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"I'm A Farmer Who's Learned To Co-Exist With Wildlife. Here's How You Can Too."

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While the farmer in me may have a difficult time admitting that creatures such as gophers possess anything other than evil intentions in their hearts, deep down I understand that they—along with the other wild animals—all have an important role to play in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. What is imperative to realize is just how much of that also translates to the overall health of the farm: Wildlife biodiversity is far more significant than many people (farmers included) appreciate. 

Most of us already have some understanding of the importance of biodiversity on our property, at least from the perspective of beneficial insects and songbirds. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed installing Audubon-approved nesting boxes around my gardens to increase the populations of swallows that visit each year. They have made an enormous dent in the number of mosquitoes and biting flies that plague me and my livestock during the summer. This is a simple solution for increasing bird biodiversity, but what about when it comes to the larger animals? 

Welcoming birds and bugs onto your land is easy in comparison with wildlife such as deer, elk or even predators such as coyotes. For help on this topic, I turned to my local Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office, where I spoke to Reagan Harris, a wildlife conflict specialist who assists rural residents and farmers in learning how to coexist with wildlife on their property. 

According to Harris, hedgerows are one of the best ways to increase wildlife biodiversity and habitat as well as direct animal movements away from valuable crops. Hedgerows don’t have to take up a great deal of space either: They can be something as simple as a 20-foot-wide row of shrubs or trees that run along a fence line or a riparian area. Hedgerows can also greatly benefit farmers by serving as erosion control on stream banks or as windbreaks for fields. These hedgerows not only help to create important areas of food and cover for a wide range of birds and other animals, but they also maintain critical travel corridors that help wildlife to move from one section of habitat to another. 


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