10 ways you can support local wildlife without leaving your backyard!

Due to the small size of remaining patches of bushland within our city and the subsequent low population numbers supporting some animal and plant species within bushland remnants, our actions can directly impact which species thrive or disappear from these urban habitat islands. This includes decisions such as allowing our pets to roam or keeping pets contained, choosing rodent control methods, and managing and avoiding potential weeds in our gardens. We can also improve wildlife corridors by viewing our backyards as potential pathways for wildlife.

Here are 10 ways you can support local wildlife without leaving your backyard:

1. Create a Native Haven with Local Native Vegetation

Planting native grasses, groundcovers, climbers, and shrubs, including local flowering and fruiting plants, helps provide food and shelter for pollinators and other wildlife.

2. Help by Providing Homes for Wildlife

As we lose precious bushland, we also lose habitats for wildlife. We can enhance our gardens to help replace the animal homes lost to urban development. This could involve installing nest boxes, bat boxes, native bee hives, insect or solitary bee hotels, laying old pipes, or deliberately leaving log piles or rock piles for reptiles. Compost and mulch piles also offer homes for insects and serve as feeding grounds for birds and lizards.

3. Embrace Natural Chaos

Nature is not always neat and tidy. Log piles, bark, leaf litter, compost heaps, long grass, stones, and old bricks provide valuable homes and hiding spots for lizards, frogs, and insects. Thriving insect populations, in turn, support reptiles, amphibians, birds, and small mammals.

Reducing lawn space creates more room for wildlife. Try replacing lawns with native tussock grasses, wildflower meadows, ground covers, and shrubs.

4. Provide Clean Water

Most wildlife cannot survive without access to water. Backyard water sources become even more crucial as the climate warms, providing essential hydration for birds and other wildlife. Include at least one wildlife water source in your wildlife-friendly backyard, such as a bird bath, frog pond, or rain garden.

5. Stock Your Pond with Native Fish

Exotic fish, like gambusia (mosquito fish), can escape from backyard ponds during heavy rain, or their eggs can be spread in bird droppings. These invasive species can have devastating impacts on aquatic ecosystems by outcompeting native species and preying on frog eggs and tadpoles. Consider using local native fish, such as Pacific blue-eyes, in your pond. While Pacific blue-eyes help control mosquito larvae, they also allow native frogs to breed and thrive in your backyard.

6. Make Your Pool Wildlife Safe

Wildlife can drown in backyard pools. Wildlife Queensland recommends covering your pool at night, checking the pool filter box daily for frogs and reptiles, installing a low-shade cloth barrier around the inside of the pool, and ensuring there is an escape route for any wildlife that falls in.

7. Avoid Weeds and Common Garden Escapees

Local volunteer bushcarers work tirelessly to control weeds in local bushland. You can assist by avoiding and managing common backyard escapee plants. Some ornamental plants can outcompete local species, even if you are not close to bushland, birds and bats can carry seeds to areas way beyond your backyard.

8. Prevent Negative Interactions between Pets and Wildlife

Cats

While pet cats are cherished companions, roaming cats can kill an estimated 186 animals per cat per year. Due to their higher population density in urban areas compared to feral cats in rural settings, their impact per square kilometre is even greater. Many local councils, including Brisbane City Council, now require pet owners to confine cats within their property at all times. The RSPCA also recommends keeping cats contained for their safety and the protection of wildlife. Confined cats are less likely to get lost, injured, engage in cat fights, or spread infectious diseases like FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus).

Dogs

Dogs can also harm wildlife, with an estimated 300 koalas dying each year in southeast Queensland due to dog attacks. To protect wildlife, always walk your dog on a leash unless in a designated off-leash area, and keep dogs indoors or enclosed on a veranda at night, especially during the active period for koalas from July to September.

9. Do Not Use Second Generation Rodenticides

Eliminating predators in our ecosystem can have far-reaching consequences and lead to reliance on harmful chemicals. Most rat poisons available today are second-generation rodenticides, which can harm owls and other animals that prey on rodents. Traditional traps are more environmentally friendly for rodent control.

Important – read the label and save a life.

DO NOT USE second-generation rodenticides (wildlife killers) These include products with the following active ingredients: Brodifacoum (most Ratsak products), Bromadialone (some Ratsak products) and Difenacoum (Talon, Mortein, Ratsak Fast Action, Pestoff Rodent Bait 20R, Klerat)

If you must use bait, choose first-generation rodenticides with Warfarin or Coumatetralyl as active ingredients, which break down quickly in the environment and pose less risk of passing up the food chain.

10. Enjoy and Learn from Nature

Creating a wildlife-friendly backyard is incredibly rewarding. For children, their first encounters with native wildlife often occur in their own backyard, fostering a lifelong connection and empathy for the Australian environment. Celebrate your wildlife-friendly backyard by learning about local animals and plants, documenting observations with apps like iNaturalist, and sharing stories with neighbours.

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