For more information on the Living With Wildlife series, contact the WDFW Wildlife Program




Additional Ideas and Information

Getting your hands dirty
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to put your ideas into action. Before you begin, get some final evaluations from friends to help spot oversights or potential problems in your plan. A nursery staff person can also offer good review.

At this point, the techniques required to plant a yard for wildlife are the same as planting and maintaining a yard for any other purpose. Refer to garden books and nurseries for information on soil preparation, planting techniques, watering, fertilizing, pest and disease control, pruning, etc. One of the best guides is Sunset’s New Western Garden Book.

Increasing awareness
Finally, don’t forget to relax and enjoy your developing landscape. It will take time to mature and a year or two may go by before it is discovered by wildlife. A more conscious awareness of the plants and animals in your yard will add a new dimension of colors, sights, and sounds to your outdoor experiences. Learning about the living things in your yard and experimenting with new ways to furnish habitat resources will provide benefits to you and to the animals that share your living space.

A word about pesticides
Avoid pesticides as much as possible. Most of the birds in your neighborhood, especially young birds still in the nest, need insects for survival. Only a few insects are really “bad”, but chemical pesticides kill good insects as well as bad ones.

Learn about integrated pest management. A good source of information is your county extension office or contact the Washington State University Cooperative Extension ( Also see Native Plants

Other useful ideas to help wildlife:

  • Put up birdhouses in March for chickadees, wrens, swallows, and woodpeckers.
  • Provide separate bird feeders for sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and suet so birds can choose their favorite.
  • Plant specialty gardens such as flowering patches for hummingbirds and butterflies
  • Plant extra for wildlife in your vegetable garden and let it go to seed in the fall for your bird-feeding program.
  • Leave shrubs unpruned as much as possible.
  • Mulch with lawn clippings and leaf litter, and pile shrub and tree clippings under your trees.
  • Make a dust bath for birds (a shallow hollow in the ground with dry dirt).
  • “Replant” a log in a secluded spot for salamanders and for wrens, sparrows, robins, and towhees to perch on and look for bugs.
  • Keep a diary of your wildlife observations.

Join the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Backyard Sanctuary Program and officially designate your yard as a special place for wildlife. For information go online to WDFW Backyard Sanctuary Program, or write to:

Western Washington:
Sanctuary Program
16018 Mill Creek Blvd.
Mill Creek, WA 98012
Eastern Washington:
Sanctuary Program
2315 N Discovery Place
Spokane Valley, WA  99216

Inventory Checklist
The following features should be considered when designing your backyard habitat. Mark the location of existing items on your base map.

A. Structures and hard surfaces.

  • House and other buildings
  • Doors and windows, especially those with views
  • Porcheside, decks/patios
  • Overhead and underground utilities
  • Fences
  • Children’s play area and play structures

B. Vegetation

  • Existing trees and shrubs; note spread
  • Lawn areas
  • Garden areas
  • Trellis/arbor
  • Flower boxes and beds

C. Wildlife features

  • Burrows
  • Tree Cavities
  • Dead or partly dead trees (snags)
  • Nesting areas
  • Perching areas
  • Drinking/feeding areas
  • Refuge areas
  • Travel corridors
  • Existing bird feeders, bird baths, bird houses
  • Hazards to wildlife

D. Environmental conditions

  • Sunny areas, shaded areas
  • Wet areas, dry areas
  • Streams, ponds
  • Slopes
  • Prevailing winds, summer and winter
  • Sources of noise

E. Adjacent conditions

  • Neighboring trees
  • Neighboring buildings, roadways

F. Soil Conditions (optional)

  • Soil composition
  • Acidity
  • Nutrients