Pintail ducks

5 easy ways to help wildlife on Earth Day (and the rest of the year)

Salt Lake City — Utah is home to many wildlife species and spectacular landscapes. Thursday is Earth Day, which is a great time to reflect on the ways we can help restore and preserve nature, including wildlife.

Pintail ducks

Here are five simple steps you can take to help the wildlife in your area:

Don't feed wildlife

While it is not illegal to feed wildlife, there are several reasons that it is highly discouraged, including public safety concerns, causing wildlife to congregregate — which can then lead to the spread of chronic wasting disease among deer, elk and moose — and the risk of potentially harming the wildlife by introducing foods not in their diets, particularly during winter months. Unsecured food and other pungent items can also attract black bears to camping areas in search of food, which can be dangerous for campers.

Feeding wildlife can also draw the wildlife to private property and other residential areas, which can cause nuisance issues and damage to property. Admire wildlife from a distance and help keep them wild by not feeding them.

For more information on the negative impacts of feeding deer and other wildlife, visit the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website.

Turn off outdoor lights at night and increase window safety to help birds

Bird species migrate at different times of the year, including during the spring. Many species primarily migrate at night when it's dark. One easy way that you can help them during their migration is to turn off your outdoor lights at night. Light pollution can disorient birds and draw them off course, and sometimes can cause collisions with lighted buildings and other structures.

Thousands of birds also die each year from flying into windows on buildings. One easy way to reduce these collisions is to install screens or break up the reflections of your window using film, paint or string spaced no more than 2 inches high or 2 inches wide.

Reduce plastic use and don't litter

Litter and trash can harm wildlife in several ways. If animals eat paper, plastic or food pieces, it can cause digestive issues, which can potentially be fatal. When people throw trash and food scraps out of their cars, it can also attract more wildlife to the side of the road, which can increase the likelihood of vehicle/wildlife collisions. Fish and wildlife can also get caught and tangled in trash and other debris, which can impair their ability to eat or move, also resulting in fatalities. Garbage and litter can also impact wildlife habitats.

Always make sure to properly dispose of your garbage to decrease impacts on wildlife. You can also decrease your waste by reducing your use of plastics: Avoid single-use plastics, including bags, bottles, wraps and disposable utensils.

Report reptile and amphibian sightings on iNaturalist

iNaturalist is an app and website that provides a place to record sightings and get information about different plants, insects and wildlife species. One way you can help wildlife is to take pictures of different species (from a safe distance) and submit those sightings.

"The reports are important observational records of many of our species of greatest conservation need, which are then added to Utah's Natural Heritage Program database," DWR Herpetologist and Native Species Coordinator Drew Dittmer said. "Regular contributions to this database are really important for determining which species benefit most from our management and conservation actions. Additionally, these observations on non-native reptiles and amphibians are also helpful for DWR to respond to potentially invasive populations of species."

Buy a hunting or fishing license

Hunters and anglers are some of the greatest wildlife conservationists because they provide a lot of funding to preserve wildlife species across the world. Any time someone buys a fishing or hunting license in Utah, 100% of their license dollars go toward the DWR's work to conserve, manage and protect the state's wildlife. That money helps to fund essential conservation projects — like improving habitat for various fish and wildlife species in the state — and it ensures those species can be conserved and enjoyed for generations to come.

Visit the DWR website to buy a fishing, hunting or combination license.

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