What You Can Do to Help Wildlife

Demo Habitat 6-06 shovel

National Wildlife Week 2015 is celebrating Living with Wildlife. This week is a great time to get outside and understand the wildlife that is all around you. Even small actions can make a big difference. Here are just a few of the ways you can help.

Join Wildlife Nation

Wildlife Nation is an online and on-the-ground community of adults devoted to connecting kids with wildlife. Join the community, read what others are doing, create a team, and connect with others with common interests like fishing, camping, planting trees or creating wildlife habitats.

Organize a Community Event or Service Project

National Wildlife Week is a great time to organize an event or service project in your community that benefits wildlife and improves the environmental health of your community.  Students can kick off a project during National Wildlife Week that they can finish during Global Youth Service Day (April 17-19). Youth Service America’s Global Youth Service Day Toolkit can help you get organized. Here are a few suggestions for projects and events:

  • Stream or beach cleanup--consult your local watershed group or stream team
  • Community tree planting--consult your local parks department to find out where and what kinds of trees are needed
  • Create a Schoolyard Habitat or other habitat garden in your community
  • Recycling event to collect plastics and other items that might end up in streams and lakes
  • Weed out invasive plants--consult with your local parks department to learn where help is needed
  • Host a Habitat or Wildlife Fun Fair to raise awareness of wildlife and habitat in your community
  • Organize a fishing derby or family fishing day

Join a Local Watershed Group or Stream Team

  • EPA's Surf Your Watershed website has tools to help you locate your watershed and learn about watershed groups in your area that are working to protect water quality. You can even start your own watershed group!
  • There are many Stream Teams throughout the country. Search the web for a local Stream Team near you!

Conserve Water in Your Home and Garden

  • Reduce Home Water Use--Check with your local utility to see if they offer a free water audit. Here's a quick online water audit you can try. Check your faucets, toilets and appliances for any leaks or drips. Use dishwashers and clothes washers when they are full.
  • Conserve Water in Your Garden--Use rain barrels to collect rain water to water your plants, use soaker hoses and drip irrigation to deliver water your plants, and water early in the morning or late in the evening to reduce water loss from evaporation.
  • Reduce Areas of Turf Grass Lawn--Between 50-60% of residential water use is for landscaping, most of it turf grass lawns. You can cut your water use by planting less turf grass and more native plants.
  • Landscape with Native Plants to Save Water--Once established, native plants usually require less water than many ornamental plants.
  • Improve the Water Efficiency of Your Yard--Garden design, plant selection, soil preparation and efficient irrigation all play a part in affecting your water use.

Reduce Runoff and Prevent Soil Erosion

  • Plant Trees and Other Native Plants--Help prevent erosion of soil into freshwater areas by planting trees and other plants. You can even create a rain garden. Vegetation helps to absorb and slow the speed of water runoff into waterbodies. 
  • Reduce Areas of Concrete and Asphalt--Decrease the amount of impervious surfaces (like concrete and asphalt) around your home to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff from your property into local water bodies. Use gravel or paving stones that allow water to pass through them into the soil.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Don’t Flush Your Medicines--Pharmaceuticals, including both medicines prescribed by doctors and purchased over the counter, contain powerful chemicals that can have adverse effects on the environment and wildlife when introduced through our water systems or landfills. Dispose of your unused or unwanted medicines in eco-friendly way by depositing them at a take-back location in your community. DEA has a National Take-Back Day (4/26/2014) and drug disposal information
    Spotlight: Learn about the West Virginia Consumer Drug Return Partnership, which was established by the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, an NWF affiliate. 
  • Pick up and properly dispose of pet waste so it does not end up washing off into local streams and lakes.
  • Properly dispose of all household chemicals such as paint, cleaning chemicals, and motor oil. Contact your local sanitation or public works department to find out where and when to dispose of these items. Many communities have special collection days.

Limit Use of Chemicals and Plastics

Limit or stop using pesticides, plastics, chemical fertilizers and cleaning products which can end up in our lakes and streams.

  • Use Nontoxic Cleaning Products and Phosphate-free Soaps--Whenever possible use nontoxic cleaning products and phosphate-free soaps to reduce the number of chemicals and nutrients getting into local waterways. Phosphorus does occur naturally in the environment, and plants do need it as a nutrient, but in the natural environment it is very limited. When too much phosphorus ends up in local waters it becomes food for algae and can result in algal blooms. 
  • Use Natural Fertilizers--Use natural fertilizers such as compost, and only use as much fertilizer as you need to prevent too many nutrients (such as phosphorus and nitrogen) from getting into water bodies and causing algal blooms.
  • Avoid Plastics--Reduce your use of plastics and switch to cloth shopping bags and glass containers. Plastics often end up in our waterways and eventually make it to the ocean, where they persist, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Some plastics release harmful chemicals into our waters. For more information see the NOAA Marine Debris website.
  • Avoid Pesticides--If you would like to have beneficial insects such as butterflies and bees in your yard, avoid using pesticides whenever possible. Remember that birds, frogs and other insect-eaters may ingest the pesticides too. There are ways to maintain a chemical-free lawn.
  • Read more about pollutants

Regular Maintenance

  • Maintain Septic Systems--One quarter of U.S. homes have septic systems. If you have one, do regular maintenance and monitoring to reduce the possibility your system might leak waste into local water bodies. The EPA's SepticSmart website provides information about septic systems and how to maintain them.
  • Vehicle Maintenance--Properly maintain your vehicles to prevent oil and other automobile chemical leaks into local rivers and lakes.

Clean Boats and Other Outdoor Gear

Regularly clean your boats, boots, boat trailers, tires, fishing gear and other equipment that you use outdoors to prevent moving invasive species “hitchhikers” (such as insects or plants) from one place to another.   

Supply Water for Wildlife

Create a puddling area, pond or rain garden in your yard to help provide habitat for wildlife.

Adopt an Animal

National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Adoption program lets you symbolically adopt your favorite species and at the same time support our work protecting wildlife and connecting people to nature. Some of the species you can adopt include a river otter, sea turtle, octopus, or moose

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