The Villages® Community Development Districts have identified serious problems with residents and guests who think it is okay to feed our wildlife, especially alligators, ibis and sandhill cranes. In fact, it is illegal to feed the wildlife.
Leftover steak or other food stuffs thrown to alligators only makes them become dependent on handouts and lose their natural fear of people, causing, on occasion, injury to pets and people. A diet of stale bread, popcorn or cracked corn can cause serious health problems for the bird population. When mounds of bird droppings litter the banks of our ponds, it creates not only an aesthetically unpleasing appearance but can also cause health problems for the human population. Listed on Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species are many animals that call The Villages their home, including burrowing owls, sandhill cranes, limpkins, ospreys, egrets, tri-colored herons, white ibis, wood storks, Sherman’s fox squirrels, gopher tortoises, and a number of frogs and butterflies. Enjoy the variety of wildlife here in The Villages® by landscaping your yard to attract these beautiful birds and other indigenous species. First, reduce the use of pesticides in your yard. Pesticides will kill all bugs, including the beneficial and those that provide food for other animals. Then plan a natural habitat of Florida natives and Florida-friendly plants that offer food, water, and shelter, and will create the biodiversity needed to have a healthy landscape that welcomes all types of wildlife. Providing a food source is quite easy with many Florida native plants providing berries such as hollies, hawthorns, palms, mulberries, wax myrtles and Virginia creepers. Nectar plants such as coral honeysuckle, firebush, and salvias attract hummingbirds. Seed eating birds also like grasses, asters and sunflowers. Many of these plants will also attract birds whose diet is mainly composed of insects such as chickadees, flycatchers, orioles, phoebes, vireos and the many varieties of warblers. Putting up bird feeders always seems to lead to controversy. One camp firmly believes that bird feeders attract mice and rats. One way to alleviate that concern is to use a seed hoop that attaches to the feeder. The seeds and shells that fall are captured by the hoop thus keeping the ground underneath clean. A bird bath or pond strategically placed near a window will reward you with hours of enjoyment and provide a much needed source of water. If you are lucky enough to live on a nature preserve or a retention pond, you will be blessed with many kinds of wading birds, mallards, limpkins and other wildlife. A word of caution, if you must use a pesticide, be especially careful that any pesticide you consider buying can be used near ponds. Reduce the amount of lawn by establishing islands of vegetation and increasing the vertical layering by using a variety of ground-covers, shrubs and trees all with differing heights and use mulch of natural materials such as pine bark, pine straw and oak leaves. Following these simple steps will ensure your landscape is healthy and provide a haven for the wonderful, diverse Florida wildlife that shares this beautiful place we call home.