Landscaping For Wildlife Equals Year-Round Food

By Gail Reynolds
EVERTON, MO--Mel and Millie Funk enjoy looking out on their side yard in rural Everton to watch the wildlife feeding on the treats the Funks put out for them.

“We put out rock salt for the deer, chicken feed for the Wild Turkeys, black oil sunflower seeds and finch food (nyjer) for the birds and cracked corn for whoever else comes along,” said Mel Funk.

Funk said the yard and picnic table adjacent to their home is visited by a host of different birds and a variety of wildlife. The Funks purchase the food they set out for the wild visitors who drop for a bite to eat; however, others interested in providing a plateful of natural culinary treats for wildlife can “naturescape” their yards with a selection of native plants.

“Setting out food for wildlife is great for them, especially in the winter,” said Kim Banner, a naturalist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “However, if you make your backyard or your landscaping friendlier for wildlife, you won’t have that much of a problem attracting animals and insects.”

“Naturescaping”—landscaping with wildlife in mind—helps produces a natural year-round food supply for the wild critters in your neighborhood, according to Banner: “Wildlife are just like people. They have the same needs as we do—food, water and shelter.”

The key to creating a wildlife-friendly habitat in your outdoors space is to landscape with plants that are native to your area, said Barbara Lucks, Missouri Master Naturalist and immediate past-president of Master Gardeners of Greene County. “We have a challenging growing environment in southwest Missouri,” said Lucks. “The soil is not the best and the weather is unpredictable at best.

“So if you have native plants that have managed to adapt to our environment and can withstand the hot/dry, floods, ice and up-and-down winter weather we experience here— insects and wildlife are dependent upon these hardy varieties because they will always be there. But, you can’t just ignore your yard and hope the right plants spring up on their own.”

“One of the things people can do is educate themselves on the kinds of native plants that are particular to the kind of wildlife they want to attract,” Banner said. And there are many readily available resources and upcoming events to tap into.

Get a jump start on naturescaping by visiting the web site of GrowNative, a joint program of the MDC and Missouri Department of Agriculture, at; also stop by the MDC Web site at

If you live outside Missouri, go to WindStar Wildlife Institute at and click on the ‘Knowledge Center” where you will find nearly 600 articles on how to improve your wildlife habitat.  Also you can go to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at and click on ‘Explore the Native Plant Information Network’.

These sites have information on which plants are required to create appropriate habitat for a variety of wildlife, butterflies and other beneficial insects; landscaping plans with recommended plants placed appropriately; resources on where you can purchase these plants locally and more. Also check with your state Cooperative Extension’s web site.–News-Leader