Often times, what makes a park so great is the resident wildlife that live there. Some visit parks just for that reason. In order to preserve wildlife habitats for the enjoyment of everyone, some considerations and boundaries need to be put in place.
May is dedicated to the protection of the wildlife that often inhabit shared parks. Whether your park is home to migratory birds, turtles, ducks, deer or even endangered species, it’s important to protect them with proper trash disposal and pet waste pickup so visitors can enjoy their presence without contributing to the degradation of the species.
VISITOR LITTEING HARMS WILDLIFE
Each year national park visitors generate 100 million pounds of garbage. This statistic doesn’t include state parks, residential parks, private parks or beaches. The true amount of park visitor generated trash is significantly higher. Litter left behind can be incredibly dangerous to park wildlife. Plastic, fishing lines and hooks, aluminum cans and cigarette butts are some of the worst offenders. Wildlife can get tangled in the debris, ingest the litter and choke, become ill, or get intestinal blockages.
Large amounts of litter in parks can also increase the amount of invasive species or unwanted wildlife such as raccoons, rodents and predators who hunt small rodents. Trash can even become choking hazards to park residents’ dogs, and dog waste can encourage the spread of diseases as well as kill the plants and grass.
In order to maintain your park and protect the wildlife in it, be sure to implement trash cans, dog waste receptacles and dog waste bags. You can encourage residents to pick up and throw out their dog’s poop by adding signage. You want your park to look nice, and that starts with maintaining the trash that is left there.
VISITOR INTERACTIONS AFFECT WILDLIFE
Whether we realize it or not, human actions have a lot of ramifications in the natural world. Baby turtles, for example, have been seen going the wrong direction, away from the sea, because they are following the light pollution instead of the moon. Feeding wildlife can also make them sick and can encourage food aggression. When animals start to associate humans with food, they can become more bold and aggressive towards humans. This not only puts the animals in danger but also humans. People have even gone as far as trying to take wildlife, such as ducks, home with them. This is not only harmful to that animal but also the natural balance in the park. Wild animals are not meant to be domesticated. Attempting such can disrupt the species ability to reproduce effectively and harm the ecosystem the animal lives in.
EASY SOLUTIONS TO PRESERVE YOUR PARK’S WILDLIFE
Many people do not realize the effects of their actions and don’t actually want to harm the park or its wildlife. There are some solutions to help protect the park and resident wildlife that call it home.
To start, add more trash cans and dog waste stations throughout the park. Walt Disney designed his parks so that a trash cans are no more than 30 feet apart because he recognized that people are not willing to walk around with trash for too long. This is not to say you should put trash cans 30 feet apart throughout your entire park, but rather, observe high traffic areas and place trash cans and pet waste receptacles so that they are accessible and encourage guests to use them.
Staff can be used to pick up stray garbage throughout the park and ensure what doesn’t make it to a trash can is ends up there. Involve your community and have volunteer park clean up days. People are willing to help if they know there is a problem.
Another way to preserve wildlife is to add signs reminding visitors to respect wildlife, avoid feeding them, and clean up after themselves. Signs can make guests feel accountable, and they will be less likely to engage in harmful actions. Being able to view the wildlife that reside in parks adds to the overall enjoyment of the outdoor space. Thus, protecting a park’s permanent residents is imperative.