How Can I Protect Wildlife in My Community?

NRDC conservation expert Sylvia Fallon offers tips for being a better neighbor to local animals.
Muscovy ducks in a yard

Stacey Muniz/Offset

Q: What are ways I can protect wildlife in my community?

—Lepa Chapa

Sylvia Fallon, director of NRDC's Wildlife Conservation Project

Rebecca Greenfield

A: It sounds like you’ve already taken an important first step by realizing we’re surrounded by wildlife in the first place. It’s certainly true—whether we live in the suburbs, big cities, or out in the country, animals worth protecting exist right alongside us. NRDC wildlife expert Sylvia Fallon has great ideas for sharing the land with wild neighbors.

Purposefully create habitat in your backyard.

Our ever-expanding human footprint often has the side effect of displacing wildlife, leading to population loss. But those of us with backyards can help rebuild that natural habitat by landscaping with diverse native plants that provide the food and shelter for bees, birds, and other critters essential to our ecosystem. If you’re unsure where to start, there are programs that can offer local gardening tips and even provide certifications for wildlife-friendly habitat.

Go pesticide-free.

While you’re at it, make sure any landscaping you’re doing doesn’t involve harmful chemicals. Although some gardening stores are phasing out neonicotinoid pesticides, ask store owners whether the plants you want to purchase have been treated with neonics, which can harm bees and other pollinators. Similarly, deal with weeds the old-fashioned way—by pulling them out by hand rather than spraying chemical insecticides and herbicides. These toxic treatments can affect wildlife and leach into water sources.

Save Bees

Lock food away.

If you live in an area near animals like foxes, coyotes, or black bears, double check that trash and other good-smelling lures are kept secure (there are many varieties of bear-proof and other carnivore-resistant garbage cans on the market). This will help reduce potentially negative run-ins and foster coexistence between your family, your pets, and neighboring wildlife.

Bird-proof your windows.

Experts estimate that in the United States alone, hundreds of millions of birds die each year from flying into our windows and glass doors. These surfaces can deceivingly reflect foliage or sky, and at night, lights inside your home can attract nocturnal birds, especially when it’s foggy or raining. There are various methods for addressing these issues so birds are less likely to hurt themselves. A few options include mosquito screens, grilles, and shutters. Frosted glass, window film, and taped or etched stripes and dots—placed either two inches apart horizontally or four inches apart vertically—all significantly reduce collisions as well.

Keep your cat indoors.

Cats that roam outside kill billions of native birds and small mammals each year. Keeping your cat inside, or at the very least putting on a collar with a bell that alerts other animals to its presence, can help save wildlife. (This might also save you from an unwanted “gifts” brought home after a neighborhood prowl.)

Speak up.

Not all community members may want, say, coyotes or foxes in their backyards. But you can set a strong example just by being a voice for wildlife in a kind, respectful way—whether you’re standing up for a struggling grizzly bear population in your neck of the woods or migratory songbirds winging their way through your city. Speak up at community forums where topics connected to wildlife or natural habitat are on the agenda, take local action, such as organizing a tree-planting project or a cleanup of one of your area’s waterways, or advocate for town ordinances that prevent pesticide use in parks or on lawns. All this shows fellow community members that we can peacefully coexist with the wildlife that share our surroundings.

Save the Endangered Species Act

onEarth Story

Scientists respond to an Associated Press article that paints black vultures and turkey vultures as “flying fiends.”

Guide

From coastal tide pools and rolling prairies to African savanna and arctic terrain, the earth is home to myriad ecosystems, each one regulated by interlinking parts, including the creatures that call them home.

Guide

Wildlife trade is big business, with wild plants, animals, and products made from them sold around the globe, legally and illegally. It’s also a leading cause of the planet’s accelerating biodiversity crisis and resultant ecosystem collapse.

Q&A

Conservation scientists say giraffes are headed toward extinction. Now the U.S. government must catch up with the scientific consensus.

onEarth Story

A new practice of harvesting olives at night leads to grim mortality statistics for migratory birds in southern Europe.

Rockies Dispatch

A push for more animal bridges and overpasses is aimed at reducing the number of collisions between vehicles and wildlife.

Northeast Dispatch

The federal government wants to sell off a wildlife-rich island in Long Island Sound to the highest bidder. No way, say advocates.

onEarth Story

After a rare shark bite takes a life, some in this beach region want to go after the seals.

onEarth Story

Urban wildlife isn’t in our backyard. We’re in its front yard.

Western Dispatch

In a new forensics lab, state agents test samples of blood, saliva, tusks, and feathers in a quest to stem the illegal trade in exotic animal parts.

onEarth Story

In Washington State, biologists and conservationists are working to open the wilderness (and people’s minds) to the Great Bear.

onEarth Story

These cute little marsupials are taking their country back—well, hopefully.

Northeast Dispatch

This partnership is bringing bird-friendly “urban oases” to underserved neighborhoods in Connecticut.

Southwest Dispatch

Situated along the monarch’s migration corridor, the Sooner State is coming up with creative ways to save the imperiled pollinators.

Q&A

It’s a complex issue, but NRDC attorney Molly Masterton says that a combination of smart management policies and consumer vigilance is key to the solution.

Western Dispatch

The city of Eugene is testing an unconventional solution to a serious issue, with a ban on feeding a slew of wild animals.

Guide

Manicured turf grass lawns cover up to 50 million acres of land in America. But a new, no-mow movement is challenging this conformity—and helping the environment.

onEarth Story

I released Misty the Chinese water dragon into the Pennsylvania wild—but don’t be like me. There are other options.

Action Figure

One woman’s mission to save songbirds from their greatest man-made threat: windows.

onEarth Story

A public photography exhibit at Brooklyn Bridge Park introduces city dwellers to the amazing marine life of the New York Bight.

Personal Action

Be a good neighbor to struggling pollinators by turning your backyard into a welcome pit stop.

onEarth Story

Nonlethal methods to protect livestock from predators are gaining momentum as pressure mounts to ban poison-spray traps.

onEarth Story

Apparently they don’t want to hang out with a bunch of noisy, destructive, arrogant, and trigger-happy primates.

Midwest Dispatch

As the region’s wetlands disappear, so may the swamp rattler.

Latest News

These nine bills would weaken the Endangered Species Act—and put our nation’s wildlife at risk.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.