How to Keep Wildlife Safe When Decorating for the Holidays

Once December rolls in, many of us get especially caught up in the holiday spirit and like to decorate not only the inside of our homes for the holidays, but also the outside. While the lights, wreaths, and assorted inflatable characters can brighten up our neighborhoods, there’s a chance they may also cause issues for wildlife. Avoiding that is fairly easy, though. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

You May Want to Ditch the Fake Snow

Fake snow can be a good addition to your yard if you’re in an area that doesn’t get much of the real stuff, but it can be a hazard for wildlife. When draped across bushes or trees, birds often get stuck in it. Other smaller wildlife can experience this, as well. You can always use it inside, though, assuming the materials are safe for your pets.

Bird sits on snowy tree in winter

Be Careful About Where You Place Outdoor String Lights

Probably the most common outdoor decoration this time of year is a string of brightly colored lights, or several, if you’re really looking to make your yard festive. Unfortunately, this is one of many items that poses an entanglement risk to animals, including birds, but also animals with antlers.

There are two things to keep in mind here: Make sure lights are high enough up that antlers can’t get caught in them and avoid wrapping lights around trees that are apt to be rubbed by bucks to communicate with other deer. According to the Ohio Wildlife Center, this tends to be smaller trees, so putting lights on trees with a larger diameter would be a better bet. They also recommend using shorter strands plugged in together, instead of a longer one, so if there is entanglement, the animal will have a smaller amount of string to deal with.

Mule deer buck in snow

If animals do get caught, they can develop something called capture myopathy. This is when the exertion or stress involved in getting caught causes muscle damage. It can prove fatal. It’s best to call someone who knows how to handle these situations, too, rather than trying to help yourself, which could make things worse.

Be Bird-Safe with Fake Plants

Wreaths and garland are often made of fake plants to make them last longer, but this can be dangerous to birds. If there are fake berries or anything that resembles something they’d eat, they may try to snack on it. Items like this would likely be safe on your front door, but not out in the yard where birds are apt to be looking for food.

European crested tit in winter

Instead, you can use the real plants the decorations are emulating, which birds may appreciate as a treat.

Make Actual Bird Treats

While you’ll want to avoid putting the fake plants birds like in your yard, you could make actual food for them… and make it festive! The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recommends dipped pine cones. This involves using real pine cones, lard, and seeds or other foods birds may enjoy. Warm the lard, mix it with the food items you’ve chosen, and then roll the pine cones in the mix. Refrigerate it to get it to set, and then hang it on a high traffic bird tree.

Willow tit on snowy tree

Another treat option is a bird seed garland, in which you use string covered in molasses to gather up seed. This makes for tasty yet festive yard décor. You can also hang fresh apples or pears by their stems or cut them into slices and push small sticks through them.

By being safe with string lights, keeping fake snow inside, and ensuring you don’t confuse birds with fake foods, you can brighten up your yard and keep your winged and four-legged neighbors safe.

Ungulates in snowy field
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