Ways Families Can Explore Wildlife in Southeast Michigan

The great thing about nature is that it’s everywhere – cities, suburbs and rural settings – 24-7. You can enjoy it alone or with others; during the day or at night. Wildlife has a powerful way of building bonds that connect us with family and to our communities and experiences that are the stuff of memories.

There’s no one way to get out in nature. But here are a few ideas from the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office, which is based in Ann Arbor to try while the weather is nice.

Garden for wildlife. Turn your balcony or backyard into a haven. Gardening with kids is a fun, easy way to make a positive difference for neighborhood wildlife and keep kids healthy, all while fostering a habit of caring for wildlife that can last a lifetime.

Be a ‘Butterfly Hero.’ Most kids (and adults!) are drawn to butterflies, especially monarchs. But sadly, their population has dropped more than 90 percent, largely due to the destruction of their main habitat, milkweed. Help by taking NWF’s Butterfly Heroes pledge. Sign up online to get a starter kit. You can then plant a garden that provides food, water and places for monarchs to lay their eggs. (Learn more about reasons your family should save the monarchs here.)

Pitch a tent. Night is a special time to foster bonds with wildlife. Not only are different species active, but something about the dark allows nature to take on a whole different, magical feel. Camping is the perfect way to experience that – whether in your yard or state/national park. In late June, look out for NWF’s The Great American Campout events.

Watch wildlife. Spot squirrels from your window, birds in your yard or frogs at a local pond. It’s a simple yet fun way to experience nature. Test your nocturnal senses, too. Can you spy raccoons, weasels, opossums – even white-tailed deer? The best time is about a half hour after sunset. Do you hear a rodent digging underground, like a red fox does? Can you detect a mouse stepping on a twig from a distance of 75 feet? Just remember, for your safety and wildlife’s, look and appreciate but don’t touch!

Wildlife photography. Explore nature through a lens, whether a “stand alone” camera or the one on your phone or mobile device. This lets kids view the natural world in new ways and from different angles – and it encourages them to really see (not just look at) the world around them. Plus, it’s a great way to take nature with you and share it later.

Still looking for more ideas and tips? Head over to the National Wildlife Federation’s website.

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