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Archive for the ‘Backyard Wildlife’ Category

We’ve all read at least something about welcoming wildlife in the garden. Providing suitable habitat—including food, water, and shelter—is essential. Sometime the habitat that wildlife chooses isn’t quite what you would expect, though. My current case-in-point is the rather large toad that has been living on our deck all summer long.

Pyrosa-'Variegata'

Above: A potted Pyrrosia fern summering on a deck doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of wildlife habitat, but evidently toads think otherwise!

At first glance, a deck doesn’t seem like a great spot for a toad to set up residence, especially one that is the main route four dogs take to and from the back yard several times a day. Still, “our” toad seems happy there. Food doesn’t seem to be a problem, since he or she seems to be able to find plenty to eat—especially in the evening when the lights in the living room or out on the deck are on and are attract night-flying insects.

I added a plant saucer to make sure adequate water was available, which takes care of two of the three basic characteristics of suitable wildlife habitat. (Dogs and toad don’t seem to mind that they are sharing, as long as I keep the saucer filled up.)

Shelter is another story. I wondered what our resident toad did during the day and in very hot weather, since toads normally spend the daytime in cool, moist soil, either under logs or debris or in burrows. During hot, dry weather they can aestivate, meaning they spend the hot summer days in a dormant state, in burrows or similar locations. As it turns out, houseplant containers provide perfect shelter.

Toad-sansiveria

Above: A potted sansevieria is the perfect spot for summertime snoozes, thank you very much, as the photo above illustrates.

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Turtles are out and about, and they have started crossing the roads again. I know this blog is supposed to be about gardening, but wildlife is an essential part of  my garden, and one of the things I love most about it. Maybe we need an unofficial Turtle Crossing Society. Members would pledge to take time to drive a little slower, watch a little more closely, and take time to give turtles a bit of help getting across safely.  I know there are many potential members out there, because I’ve seen people stop their cars and carry turtles to safety.

From now until cold weather returns, I watch the road closely. In addition to turtles on the pavement proper, I always keep an eye out for ones on the berm. If they’re pointing away from the road, they’re probably okay. (I still stop and move them all the way off the pavement.) If they’re on the edge of the road and pointing toward it, stop and give them a safe, quick lift across.

When moving turtles, always carry them in the direction that they are pointing. In other words, don’t pick them up and move them back toward the edge of the road where they started. They’ll just walk back out into the road. Ideally, carry them straight across and set them down several feet away from the edge of the pavement. (Don’t forget to look both ways before crossing yourself!)  If they’re walking into more trouble—into a field that’s being plowed, for example—move them to another safe location. Sliders and other aquatic turtles can go to a nearby pond or waterway. Box turtles are best moved toward woods edges or hedgerows.

Snapping turtles are a bit harder to rescue, and they’re not shy about walking toward you and trying to bite. A broom or a shovel makes a safe handling tool, as does a stout stick. Use it to gently push them in the direction they need to go. Just take care to stay well away from the jaws!

So, I hope this post will recruit some new members to the new Turtle Crossing Society. Now that I think of it, snakes could use similar help. Not only do they cross roads, they also enjoy basking on them. You may see me helping them across, too. Now that I think of it, I’d better put the broom back in my car so I’ll have it handy.

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