5 Ways to Support Animals in Your Yard in Winter

squirrel in the snow

Many folks imagine that animals survive easily during the winter. For myriad reasons, though, this isn’t always the case.

Smaller critters like squirrels, chipmunks, and birds struggle to keep warm when the temperature dips. Larger animals, like coons, cats, and deer, have a harder time finding the sustenance they need, since many food sources either freeze during the winter or get covered by snow. Insects—a vital part of the food chain—die off or disappear during winter months, and many sources of fresh water can freeze for long periods.

All this is made more complicated by the stresses of human development on shrinking natural habitats. In many places, sadly, this trend has led to billions of lost animal lives over the past few decades, and today, wild species are disappearing at a rapid pace.

Hopefully someday we can reverse this damage. Luckily, there are a variety of ways each of us can support the well-being of local friendly creatures who pass through our yards during the coldest season.

bird on branch with frozen berries

1. Supply a Water Source

Lay out a bird bath somewhere animals can easily access. Throughout the day, pour hot water over the bath to keep it from freezing before animals can get to it. Another option is to insert a floating object, like a ball, to slow freezing in some spaces and allow animals access to the water even after it gets icy.

2. Provide Shelter

The snow that accompanies cold seasons in many places can take away many spots animals inhabit during warmer days, including dense bushes and trees. To help bridge this gap during the winter, provide brush piles for animals to take refuge in within your yard. You can easily make these out of twigs and sticks. Small animals will use these piles for shelter and warmth.

3. Use Non-Toxic Antifreeze

Antifreeze is commonly used by cars during colder months, but this substance can be deadly for wildlife. The sweet smell and taste of the solution is attractive to wildlife, so they may be inclined to drink it if there’s any residue or spilled in your yard or driveway. Pick up a non-toxic anti-freeze to avoid poisoning any of your fuzzy neighbors by mistake.

4. Fill Your Bird Feeders

One of the simplest ways to help animals is to provide them with a food source. Filling your bird feeders whenever they’re empty is a simple way to do this. Add seeds that are filling and fueling for animals, such as black oil sunflower seeds.

caribou in the snow

5. Provide Food for Larger Animals

Foxes appreciate cheese, potatoes, chicken carcasses, or scraps of bread. They most commonly prowl for food at dusk. Squirrels may graze at your bird feeder, but they’ll also like nuts like walnuts and almonds as well as produce like apples, beans, or carrots. White tailed deer are vegetarians, so they’ll flock to fruits such as apples, blueberries, and blackberries, as well as nuts like pecans, hickory nuts, and acorns. Suet chunks, peanut butter pine cones, and salt licks all make good snacks for wildlife, too.

Don't leave out large quantities of food too often. Over time, this can make animals dependent on you and hurt their abilities to find nourishment on their own.

While you're taking care of your fuzzy and feathered pals, take a survey of your property to make sure your lawn is winterized.