Why You Need Wildlife Corridors and How to Make Them
Have you heard about those large bridges covered with trees and shrubs that go over freeways for wildlife to cross? These wildlife corridors are being created to let wildlife move safely from one area to the next. And while these corridors are important for letting large animals such as bears move freely, smaller versions of wildlife corridors can be created in your own backyard to let smaller wildlife move safely from one area to the next. Let’s dive into backyard wildlife corridors and why your backyard needs them.
But why would you want wildlife to move freely around your backyard? Why does your backyard need wildlife corridors?
The first reason is the same as the large ones being built over freeways. To connect different populations of wildlife to support a healthy population.
If one group of coyotes can’t reach another group, then they could start inbreeding, which would make the population unhealthy.
But if the 2 groups can easily mix back and forth, then both populations are healthy.
Even for small animals this can be important.
And wildlife corridors can also be important in connecting animals a broader range of sources of food or water, helping their population to flourish.
Unfortunately, our human-built infrastructure creates barriers—roads, fences, buildings, and other infrastructure that all block wildlife from moving safely from one area to the next.
But a simple tunnel through the bottom of that fence could let those same salamanders reach your pond.
And this brings us to the other benefit of wildlife corridors.
By letting wildlife like that salamander travel safely through your backyard, you also help create a balance between predators and prey.
Creating a balanced environment between predators and prey is the best way to deal with common garden pests.
But you can’t create a balance if the predators like that salamander can’t freely come and go through your backyard.
And wildlife corridors expand the amount of habitat available to wildlife by letting them access areas they wouldn’t normally be able to reach—at least not safely.
Let’s look at how you can create wildlife corridors in your own backyard, and what could be blocking wildlife from moving safely through it.
But creating wildlife corridors is only one way to work with wildlife. Before we go, make sure to grab your own copy of our guide to working with wildlife. This guide will help you work with wildlife on your own property to make the living world around you come alive.
Common Barriers to Wildlife in Your Backyard
Before you start making your own wildlife corridors, you should first figure out what the barriers are to wildlife.
One of the most common barriers to wildlife isn’t something you’d probably guess.
Is your backyard mostly open and covered with grass? For lots of wildlife, that much open space is a barrier.
Imagine being a frog or other small animal trying to cross all that open mowed grass. Trying to do so would expose you to predators, and even to the full force of summer heat or winter chill.
Even small songbirds try to avoid open areas like this.
Wildlife need to feel safe moving from one area to the next, and a large expanse of grass doesn’t cut it.
Other large open areas, such as parking areas, can also block wildlife from moving safely from one area to the next.
If your garden is surrounded by grass, that could be why you aren’t seeing the beneficial predators like garter snakes that would otherwise keep your pests under control.
And even if you’ve got scattered shrubs or trees, if they’re isolated with open space around them, (which is common in formal landscaping designs,) then they won’t provide much in the way of safe shelter for wildlife.
Another common backyard barrier are fences—especially solid privacy fences or deer fences.
These fences block lots of wildlife from being able to travel to and through your backyard.
Roads, of course, are also a barrier. But unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about them. But issues like entrance paths and a general lack of shelter can both be easily addressed.
And even a fence can be easily modified to let wildlife come and go.
Let’s look at what it takes to create backyard wildlife corridors to address these issues.
Creating Backyard Wildlife Corridors
So now that you know what can block wildlife from moving freely and safely across your property what do you do? How do you create a backyard wildlife corridor?
The first approach should be to look at your backyard or property as a whole and ask yourself if a small critter—say a frog—can move from one side to the other without being out in the open.
If the answer is no, then start thinking about some routes you could make for wildlife to use. These routes will be your designated wildlife corridors.
You can keep your wildlife corridor to the edges of your property, but consider having little extensions that come out to give wildlife access to areas in the middle. This is a great way to connect a hedgerow along the edges of your property to your garden or fruit trees.
But unlike a nice open path that people like to use, a good wildlife corridor will be mostly covered so the wildlife can feel safe.
Though you don’t need to have solid cover over the whole route. There can be paths and gaps as long as those are kept small—no more than a few feet (1m) across.
You want small critters to be able to get across the gaps quickly.
Now that you’ve identified a route for your wildlife corridor, it’s time to create it. Here are several options you can use:
- Plant shrubs and trees to create a hedgerow along that route.
- Place habitat features like log and rock piles along the route.
- Plant a mini-meadow along the route.
- Add a wildlife pond to the route.
And of course, you can use a combination of these options—or even all 4—to create a diverse mix of habitat along your wildlife corridor.
Use larger elements like shrubs and trees if you want your wildlife corridor to work for larger animals. Mini-meadows, for example, are great for small critters like garter snakes, beneficial insects and frogs. But they wouldn’t provide cover for larger wildlife like coyotes.
Your new wildlife corridor can also provide other benefits. For example, a hedgerow can serve as a windbreak, block late afternoon soon, help retain water, and provide privacy from your neighbors.
But of course, wildlife have to be able to get into your property to make use of your new wildlife corridor.
For critters that can fly, like birds, this isn’t a huge issue. But for other wildlife, this could be a challenge if you’ve put up a privacy fence or a deer fence.
I’ve installed a deer fence around my entire property. I did this because the deer were actually preventing me from creating abundance for people, plants and wildlife.
They kept eating all the plants I planted, which made it impossible to create habitat for other wildlife or to grow food for my family.
But I still wanted to let coyotes and other wildlife in. I want to support those critters and I need them to help me deal with voles and other small pests.
Coyotes eat a lot of voles, which means less issues with voles eating my chard and other vegetables—but only if I let the coyotes in.
One great option is to build a tunnel under your fence.
I’ve done this by using some large wood rounds along the side with large branches placed over the top. But there are lots of options to make a tunnel that coyotes and other wildlife can use.
The coyotes use one of my tunnels so much that they’ve made a path through the grass. Sometimes we call it our coyote highway.
As long as the tunnel is at least a couple feet (0.6 meters) long and kept otherwise small (1-2 feet tall and wide [0.3-0.6 meters]) deer won’t be able to use it.
Deer will go under fences, but they don’t seem to be able to crawl—at least they’ve never been able to get through the tunnels I made.
These tunnels won’t work for larger wildlife like bears or mountain lions, but they’re a good compromise between keeping deer out while still letting smaller critters in, like coyotes. And let’s face it, most of us don’t live in areas where bears and mountain lions are common.
You might want to look at adding several of these tunnels on opposite ends of the route you identified for your wildlife corridor. This way wildlife will easily be able to come and go.
It might seem strange to be designing routes for wildlife to move through your property. It’s not something we often think about.
But even in urban areas there are lots of wildlife. You likely don’t see them because they mostly come out at night.
For a great example of people coming together to create safe backyard wildlife corridors, check out this fantastic story out of the UK.
By creating wildlife corridors, you help these critters move safely through your property. And in return, they will help you keep your pests in check. You can’t have a balance between predators and prey without supporting the safe movement of wildlife.
And when you start creating safe passage, you will be amazed at how much more wildlife you get to enjoy.
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