As an educated steward of the Preserve, it is important to remember that what you do outside the Preserve can be just as important as your behavior on the actual trails. This is especially true if you live on the edge of or near the Bull Creek Nature Preserve or any of the other preserve areas that make up the BCP system. Your actions at home can have a direct and immediate impact on the Preserve. For example, exotic garden plants can spread to the Preserve and outcompete native plants that are necessary for habitat. The following are a number of steps you can take that will benefit the Preserve ecosystem and the species, endangered and otherwise, it supports.
The essence of native landscaping is to select the plants for the place rather than changing the place for the plants using irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides. The use of native plants in landscaping reduces environmental impacts and benefits the surrounding ecosystem. Native plants create valuable habitat, attracting native wildlife such as songbirds and beneficial insects. In addition, because native plants are well adapted to local conditions, the amount of chemicals needed (i.e. pesticides, fertilizers) is significantly reduced or eliminated altogether which improves water quality. With extensive root systems, native plants can also stabilize the soil and prevent erosion more over the long term than exotic turf grasses like Bermuda and St. Augustine.
Native landscaping provides a number of economic benefits as well. Native plants greatly lower maintenance costs, reducing or even eliminating the need for mowing and watering thus lowering water bills, as well as reducing any costs for fertilizers and pesticides. On a larger scale, native landscaping in neighborhoods near the Bull Creek Nature Preserve can help reduce the Preserve management time and budget consumed by the removal and control of exotic plants.
Responsible pet ownership is a critical part of reducing our impacts on the surrounding environment. One step is to always feed your pets indoors. Leaving or storing pet food outside attracts common nest predators, such as blue jays, raccoons, and squirrels - increasing the already large number of these species found in and around the Preserve ecosystem.
Domestic cats can pose a specific threat for animals in the Preserve. They continue to hunt whether or not they are well fed. In order to protect native and endangered animals from cats - as well as to protect cats from traffic, disease, and other outdoor dangers - cats should be kept indoors. For more information on domestic cats in the wild, visit the American Bird Conservancy Cats Indoors! website.
Another important part of responsible pet ownership is never to abandon your pet in the wild. Released animals (especially cats and dogs) can harm native wildlife by displacing predators, transmitting diseases, and preying on small vertebrates including lizards, field mice, and birds. If you are no longer able to care for your pet, you should either find it a new owner or take it to an adoption facility.
A final way to reduce your impact on the surrounding environment is to discourage nest predators and overpopulated animals in your area.Nest predators such as blue jays and squirrels prey on the eggs and nestlings of songbirds, including the golden-cheeked warbler. Overpopulated animals like the white-tailed deer and the feral hog can often destroy valuable habitat and vegetation while foraging for food.
One way to discourage these problem species is to never feed wild mammals, including squirrels, raccoons, deer, and opossums. Also, never attempt to capture wild mammals and release them into preserve areas. This can have a devastating effect on warbler and vireo populations and habitat.
Birdfeeders are a fun and easy way to create wildlife habitat in your yard. By following the tips below, you can help discourage abundant nest predators and continue to enjoy attracting and watching wildlife:
- Only use feeds containing seeds avoided by blue jays, such as flax and thistle
- Use weight-sensitive feeders adjusted to exclude large birds or caged “squirrel proof” feeders. Do not use an open tray feeder or a suet feeder.
- Shorten the perch length on your feeders to one inch and remove trays.
- Do not scatter seeds or scraps on the ground.
- Use other methods of attracting songbirds, such as planting native fruit and nut trees as well as native understory plants like shrubs and wildflowers.
For more information on creating healthy habitat for birds and other wildlife at home, visit the Audubon At Home website.