WSU Whatcom County Extension

Stewardship is Where You Are

Hidden Highways

The Big Picture

In the Northwest we are surrounded by hills, mountains, streams and forests. Many animals live in these wild spaces. As the human population grows and we need more space, we end up using space that may be needed by wildlife.

Imagine your family lived on an island and needed to cross a bridge every time you had to go to town to buy food. If there was a huge earthquake and the bridge collapsed what would you do? Would you move to somewhere where there were not earthquakes? Would you start using a boat to go to the store? Would you start storing emergency food? Would you fight for the remaining food on your island? Would you be able to survive?

As human population increases in an area, it is important to recognize that the wildlife in an area still need “safe passage” to move and adapt as well. Animals need food, shelter and space just like humans do. They also need safe corridors to move successfully in their habitat. When animals have to cross a busy city street that is not safe for the animals or humans. When wildlife corridors disappear the result can be a strain on the entire ecosystem. Let’s investigate your yard, and the natural areas near your home, to see what kinds of wildlife can coexist alongside you.

Explorer - Skill Level: One Engager - Skill Level: Two Citizen Scientist - Skill Level: Three


Observing wildlife

Activity 1: Recording Wildlife Encounters

Objective: Look for wildlife and signs of wildlife
Science Skills: Observation, deductive reasoning
Life Skills: Critical thinking

Preparation Activities:
Review the Safety Precautions regarding interacting with wildlife.

Ask your group the following questions:

- What do animals need to survive?
- What kinds of animals do we have in our area?
- How do we know what kinds of animals we have in our area?
- Are their animals we don’t see?
- How do we know they are there?
- How do we confirm they are there?
- What kinds of conditions will affect what animals we see?
- How do scientists learn this information?

Check the web links in Explore More for resources about identifying animals.

What You Will Need

     - Calendars / Observation Journals
     - Pencils/Pens
     - Animal Identification Guides
     - Magnifying glass
     - Binoculars

Using a calendar, youth will choose an interval to which they can commit. That might be as simple as once a week at breakfast logging what they see out the kitchen window, or as complex as making a detailed investigation every day of what animals they see in the habitat behind their house.

1) Decide the parameters: where will they investigate, how much space? Ten square feet? An acre? Will they be on their hands and knees doing detail studies, or just making casual observations? Commit to what is the most likely for each individual.

2) Choose the subject: what will they study? A single species of bird? Only deer? Just insects? All reptiles? Any living animal they see?

3) How long will they commit to the investigation? Five minutes once a week for one season? Ten minutes every day for a year? Encourage them to make a realistic and achievable goal, and at the same time, tell them that the longer they commit, the more they will discover. (Using a calendar helps suggest that many animals have seasonal habitats and migration patterns.)

Research any animals of interest that they observe. Ask questions.

• What are they doing?
• Where did they come from?
• Where are they going?
• What brought them here?

Utilize local animal guides or some of the online resources in Explore More to learn more about each animal.


Activity 2: Wildlife Feeders

Objective: Create a feeder to attract local wildlife

Science Skills: Observation, Draw/Design

Life Skills: Critical thinking

What You Will Need

Gather a large variety of materials to promote creative designing: Wire cutters, hangers, jars, cans, chicken wire, liter pop bottles, milk cartons, wood, nails, glue, tape, pinecones, seeds, peanut butter, string, straws, chop sticks, popsicle sticks, paper, plastic or pie plates, etc.


Step 1: Hypothesize
Ask the youth to look at their habitat. What kind of animals would be most likely to visit if you create a feeder? What kind of animals do you want to feed? What do those animals eat? Have youth state and record their assumption, for example: “If I make a feeder and fill it full of seeds, robins and sparrows will come to the feeder.”

Step 2: Research Feeder Designs
Go on-line or to the library to learn about feeder designs. (Note that an internet search for “making wildlife feeders” will bring up a very different list of responses from “making a bird feeder.” Be specific.) There are also books available at your Extension Office that describe a variety of wildlife feeders.

Step 3: Design and Build a Feeder
This is really a great opportunity to get youth thinking creatively. Have them draw out a design using easy to acquire household objects. Once they have designed a feeder have them build it.

Step 4: Observation
Put the feeder near a window, (near a window by a computer). Have the youth log the animals that utilize the feeder.

Asking the Right Questions:

Did you attract the animals you intended? Did you attract other animals? If you only attracted an animal you were not expecting what kinds of conclusions can you make about your environment? What kind of conclusions can you make about your feeder? What kind of conclusions might you make about the wildlife?




Natural Resource Stewards


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Explore More

Birds of the Pacific Northwest

American Bird Conservancy

Bug Guide

UW Nature Mapping Animal Fact Sheets


It's All Connected

Rea Edwards, City of Bellingham Parks Volunteer Coordinator


“Objects are concealed from our view not so much because they are out of the curve of our visual ray as because there is no intention of the mind and eye toward them…We cannot see anything until we are possessed with an idea of it, and then we can hardly see anything else."

H.D. Thoreau - Walden


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WSU Whatcom County Extension, 1000 North Forest Street, Suite 201, Bellingham, WA 98225, (360) 778-5800, Contact Us