The Rewards Of Living With Wildlife In Your Backyard

Burros, ducks, and butterflies are just the beginning of endless possibilities for enhanced well-being by sharing your backyard with nature.

Photo©Staci-lee Sherwood

There’s a reason parents tell their kids to go outside and get some fresh air. Being outdoors amidst nature is a way for the body and mind to regenerate. For those who live in cold climates, think how much you anticipate spring when you can open the windows and take a walk without freezing. One of the main attractions for people moving to year round warm climates is the benefit of being outdoors and having a garden.

There have been many studies done on the positive effects gardening or just being outdoors has on one’s health, state of mind and overall well-being. People who make a point of staying in touch with the natural world on a personal level have long known this. One of the best ways to reap these rewards is to have a garden you actually spend time in, especially when it includes observing wildlife. Meaningful connection with nature has a deep subliminal impact, and one most of us are missing, as we live more in urban environments and are less connected to the natural world.

There are several benefits to sharing your backyard with wildlife:

Helping Keep Your Environment Clean

When you have a yard filled with trees, shrubs and flowers they help to remove pollutants from the air, making the air cleaner, healthier and safer for you to breathe.

According to US Green Technology, “Plants produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. They take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through their leaves and use it to help expel oxygen and water. Carbon dioxide is what we expel when we breathe; it is a waste product by all means, and plants help recycle it into something we need to survive! They also remove any chemicals and bacterii that may be floating around in the air, providing an overall healthier environment.”

Helping Your Local Ecosystem Stay Healthy

All wildlife — from beetles and butterflies to birds and mammals — need a variety of plant foods. For the carnivores that share your garden, try leaving a small intact ecosystem within its borders to help to attract their foods and the small insects that feed on the vegetation. This mini ecosystem helps to maintain a healthy environmental balance and life cycle without the need for pesticides.

Relieving Stress

There is something calming about watching animals go about their business, from finding food to building a nest to raising their young. Ask any birder or wildlife photographer and they’ll tell you how they often travel to remote areas and spend countless hours just watching and listening. Some do it as a living to sell the photographs, but the majority know the calming effect it has on them. In the modern era most people are disconnected from nature, thinking it’s just a place to go visit. Nature is us; we are part of the animal kingdom and live in nature as much as any other species.

When we disconnect from that which is ingrained in our DNA we feel stress. A major cause for many modern health problems is stress, which weakens the immune system and allows us to get sick. One of the best ways to stay healthy is, literally, to get back to nature. Whether it’s a simple walk outside or total garden immersion, access to the outdoors improves well-being.

Providing A Sense Of Purpose

Creating a pollinator garden in your yard has become a popular trend, because from butterflies to moths to bees to hummingbirds, so many of our pollinators are struggling to survive. For all ages of children, teens and adults, observing wildlife right in your own back yard up close and personal provides a healthy respect and understanding of the world around you.

Habitat loss is a huge problem, and a garden filled with pollinators’ food can help prevent the march toward extinction. Think of your garden as an all night grocery where hungry pollinators can always find food. With so much development changing the landscape from open space to concrete, wildlife is being pushed farther out into a barren wilderness where food and water no longer exist. Your organic garden can help change that, and even save a species, providing a sense of purpose by giving back to the planet, and enriching your own life as you help other species to survive.

My pollinator garden has brought several amazing life experiences and interactions with a variety of species. Having lots of host and nectar plants, I’ve attracted more than a dozen species of butterflies and moths who come to feed and lay their eggs.


A monarch butterfly laying an egg. (Photo©Staci-lee Sherwood)

Once I had a Muscovy duck make her nest in the garden. Mother ducks sit on nests 23 hours a day. Two days before hatching we hit a heat wave. I brought her a small bowl of water and held it near her beak. She eventually decided she would test what was in the bowl and the next two days I brought her a fresh bowl of cool water and held it while she drank. As her ducklings were hatching I was able to watch from just a couple of feet away after gaining her trust for the month she sat on her nest.


Curious sibling gives her sibling a sniff and a hello. (Photo©Staci-lee Sherwood)

For those who have several acres of land you might consider adopting a wild horse or burro, or domesticated ones. There is a great need to find homes for the wild equines that have been rounded up, since most end up going to slaughter. Many people adopt burros, or their domestic cousins the donkey, and find they make wonderful pets. Wild or domestic burros are wonderful animals to have around.

There is a tremendous need to save our horses and burros before they are lost forever. The horses, both wild mustang and former racing or carriage horses, are sent to Mexican or Canadian slaughterhouses, and then onto Europe or Asia where they are eaten. Most burros and donkeys end up in China for the skin trade and die an awful death. Equines are a most exploited species, and any of these gentle, intelligent creatures we can save is a blessing.

Mj Johnson Szmidt

Photo:MJ Johnson Szmidt

For information about butterflies in your region visit

For information about native plants in your region visit

For information on adopting/helping horse and donkey rescue visit or call (661) 204-4016. Email

Find an equine rescue in your state at

Staci-lee Sherwood is a lifelong preservationist, environmentalist and animal advocate. She is a published writer, blogger and poet, who writes poetry for fun and investigative articles to educate and motivate people into action. Staci-lee is an avid photographer and hiker who calls the East Coast home with her rescue kitties. 

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