Indigenous Peoples and Parks: Native American Heritage Month
Beat the Winter Doldrums: How to Stay Active in the Cold
Did you know that, in 2021, the red fox was designated as an official endangered species? What about the fact that three different native Pennsylvania snakes are listed as endangered? Even birds have made the list of endangered species in PA, with 16 different species endangered and a little over four species threatened, according to the PA Game Commission. It’s hard to believe that even the bald eagle was once endangered in our state. But with a little TLC (tender, loving conservation!), its population has since recovered.
December 4th was National Wildlife Conservation Day – and there are so many ways, big and small, to help protect and support the wildlife near you this month and beyond. You don’t have to be an avid hiker, an intense camper, or National Park visitor to make a difference. Even local parks right in your backyard are teeming with critters to be cared for. Here’s some tips on how to get that natural “animal instinct” for daily conservation:
Protect Real Bugs, Not “Litterbugs”
You’d think it would go without saying that littering is a nature no-no, but it becomes even more integral when you get all the facts. Sure, it looks unsightly when scattered – not to mention, it adds more work and expenses for park and rec professionals. But it’s quite detrimental to wildlife too! According to Texas Disposal Systems, researchers say that over one million animals die each year from ingesting or being trapped in improperly-disposed-of trash.
Plastic wrappers are choking hazards for birds and mammals alike, but that’s not all. Smaller animals unknowingly climb into and get trapped within bottles, glass and plastic. And the list goes on. So how can you help?
Disposing of trash is integral, even if it means holding on to it until you reach a bin. The sacrifice can save a life. If you already dispose of trash, there’s still work to be done! Pick Up PA and Keep PA Beautiful are initiatives that happens throughout the whole year that allows you to join your community in ridding your parks of litter!
Put Wildlife on “Do Not Disturb”
Recreation is permitted in over 94% of International Union for Conservation of Nature protected areas and our presence ultimately makes a difference to the way wildlife lives. Think about it like this: A fox, a falcon, and a squirrel walk into your home, unannounced. And, while that sounds like the start of a really bad joke, it is also the reality. Since natural areas are homes for wildlife, it’s important we, as visitors, treat them with respect – and avoid bothering them, touching them, and trying to take selfies with them, no matter how photogenic they may be.
Messing around with nests, “hidey” holes, and sanctuaries made from branches, is ultimately destroying an animal’s home (and hard work)! Plus, you never know if an animal lies inside and how it may react. Trust us, if you’ve ever been sprayed by a skunk before, you’ll know what we mean. Feeding wild animals can be equally dangerous to them; you can never be sure if an animal may be poisoned by what you’re giving them.
If you’re looking to enjoy the sights of the wild and see animals in their natural habitat, there are sanctuaries and wildlife watching tours throughout parks in the state that are supervised – keeping the critters safe and out of harm’s way. Check out the Valley Forge Audubon Society, Keystone State Park, and much more. Or join one of the many bird watching groups in PA!
Three Words: Adopt, Donate, Sign
Petitions and donations are huge efforts toward wildlife conservation.
Advocating for creatures who can’t advocate for themselves is the least we can do as inhabitants of Earth and frequenters of the other kind of earth – parks and wildlife areas. There are plenty of conservation topics to sign and donate for: to end poaching, to assist in grants for conservationists, to work to resuscitate natural habitats, and so much more.
One of the more specific ways to donate is to adopt an animal (symbolically, of course). From farm animals, like cows, goats, and pigs to more-wild animals like lions, bears, or even koalas, there are so many organizations waiting for your support. You can even adopt a bird from the National Audubon Society. A snowy owl, a barn swallow, and if you’re feeling a bit guilty after Thanksgiving, adopt a wild turkey!
Some honorable conservation mentions: Buy a birdhouse or bird bath for your backyard, become informed on which chemicals to use outdoors to avoid harming wildlife, and learn everything you can about endangered species, whether through informative media or in-person classes or programs! There are countless ways to show some love to our mammal, insect, and avian friends.
Part of PA Game Commission’s Wildlife Action Plan includes a Conservation Opportunity Area Tool – an incredible resource for finding conservation efforts and nature-based activities near you that you can take part in. So, in celebration of Wildlife Conservation Day this month, and for every day on Earth, don’t just say your appreciation for Pennsylvania wildlife – show it!