Habitat at Home

Girl prepares plants for garden
Get kids involved in wildlife conservation!

Enjoy wildlife? Create a Habitat at Home!

Habitat at Home is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's effort to encourage Washingtonians to connect to nature where they live! We hope these resources will help you discover some fun and effective ways that you can make an impact on wildlife, no matter your expertise, how much space you have, or where you live.

By creating habitat for wildlife at home, you’re helping to offset the acres of habitat that are converted into housing and urban development each year in Washington. Every little bit counts, and can help decrease habitat fragmentation, especially in highly urbanized areas. 

Did you know? Wildlife habitat doesn't just benefit wildlife, it can benefit you, too. Native plants are adapted to the natural rainfall in your area, and thus require less maintenance. Plants also help reduce storm runoff and can decrease the impact of the heat island effect on your home. These are just a few of the many ways that you can benefit from gardening for wildlife.

No yard? No problem! Almost any space can benefit wildlife, even those at your school or business! For small space ideas, check out our Do-It-Yourself section.

 

New to wildlife conservation? Our starter kit is intended to provide you with some simple resources to get started and introduce you to the wildlife of Washington.

Questions about wildlife around your home? See our Living with Wildlife page.

To be added to the waitlist for a starter kit, apply for a yard sign, or if you have questions, contact Alex: alexandra.biswas@dfw.wa.gov or 360-870-6356

*Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are experiencing shipping delays. Thank you for your patience!

How to create a habitat

 

habitat at home yard sign
Apply for a yard sign! Woodland Park Zoo

The elements of a complete wildlife habitat are food, water, cover, and a place to raise young. Here are some tips and resources to get you started!

Applying for a yard sign? The number in parentheses next to each resource indicates how many types of this resource are required.

To request an application, email Alex: alexandra.biswas@dfw.wa.gov

 
Food (2+)

Plants are the best food source for wildlife, but feeders can be used to supplement as well. Some examples include seeds, nuts, berries, suet cakes, or pollen. Consider a variety of plants or food sources that can provide food year round for wildlife. Pay attention to what your backyard wildlife are eating and adjust accordingly!

Discover native plants through these helpful links from some of our partners!


Water (1+)

A birdbath or garden pond is the perfect place for animals to bathe and drink water. Be sure to check that your bath is accessible to wildlife and is kept clean – for example, sometimes the edges of decorative bird baths are too slippery for birds to grip on to. Rough surfaces work better!

Pro tip: flower-pot trays are great makeshift bird baths! Learn how to create your own birdbath or amphibian pond.


Cover (2+)

Wildlife need a place to rest and escape from the weather and predators. Some examples of providing cover include dense shrubs, a log pile, evergreens, or snags!

  • Leave dead trees. Known as snags, dead trees are valuable to wildlife, especially cavity-nesting birds. Leave them if they pose no safety hazard.
  • Add bird houses. A bird house can substitute for snags where birds used to nest. 
  • Seal off any openings around your house. House sparrows and starlings may nest in openings, and these non-native birds are undesirable competitors for food and nesting cavities. Bird houses and feeders should be designed and managed to reduce use by sparrows and starlings.

Places to raise young (2+)

A source of cover can often double as a place to raise young wildlife. Birdhouses, small trees, shrubs, or plants for pollinators can be perfect for this! You can also provide nesting materials such as yarn, pet hair, dried grass, and straw.

Check out some ways you can make your own sources of cover below, in our Do-It-Yourself backyard wildlife resources section.


Resource conservation

There are many simple ways to practice resource conservation in your backyard habitat! Here are a few examples:

  • Compost. Learn how you can reduce waste and enrich your soil. Follow this easy guide, here.
     
  • Create a raingarden. Help reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff and benefit all sorts of wildlife, including salmon and orcas!
    Find out why they're so important, and check out these helpful classes to get you started. Western WA Guidebook, plant chart page 70; Okanogan-Similkameen Guidebook (can be useful for other eastern WA locations)
     
  •  Keep cats indoors. Visit the American Bird Conservancy website for information on their "Cats Indoors!" program for ideas on how to keep your cats indoors.
     
  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide/chemical fertilizer use, rat poison, etc. Some animals, like owls, can be poisoned from eating prey that has eaten chemicals/poison. Opt for chemical-free options when possible.
     
  • Seek plants that have not been treated with neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoids are present throughout the entire plant that has been treated with it. This includes floral nectar and pollen. Even low levels can have an impact on pollinators. Check with your nursery to verify this information if you can't find it on the label that comes with your plant. Neonicotinoids can go by many names, including but not limited to imidacloprid and clothianidin.
     
  • Recognize your habitat! Several adjacent yards with good wildlife resources are more effective than one! Every homeowner is a habitat manager. Apply to recognize your backyard as a wildlife habitat through our Habitat at Home Program. 

Do-It-Yourself projects

 


What kind of wildlife do you want to attract?


Birds

Shelter

Food

Safety

Water

Looking for plants for birds? See our 'food' section.


Pollinators

Shelter

Looking for plants for pollinators? See our 'food' section.


Bats

Shelter


Reptiles and amphibians

General Info

Shelter