The past 10 or 15 years have seen a tremendous increase in interest in urban wildlife, in restoring native species and in planting gardens that attract specific kinds of animals, be they butterflies, birds or bats. With this expanded interest have come dozens of wonderful publications to help people plan their back-yard habitat properly. Listed below is a sampler of resources, some local and some national. Even if you aren't interested yourself, some of these books can make great presents for friends or relatives with a penchant for wildlife.
The first place to turn is your own state government. Every state has a department that is responsible for wildlife. In Maryland, try the Department of Natural Resources.
In the past, many groups focused almost entirely on game animals, such as waterfowl, of value to hunters. More recently, many states have developed programs to nurture non-game species -- loons and bluebirds and so on. Look in the government section of your phone book, call and ask for pamphlets on non-game wildlife.
The National Institute for Urban Wildlife, 10921 Trotting Ridge Way, Columbia, Md. 21044, publishes "A Guide to Urban Wildlife Management," the "Urban Wildlife Manager's Notebook" series and other booklets designed to help you attract and manage urban wildlife. Write for a publications list.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sells two books that are of value to any habitat gardener in northern climes. These are "Landscaping for Wildlife," $8.95, and "Woodworking for Wildlife," $3.95, which includes nest box and platform designs for mice, bats, squirrels and dozens of species of birds. You can get both books for $10.95, plus $1.50 for postage. To order, send a check to Minnesota's Bookstore, 117 University Avenue, St. Paul, Minn. 55155.
The National Wildflower Research Center Clearinghouse, 2600 FM 973 North, Austin, Texas 78725, offers "The Wildflower Handbook," $9.95 plus $3 shipping. For $2, the center will send you a list of wildflowers for your state, as well as pamphlets on habitat restoration.
An important consideration: Buy wildflowers that were raised from seeds, not that you or the vendor took from the wild. Commercial trade in wild plants has pushed some species to near-extinction. Two safe sources of seeds are: Clyde Robin Seed Co., 3670 Enterprise Ave., Hayward, Calif. 94545, and Prairie Nursery, P.O. Box 306, Westfield, Wis. 53964. Both companies' catalogs carry collected and nursery-propagated wild-plant seeds.
Another good way to find information is to browse through a good bookstore. Many arboretums, botanical gardens and zoos have good bookstores, as do wild bird supply stores, garden centers, etc. These bookstores may carry or know of publications that speak to local vegetation and animals. For example, garden stores on Long Island, in New York, may carry Karen Blumer's book "Long Island Native Plants for Landscaping: A Source Book." (This is also available by sending $12.95 to Growing Wild Publications, P.O. Box 275, Brookhaven, N.Y. 11719. Order a copy for your uncle back in Bridgehampton.)
The National Audubon Society has 515 local chapters around the country. To find one near you, write the National Audubon Society, Membership Department, 950 Third Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022. Your local chapter may well have published localized urban habitat materials. For example, the Cape May, N.J., Audubon Chapter distributes "Backyard Habitat for Birds, A Guide for Landowners and Communities in New Jersey."
There is plenty of material out there for the habitat gardener. And if you want to chat with others of your ilk, the Institute for Urban Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation maintain databases that can help you locate like-minded types. Good luck with your gardens!