, that help residents restore areas of their property to native wetlands and other ecosystems!
  8. See generally, Audubon Society, “Why Native Plants Matter,” https://www.audubon.org/content/why-native-plants-matter.
  9. See “Beyond the Drought” (Barron’s, August 29, 2022, at page 16) for a discussion of economic, financial, and investment implications.
  10. See https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Water.
  11. See https://discoverwildcare.org/water-for-wildlife/.