Wildlife Water Sources

When most people try to attract wildlife to their backyard or property, they think first of using food. But another valuable resource that can be used is water.

Water can come in three different forms available to wildlife: free water, metabolic water, and preformed water. (For more information on these types of water, check out All About Water.) Of all three forms, landowners can easily use free water, such as lakes and rivers, to attract wildlife.

If there is no standing water on your property, one of the easiest ways to add water is with an artificial water source known as a wildlife waterer. There are many different types and styles of wildlife waterers to fit any property or project goal, but the best part about wildlife waterers is that their water source is rainfall. Harvesting rainwater allows almost any land manager to take advantage of the benefits of providing water for wildlife.

Most wildlife waterers have 3 basic components: a water catchment device, a storage device, and a water distribution device. Whenever there is a rain event, the water falls onto the water catchment device and then runs into the storage device. The storage device then adds water to the distribution device on an as-needed basis. If there is enough rainfall throughout the year, a wildlife waterer has the potential to be completely self-sustaining.

Interested in adding a wildlife waterer to your property? Here are some things to consider.

1. What type of wildlife do you want to attract? Each species has different physiological needs when it comes to water (check out How Much Water? for more info). Different species also have different preferences for location, with some bird species preferring a water source located on the ground, but others preferring raised water sources. Finally, the size of the water source must match the size of the target species of wildlife. Larger wildlife species are going to require more water and a larger water source than smaller wildlife species.

2. How much rainfall does the property receive annually? Certain wildlife waters can run on only 9 inches of annual rainfall, while other types require more rainfall. If rainfall is particularly low in a drought year, it may be necessary to manually add water to the storage device.

3. What is your budget? Budget is a very important item to consider when building wildlife waterers. Wildlife waterer style and size can affect the overall building cost. One way to keep costs low is to build your own wildlife waterer, rather than purchasing one from a company. Additionally, if you are wanting to place multiple wildlife waterers on a property, building them by hand may help you to accomplish your goal.

4. Wildlife exit route. While there are many components to think about when building wildlife waterers, the most important component is an exit route. Smaller wildlife species will require a means of escape if they should happen to fall into the water. Something as simple as rocks piled at the edge of water allows wildlife to climb out of the water. If your distribution device is trough-like and you decide to put a small ladder in the water for escape, remember to place the ladder flush against the side of the wall. Many small animals will swim around the edge of the waterer looking for a means of escape, so while a ladder placed at an angle may seem easy for wildlife to use, most animals won’t find the ladder unless it is vertical.

5. Wildlife safety is critical. The main reason people build wildlife waterers is to help wildlife, but wildlife waterers can actually harm wildlife if they aren’t kept clean. Water sources that are dirty can transfer disease among different wildlife species. The way to keep wildlife waterers clean is to remove any fecal matter or carcasses as soon as possible. Lastly, you should consider that the wildlife waterer may potentially attract predators. Quail are particularly vulnerable at water sources so it would be wise to place water sources close to cover so quail and other wildlife can easily escape from predators.

Wildlife waterers can be beneficial for both wildlife and people. Just be sure to consider the above factors before constructing wildlife waterers of your own.

If you wish to build your own wildlife waterer or want more information, read Harvesting Rainwater for Wildlife for more details.

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