Saturday, August 9, 2008

Quick Poll Results: Should You Attract Wildlife to Your Backyard?

Last week we posted our latest Quick Poll online, where we posed the question: Should people try to attract wildlife to their backyard?

The results: Of 476 people (so far), 88.9% said yes. (Update: on August 25, the results were 86.7% of 482 voters.)

Though these results may not show it, this issue can be contentious.

On the one hand, it is so important that people find ways to connect with nature -- observe it, appreciate it, interact with it and learn from it. And with over 50% of the world's population now living in urban areas, a person's backyard is becoming one of the few places to engage regularly with anything approaching the natural world. Although Canada is endowed with vast tracts of beautiful wilderness, few people have the time, money or inclination to venture into it.

So for many, the backyard is the prime location for communing with nature.
Yet, attracting wildlife -- even birds -- can raise concerns among neighbours. Animals who come to your yard may stray to nibble on a neighbour's flowers or vegetable garden. They may stick around to build nests, or damage homes, or leave messes. Depending on where you live, the type of "wildlife" you attract can vary. Sure, a goldfinch is fine, but a black bear?

Of course, central to this issue is the fact that often, wildlife aren't entering our backyards; we've invaded theirs. Every time I hear of a bear or cougar being shot for straying into "our space" I'm reminded it's we who have encroached into their habitat.

What did the folks in Nature Canada's online community have to say? All responses can be read here -- and you can still cast a vote -- but I pulled a few of the comments here:

People generally become supportive of preserving wildlife if they have had some connection with wildlife.. and that often begins by someone saying, "Look at that pretty bird in the yard".

If birds or other wildlife are attracted to urban residents, people may kill them by accident or even worse, on purpose.

Wildlife corridors are needed for migrating birds. Also the more urban residents identify with wildlife the more they will support the needed funds, programs and conservation lands.

I think it is wrong to attract wildlife into human habitat. Humans, in general, are ignorant of the ways of the wild and animals are in danger of extinction once they are being "managed" by human charity.

Even small pockets of green space within an urban environment provide important habitat to all sorts of wildlife. The more intimately people are connected to the natural environment the more likely they will strive to protect it.

Birds yes, squirrels yes, anything bigger than that no because then there's the tendency to feed them and they quickly become dependent.

Every species on this earth is entitled to space. Humans need to realize this and learn to share the earth and all its resources. Birds and other backyard wildlife seem to encourage friendlier behavior in people, children are taught to respect the animals.