The Wildlife Garden
We know that wolves, cougar and beaver used to roam this area because of historical records. Early Texas pioneer Jane Long, wrote in her 1820 diary of camping under the trees in the “pinery” that is now Memorial Park while the men hunted in the prairie beyond. 180 years of settlement have chopped up the land in to small, separated parcels. Those animals requiring wide open spaces no longer find city acreage suitable for hunting, courting and living.
Surprisingly, even a city the size of Houston harbors quite a number of the animals we think of as wild. Scattered habitats in larger city parks like here in Memorial provide a haven to Coyotes, Foxes, Flying Squirrels, Pileated Woodpeckers, flocks of migratory birds, and a variety of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Wild strips of growth alongside bayous provide the corridors that connect patches of habitat together, increasing the wildlife value of these remnant open spaces.
Our wildlife garden demonstrates how you can provide the necessities for smaller urban wildlife.
FOOD All wildlife feed on plants or other animals. Ideally, the diversity of plants in the garden will provide year-round food.
Plants provide wildlife with protection from weather and predators as well as a place to rest, eat, and raise young. Often plants also provide food, and some will collect rain water for drinking, too.
Safe water can be the hard to come by in a city. You can provide water in a backyard pond or install a birdbath.
Imitate the layers of nature by putting in plants of different heights, trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers.
Some visitors to the Wildlife Garden
This dark brown creature is named for its five light-colored stripes from head to tail. These stripes fade with age, and in some adult males, they are not visible. They live in humid environments with plenty of decaying wood, leaf litter, gardens and compost heaps and eats insects, spiders, earthworms, crawfish, other lizards, and small mice.
The State Bird of Texas, the Mockingbird is at home near the edges of woodlands. This bird’s medium build and mostly gray body provide good camouflage in this habitat. It flashes bright white wing patches while in flight. Mockingbirds eat many different types of fruit including grapes, elderberries, blackberries, mulberries and even poison ivy berries.
Swamp rabbits are a familiar sight in wet areas throughout the forest. When necessary, these rabbits will take to water to escape predators or ford flooded sections of forest. Young are commonly born in fur-lined grass nests built in shallow depressions at the base of fallen trees, brush piles, and thickets.
The armadillo is one of Texas’ most unique and recognizable mammals. Its shell-like covering is not hard and bony like a turtle, but tough and flexible. It provides good protection from thorns and braches but little insulation. Armadillos will shiver and seek the warmth of their burrows when temperatures drop below 72 degrees fahrenheit.
The armadillo’s diet consists primarily of insects and other invertebrates which are located almost exclusively by smell. The body form reveals much about its feeding strategy. The compact legs are supplied with four toes on the front feet and five on the hind, each terminating with a large strong claw well adapted to digging.
These insect and small spider eating lizards can grow up to 8 inches. Found in shrubs, vines, and high in trees, they can change color from vivid green to dark brown. They shed their skins several times a year, and usually eat the shed. Males are combative, displaying their extended dewlaps in confrontations.