The world of wildlife beyond birds and butterflies might surprise you. When you create a garden to attract these two wildlife groups, it’s inevitable that other species will move in, too. Be on the lookout to welcome some of these less commonly seen (or appreciated) wild neighbors.
Several species of these elusive predators may be hunting in your neighborhood (especially wooded areas), totally unbeknownst to the human populace. The tiny long-tailed weasel is the most common and found throughout North America, while the 7-pound fisher is making a comeback in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest and moving into suburbia. A fisher was even recently documented in the Bronx in New York City!
With more than 40 species of bats found in North America, chances are good that these flying mammals are cruising through your neighborhood. Most feed on flying insects and help keep populations of beetles, moths and mosquitoes in check. Some species, such as the pallid bat, hunt ground-dwelling invertebrates, including scorpions! Attract bats by protecting canopy trees, eliminating pesticides that kill their prey and installing a bat box.
These creatures aren’t as well known as their frog and toad cousins because they spend the majority of their time beneath rocks, decaying logs and fallen leaves. Even so, they are fascinating and welcome wildlife in your garden. They feed on invertebrates from insects to snails and worms, and they are often brilliantly colored. Amphibians are on the decline worldwide, so attract salamanders by allowing the leaf litter to accumulate under trees, creating brush piles, saying no to pesticides and installing a garden pond for breeding.
These gorgeous insects come in a wide range of colors. They are also voracious predators of other insects, including mosquitoes. They have some of the most whimsical species names in the animal kingdom, such as the saffron-winged meadowhawk, Comanche dancer and cinnamon shadowdragon. Dragonflies are attracted to water, where they lay their eggs and patrol for prey, so install a pond, then sit back and watch their aerial acrobatics.
Many turtle species happily call our neighborhoods home if we offer what they need to survive. Box turtles prefer open woodlands and fields where they forage for berries, mushrooms, worms and insects. Desert tortoises are found in southern California and the southwestern deserts. They feed on grasses, cactus and wildflowers. Replace your lawn with native plants and add a shallow water feature, and you’ll invite these shelled reptiles to your yard.
These black-and-white mammals aren’t going to spray you unless you threaten them, and can be perfectly acceptable neighbors if left alone. They are omnivores, feeding on everything from insects and worms to fallen fruits and mice. Leave brushy areas on the outskirts of your yard for them to forage and dig dens.
The majority of snakes are totally harmless to people and are important backyard predators. Practice tolerance for them in your yard, and you’ll foster a healthy ecosystem.