Animal Abode

Fox at UNC-TV's Bryan Center

UNC-TV’s Bryan Center is now a Certified Wildlife Habitat
March 10, 2015

GroundhogFour channels, twelve transmission towers, thousands of hours of local stories and educational content, Downton Abbey... These are a few of the images that might pop into your head when you think of UNC-TV — maybe a pledge drive or two as well.

Now you can add one more to that list: wildlife habitat. 

This March, the National Wildlife Federation officially named UNC-TV’s Bryan Center property a wildlife habitat.

Thanks to the outstanding work of UNC-TV's facilities staff, the grounds of the flagship studio, located in a wooded corner of Research Triangle Park, provide a safe home for songbirds, foxes, deer and everything in between.

If you are interested in creating your own wildlife habitat, you can do that! It is a great way to reduce the impact that we as humans have on wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation has five qualifications for wildlife habitats: food, water, cover, a place to rear young, and green management of the habitat. Thanks to sustainable landscaping practices and habitat building by both the facilities staff and volunteers, the Bryan Center has met these qualifications. Wildlife has not found its way into the building, but deer will come so close to the staff break room windows that sometimes it feels like they have.

National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife HabitatEven a space as small as a back porch can meet the National Wildlife Federation’s qualifications if you provide the right resources for your local animals. You can find more information on making your own habitat here. To help get some ideas flowing, this is some of what the UNC-TV facilities staff did at the Bryan Center.

Food is the easy one. Bird feeders are easy to find and easy to keep stocked; and native plants provide the nectar, leaves and fruit that animals know to be on the lookout for in the wild. At the Bryan Center, the bird feeders – including 14 bluebird houses – are a favorite spot for songbirds, squirrels, raccoons and the resident groundhog, “Pudge.” The facilities staff also maintains an edible garden for larger animals to graze in. Native grasses and strawberries are both popular attractions.

Water can be a little tougher to provide, depending on your living situation. A natural body of water is a low-maintenance water supply for wildlife as long as you keep it free from pollution. There is a small pond at the Bryan Center from which animals can drink. If you don’t have a natural body of water, birdbaths and rain gardens are both good options. With a birdbath, just make sure you periodically change the water out to keep it clean.

Cover is very important, as animals need a place to hide from humans, predators and the weather. At the Bryan Center, squirrels and birds often hide in the shrubs and bushes around the property. The facilities staff also maintains several birdhouses around the property, and birds will hide there during the rain and snow. Dead trees also make great shelter. At the Bryan Center, the facilities staff saved some old Christmas trees to shelter two wild turkeys that sometimes pass through.

Hiding FoxEqually important is a place for animals to raise their young. In many ways, natural features and native plants do the best job. At the Bryan Center, birds make nests in the surrounding trees, frogs and insects can reproduce in the pond, and caterpillars are born and grow to adulthood in garden plants.

The final standard of green management can either be very easy or very difficult. The key is to keep pests at bay and keep the plants growing using as few chemicals as possible, preferably using none. For someone setting up birdhouses and feeders on their patio, that is not a big deal. For UNC-TV's facilities staff that means weeding by hand and planting things that can hold their own against local pests and help replenish the soil. The National Wildlife Federation has several guidelines for this type of organic gardening and the facilities staff has done a fantastic job sticking to them.

Those particular strategies worked at the Bryan Center, but there are many ways to build a wildlife habitat that may work better for you. Please see the above links for ideas. Happy habitating!

— Daniel Lane

Daniel Lane covers science, engineering, medicine and the environment in North Carolina.