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Welcoming Wildlife
Welcoming Wildlife Image

A Monarch butterfly flits across your path as you walk through your neighborhood on a bright spring morning…a raccoon scampers across your yard one warm summer night…a flock of wild geese flies in a perfect V-formation over your house on a chilly autumn afternoon. Boasting the greatest diversity in climate, terrain and geology, California may also have the most diverse wildlife of the lower 48 states. And even though Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US, wildlife lives in every neighborhood here in SoCal.


To support the myriad wildlife that call LA their home, the City of Los Angeles is partnering with the National Wildlife Federation to become the nation’s largest certified Community Wildlife Habitat. We invite all Angelenos to help by certifying their properties with the National Wildlife Federation.  


Anyone can create a welcoming environment for wildlife. Here are the five vitally important elements that your garden must include to be eligible for certification as a community wildlife habitat:


  1.   FOOD: In nature, plants are important food sources (think berries, nectar, pollen, leaves, roots, seeds, nuts, acorns, and pinecones). Native plants also create a habitable environment and provide sustenance for insects, invertebrates, and fungi. Certified habitats must include food sources for wildlife.
  2.   WATER: Your habitat needs to include fresh water for wildlife to drink and bathe in. This can be as simple as a shallow dish or a birdbath, with a few rocks in it to prevent insects from drowning. Or you can create a small pond with native aquatic vegetation. If you are concerned about mosquitoes, simply change the water every 5-7 days or install a drip or a filter that agitates the water, which prevents mosquitoes from laying eggs. Moving water is also more attractive to birds.
  3.   SHELTER: Wildlife need a place to hide from predators, or if they are predators, a place to find prey. Plants provide this kind of cover, and they also offer protection against the elements, during times of extreme heat or rain. Be sure to plant densely, to establish good cover. Brush piles, dead logs, and leaf litter provide excellent cover as well.
  4.   PLACES TO RAISE YOUNG: Many organisms rely on specific native plants to raise their young. For example, Monarch butterflies can only eat milkweed as caterpillars, while the endemic El Segundo blue butterfly relies on Coast Buckwheat pollen. Many birds also show a preference when nesting. Some like to lay their eggs in the tall branches of Sycamore trees, while other species nest in thick shrubs like Manzanita.
  5.   SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES: Once you’ve established your wildlife garden, follow sustainable practices like eliminating the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and removing invasive plants. Maintaining your landscape in an environmentally friendly way is critically important to providing a safe and healthy space for wildlife.


Each certified property will earn points for the City of Los Angeles in the Community Wildlife Habitat Program. To learn more about the types of certifications you can apply for, which native plants will attract which species and review FAQs about the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program by visiting our Certified Wildlife Habitat web page.  


Even if you don’t have plans to certify your garden as a community wildlife habitat, you can still create a green space that will be friendly to wildlife. This can be achieved by using native plants, planting plenty of trees, adopting sustainable practices, and reducing, or even eliminating, the use of pesticides and fertilizers. 


We all want a home and garden that is welcoming to our family, our friends, our neighbors. By designing the green space around your house with these principles in mind, you will boost the health of our ecosystems, enhance the resiliency of our climate and create a garden that also welcomes wildlife.

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