If wild animals around here know the difference between public and private land, they don't often show it. Deer will trespass with impunity if a backyard contains food, as will hummingbirds, bees and mice, not to mention snakes, mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes.
What's a homeowner to do? In Woodside, where there is no shortage of wildlife, families have been signing up to register their yards as natural, sheltering, welcoming enclaves that are connected to other such yards so that Peninsula animals can either live there or travel via safe and secluded corridors into and out of the woods.
Woodside's Open Space Committee -- town staff is not involved -- is seeking applicants for its new Backyard Habitat program, a localized version of the Certified Wildlife Habitat program run by the National Wildlife Federation.
As of the first week of May, the program has had between 20 and 30 applicants in various stages of approval, committee member Virginia Dare told The Almanac. The committee is hoping for 40 by the June 1 deadline, with a celebration and award ceremony planned for mid-summer.
To win the right to erect and display a 3-foot-6-inch rusted metal post with a silhouette of a quail at the top, a yard must exhibit certain criteria, which include the presence of native plants, areas away from buildings that are allowed to revert to a wild state, intelligently permissive fencing, unobstructed streambeds, and wildlife corridors between neighbors.
Wouldn't 40 awards tend to water down the prestige? "This isn't about awarding the top 10," Ms. Dare said. "This awards everybody who complies with our program."
"Tons of people want to apply," she added. "It's going really well, really well. People love the award. ... We'd like to have enough (out there) for people to go, 'Oh, what is that?"
Winners receive a congratulatory letter, the post itself and instructions on how to erect it, Ms. Dare said. To determine who receives the honor, three members of the Open Space Committee conduct a yard evaluation, for which homeowners can prepare ahead of time by asking what they can do to qualify. Among the steps: removing invasive plant species and modifying fences so animals can get through.
The committee hasn't denied anyone yet, and "I don't think we'll have to at this point," Ms. Dare said, "mainly because people have been really eager to apply."
Ongoing maintenance of a habitat will be on the honor system, and there would be yearly sets of new awards, possibly including a guest speaker. The committee is hoping that winners will return the posts if the property is sold or the owner completely fences the yard.