Top 4 Recommendations for Enhancing Backyard Habitat

13717384 10157181376980274 8029896651857557407 oWith the Good Neighbours program HAT meets with people in the community to provide free landcare consultation in our annual focus area with the goal of enhance their backyard habitat. This year we're focusing our targeted habitat stewardship efforts in the Sooke Region.

We came up with the Top 4 recommendations for naturescaping on your land.

1. Choosing deer resistant plants
2. How to encourage native pollinators to visit
3. Naturescape for low maintenance and water use
4. Use native plants for your privacy buffers

1. The truth is, there are no deer proof plants, they will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough. But you can pick native species that are less-palatable to our ungulate neighbours. HAT suggests:

  • Sword Fern
  • Oregon Grape (Top right)
  • Kinnikinnick (photo right)

In many cases native plants can withstand browsing better than exotics.

2. When it comes to encouraging pollinators to stop by there are a few things you can do:

  • Provide a water source
  • Don't be too tidy: keep your leaf litter
  • Plant their favourites:13719611 10157197104865274 8112544725703022597 o

- Red-flowering Currant
- Camas
- Salmonberry Bush
- Pink or White Fawn Lilies
- Oceanspray (right)

3. Naturescaping doesn't have to be a hassle. In fact, with native plants well-adapted to local climates, they tend to be less work. The trick to make your yard manageable and sustainable is to pick the right plant for the right place. Before you pick a plant, take a look at the location you want it to grow in. Is it shady? Is the location wet or dry? Then look up the conditions your plant of choice prefers (a good resource). If you can match what you've got, with what a plant wants, you'll spend less time fussing with an unhealthy plant. 

Selecting drought-tolerant plants is a great way to go for an easy to manage naturescape. Some local native plant gardeners don't even have to water their garden. Why not go for a technique that conserves water and native species too?

Some low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants to include in your garden for wildlife:

salal hedge

  • Broad-leaved Stonecrop (and other native Sedum species)
  • Yarrow
  • Snowberry
  • Nootka Rose

Another tip to hold moisture in your garden is to spread an organic mulch annually. A layer of mulch traps moisture, distributes it evenly in soil, and reduce the amount evaporated.

4. People like to keep a privacy, wind, or noise buffer around their homes often, sometimes planting hedges. That can be achieved using native plants too by planting a native plant hedgerow, a variety of shrubs spaced closely together in a row.

Some good choices for growing a hedge include:

  • Salal (photo right)
  • Mock Orange
  • Pacific Ninebark
  • Hardhack
  • Thimbleberry

How do you manage your space to be a Good Neighbour to wildlife? Send in your pics and tips! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read more: Top 4 Recommendations for Enhancing Backyard Habitat

HAT prepares colony of Dark Night volunteers for the Second Annual Bat Count

PLUS Townsend’s Big-eared Bats Rescued in the Westshore

By Paige Erickson-McGee

From horror movies to health warnings, societal attitudes about bats are typically negative. Many people view bats as pests. This type of public attitude has contributed to the general decline of bat populations around the world to the point where over half the species found in the province are considered at risk.

There is fear about bats and rabies; they are the only mammal on Vancouver Island that is known to carry rabies, but we are looking at less than half a percent of bats testing positive for rabies in healthy populations. It is extremely rare, although it is an important reason never to handle bats, live or dead, with your bare hands.

There are 10 species that we know of on Vancouver Island, but there is much still to learn. Right now we have very little idea of where bats are roosting in the Capital Region, and we have almost no idea where some species hibernate in the winter time, whether they gather in small groups under protected spaces like firewood piles, or in big congregations in caves as seen in other parts of BC.


13734931 10153961083999440 8777363820248868849 o 1

It is difficult to protect our bats when we do not know where they are roosting or how many there are. This also makes it a challenge to notice substantial population declines from disease. To address this concern, Habitat Acquisition Trust has prepared a colony of Dark Night volunteers for the Annual Bat Count across the Capital Region as a part of the BC Community Bat Program of Southern Vancouver Island. Similar to the bird or butterfly counts, this citizen-science initiative encourages residents to count bats at local roost sites.

The Annual Bat Count continues to help the BC Ministry of Environment collect baseline data on bat populations, specifically where they are roosting in the summer months looking at the density and distribution of roosts. The goal is to gain a sense of the bat population numbers before the devastating White Nose Syndrome (WNS) fungal disease affects bats in the province. WNS is caused by a fungus that usually affects the bats in caves during winter hibernation and is detectable in dead or dying bats found in the winter and spring until about May 1st.

“White Nose Syndrome is estimated to have killed more than six million bats since it was first discovered in eastern North America a decade ago,” says biologist Dr. Purnima Govindarajulu with the Ministry of Environment. “In March 2016, the disease was detected just east of Seattle. This has greatly increased our urgency to understand bat populations in BC. We need the public’s help to census local bat populations. The summer of 2016 may be our last year to obtain population estimates before White Nose Syndrome causes widespread declines in western North America.”

The National Wildlife Health Center issued a bulletin on July 15 2016 that stated a single Silver-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) tested positive for the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). This bat was originally collected during the same month and in the same county as the Washington Little Brown Myotis bat (Myotis lucifugus) with previously confirmed WNS. This suggests that Silver-haired Bats may be a carrier of the fungal pathogen. Through the BC Community Bat Program, 31 bats from BC were submitted for fungal testing, and none tested positive for WNS.

The risk continues next winter so it is extremely important for landowners who have bats to count their colonies; we suspect large and important roosts are out there and we would like to help landowners conduct counts and protect the bats. We hope to prevent situations where people might unintentionally disturb or harm them.

What you can do:
• Protect wetlands on your land and in your neighbourhood, they provide key habitat for the bat’s food source
• Retain any standing dead trees or snags on your property (that are not a safety hazard) as they provide natural roosting habitat for bats
• Build a bat box with plans from and follow instructions to install it in an appropriate location
• Ask your friends and neighbours if they have bats and if they do, direct them to HAT
• Participate in the Annual BC Bat Count in the summer months June 1 to 21 and July 21 to August 15, visit for more information

Good News Stories – Big-eared Bats find a helping hand

On Saturday July 16, a partnership with Christina Carrieres from SPCA Wild Arc and Jeff Krieger from Alternative Wildlife Solutions sprang into action after HAT received a report of dead and live bats found in a Westshore building. Upon arrival, a total of 14 Townsend's Big-eared Bats (Corynorhinus townsendii) were rescued after becoming trapped in the interior of a building – several were emaciated and dehydrated. Of the 14 that were collected, 4 were adult females still feeding their pups, and the other 10 were pups themselves, 3 of which did not survive the journey to the rescue centre.

The 11 surviving bats were rehydrated and fed mealworms over two nights at the Wild ARC centre, and then re-released back into the roost with HAT staff on July 18. Very conscious of not disturbing any other bats inside the attic where more bats were roosting, Christina carefully placed each bat back at the entrance of the roost, and one by one the bats crawled back in. Christina described the Townsend’s species as being much gentler and more docile than the Myotis species she is more familiar with.

The building has since been appropriately repaired to ensure the bats cannot become trapped in the interior, but HAT is continuing to work with the property managers to ensure this roost remains protected and continues to provide habitat for the bats. It appears there is a significant colony of Townsend’s Big-eared Bats living in the attic of the building, and upon counting the bat roost on July 25, a total of 33 bats were observed.

Townsendwithmealworm ColwoodJul2016 Christine Carrieres Small

This particular species of bat typically roosts in larger structures with slightly cooler temperatures than other species, and do not tend to use typical bat boxes. With the warm weather continuing, HAT staff have been working with the provincial bat biologists and Species at Risk specialists to identify how we can support this particular colony of bats, collecting options such as building a bat condo or another structure to provide additional roosting habitat on site.

According to the BC Ministry of Environment, “Townsend’s Big-eared Bats are at risk because they are confined to small regions of suitable habitat at low elevations in the southern part of British Columbia – precisely the areas that humans prefer to occupy. Disturbance of females with young can severely lower breeding success. Repeated disturbance at winter hibernacula can cause energy loss, abandonment of the caves and death.” The Townsend’s Big-eared Bat is currently listed on the Provincial Blue List.

This project is in need of funding and experienced volunteers to conduct site visits, manage many questions from the public, and for equipment. The project is partially funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation with support of the BC Conservation Foundation, and the Federal Habitat Stewardship Program. HAT provides information for people managing bats in buildings on their property or who have questions about how to steward and attract bats.

To find out more about bat counting, get assistance dealing with bat issues, or if you know of a roost location, visit or call 1-855-9BC-BATS or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo Credits: Christina Carrieres, BC SPCA WildARC


Read more: HAT prepares colony of Dark Night volunteers for the Second Annual Bat Count

A Day in the Wildlife of Matson Conservation Area

by Alanah Nasadyk, Community & Development Coordinator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 250-995-2428

13717384 10157181376980274 8029896651857557407 o

You can walk the length of Victoria’s bustling harbour where the sea meets the land, but the only place you’ll find the once plentiful Garry Oak ecosystem there is at the Matson Conservation Area. Head down the Westsong Walkway from the direction of Westbay Marina, Esquimalt and you will find this precious protected place. This conservation covenanted land is bisected by a great elevated staircase, designed to provide passage but not trampling for people above and native species below. Overlooking the natural scene is Swallow’s Landing, a testament to how development and conservation don’t have to be at odds. Joggers, birdwatchers, photographers, and visitors from around the world often enjoy the Matson Lands.

On July 15th a team of 20 Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteers and staff met for the first ever Matson Pull & Pour. What’s that you say? Well, the “pull” portion refers to restoring the land by pulling and extracting invasive plant species. The “pour” half involved the team enjoying the hospitality of Spinnakers Brew Pub and their freshly poured beer.

       Thepull        ThePour          

      The Pull                         The Pour            

 That day a few of us met early to set up. It was warm and we took in the view of the glistening harbour from behind a frame of plump Oregon Grapes. It wasn’t long after that mother raccoon and her sweetly bumbling babies kindly skittered away as if to say, “we’ll keep our distance, thank you.”

The regular coming and goings of raccoons and river otters has left a gently flattened path through the dried grass. If you’d like to picnic in the presence of otters, Matson is the perfect place. A watchful picnicker can learn about their diet, and crab-cracking techniques. You may also be delighted by butterflies like the Lorquin’s Admiral, hummingbirds, and Great Blue Herons. It is part of a Migratory Bird Sanctuary, after all.

After the restoration team came together and received an introduction, we set about identifying and removing invasive grasses, as well as English Ivy. Much of the Scotch Broom at Matson has been removed thanks to repeat HAT work parties and the regular restoration work of a local team called the Matson Mattocks from the surrounding neighbourhood.

Two of the major troublesome grasses we focused on were Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata) and Rip-gut Brome (Bromus rigidus). While grass identification can be a challenge, Orchard Grass is recognisable by its robust tufts atop a tall stem (as high as 1.5 m). Rip-gut gets its visceral name from the way small barb-like hairs on its seeds can cause it to snag. A great strategy for seed dispersal, but a danger to animals that get bits of the plant hooked and imbedded in them. It must come as no surprise that one identifying feature of Rip-gut is its rough-to-the-touch seed heads. When it comes to removing weedy grasses effectively, it’s key to take out the entire above-ground clump called the root crown.

       orchardgrass small        bromusrigidus          

           Invasive Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata)               Dangerous for pets: Rip-gut Brome (Bromus rigidus)          

In the end, we removed just over 12 cubic meters of invasive plant material. That’s a pretty big deal when it comes to the detailed and finicky work of weeding out grasses.

Restoration outings are a great way to get to know the community and your neighbours, an ideal place for newcomers. At Matson we had a special opportunity to welcome a Syrian family, new to Canada and to the community. When it comes to tending the Earth and socializing, language barriers soften with careful demonstrations and conversation. As we consulted over patches of grass, Douaa told me,

“Victoria is beautiful. All of it is beautiful. The city, the trees, the forests, the sea.”

It is a pleasure to share and protect this beautiful region with each of you. That beauty is in part because of the selfless work of volunteers, of those who protect our land with covenants, and the benevolence of the community. If you know someone new to Victoria, perhaps they’re learning English too, we’d love to meet them. The wild and beautiful life of places like Matson are possible thanks to your donations.

If you would like to sponsor or give to keep projects like this going we welcome your support: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 250-995-2428. You can also send your support online at or in the mail to PO Box 8552, Victoria BC V8W 3S2.

  butterfly lorquins admiral matson oak leaf        raccoon family matson          hiding heron matson AlanahN

      Lorquin's Admiral on Matson Garry Oak               The Matson Raccoon Family            Heron's can be good at hiding, but you can see them in the treetops 



Read more: A Day in the Wildlife of Matson Conservation Area

THANK YOU to the Seed Packers and our Supporters!!


The Native Plant Seed Packing Party was a GRAND SUCCESS!!


A BIG THANK YOU to the 18 people who came out to help put together 206 packets of seeds (including native lupine, Pacific Columbine, Great Camas, and Farewell-to-Spring seeds). This translates to OVER 1,000 new seedlings that we’re sending out into the world. Yahoo!!


  p1350946columbine        great camas          FL2038 3

      Pacific (Sitka) Columbine (Aquilegia formosa)               Great Camas (Camassia leichtlinii)            Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena)


These four flowering pant species are highly-adapted to our region;  local wildlife enjoy and rely on them, some are edible, and each is uniquely beautiful. What a great way to share our interest in native plants and to make our urban nature a more colourful place. Sharing the importance of and an appreciation for these local species helps make our community more resilient!


Last but not least, a few MORE THANK YOUS to our supporters: to Pat Johnston for his informative talk about native plants in our region; to Saanich Native Plants for donating the seeds; and to Hot House Pizza in Oak Bay for the great rate on tasty pizza. 


Keep checking our calendar website for upcoming events!


Read more: THANK YOU to the Seed Packers and our Supporters!!

A Seed Packing Pizza Party and Native Plant Talk with Pat Johnston

Tuesday, July 26th, 4:30 pm - 6:45 (Talk starts at 5:30 if you can only make it later)SeedParty

HAT Office: 825 Broughton St. Mezzanine Level

RSVP: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or 250-995-2428 (please include dietary restrictions if any)

By donation


Pizza party, packing seeds, plants of the native variety, and Pat! Perfect combination?

Thanks to the generosity of Saanich Native Plants we have some lovely Great Camas (Camassia leichtlinii), Pacific Columbine (Aquilegia formosa), and Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia amoena) seeds to spread the message of using native plant seeds in gardening. To better share these with our community we'd like to package them up nicely, and for that we could use your help. Those who lend a helping hand can help themselves to a pack or two to plant in their own neck of the woods.

Before we get to pizza, Native Plant Gardening Consultant Pat Johnston will be presenting a talk on the identification of native plant species. Pat has done fabulous work in our community to bring awareness to the use of locally natural plant species in our own backyards.

Pat Johnston is a self-taught Native Plant Gardening Consultant that learned her skills from being on the ground. Her story with local flora began after moving to a new place that had gorgeous Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) trees. The rare and unique ecosystem inspired Pat to cultivate a native plant demonstration garden.

Pat has been very involved in restoration throughout the community. Developing a passion for creating buffers of natural areas and corridors for the dispersal of native wildlife. Helping wildlife that may otherwise be trapped on an island of habitat in a sea of urban and exotic plants has been key to her work and motivation.

Satin flower Feb 2006 webThrough careful observation and taking part in plant salvaging, Pat has developed a great knowledge of Native Plants. She has been sharing that knowledge through consultation for over 15 years. Some of which she will share with HAT volunteers at the Seed Packing Night. However, learning from salvaging plants, or transplanting native flora from areas slated for development, has been a bittersweet experience.

"We would go in and see a gorgeous mossy knoll covered with Satin Flowers (Sisyrinchium douglasii). The next day, we would come back and there would be nothing left."

In a way plant salvaging can be likened to recycling: it's very important to mitigate our impact, but it's no alternative to not wasting the viable habitat in the first place. As recycling must be done in conjunction with producing less waste to be sustainable, so must plant salvage be done in conjunction with conserving and cultivating places of ecological value wherever possible.

We hope you'll join us for this informative talk, and bring any questions you may have about native plants and gardening with them for Pat. The seeds you plant may be the start of your very own native plant demonstration garden, along the journey to living and learning with nature.

If you can't make it to this event, we're sorry to miss you. You can however, still support programs like this by making a donation online, by phone (250-995-2428), or by cheque in the mail to PO Box 8552 Victoria BC V8W 3S2



Read more: A Seed Packing Pizza Party and Native Plant Talk with Pat Johnston

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