If you’re lucky enough to have a cottage, you know how much of a haven it is for you.

It’s a place to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the everyday. A place to breathe fresh air and relax. Your cottage gives you so much. What if you could return the favour?

A whopping 90 per cent of aquatic life depends on shorelines for survival. What’s more 70 per cent of land animals do the same! That makes shorelines critical habitat for our wild animals. There are plenty of things you can do to help these creatures – especially when you care for the habitat they need so desperately.

Get Digging

Planting native plants along your shoreline is the best way to stop runoff from happening. That buffer zone does the best job when it’s about 30 metres wide (or even bigger!!). To get an idea of what kind of vegetation you should plant, take a look around your property and see which ones are most abundant and thriving. This area also becomes habitat for wildlife! You’ll find that fish and frogs will use this area to avoid predators and also chow down on insects while they’re at it!

Plant a Tree or Two or Three!

How to plant a treeYou should also plant cavity, mast, and coniferous trees. In Ontario alone, more than 50 species of birds and mammals rely on cavity trees for their survival. Trees that produce fruit and seed like maple, elm, oak and beech (mast trees) offer wildlife some healthy fats to tide them through the winter, while coniferous trees provide amazing shelter for wildlife.

Retire Your Lawn

Isn’t the whole point of a cottage to relax? Who needs an afternoon of lawn mowing, anyway? Over 55 per cent of precipitation runs off lawns – taking with it all the fertilizers and pesticides used on it. By retiring your lawn and planting native plants instead, you’ll be saving yourself a ton of time and the planet too.

Don’t Tidy Up Too Much

When a tree or big branch falls into the water, don’t be in a hurry to haul it out. These end up being really beneficial for the wildlife in the lake! Some smaller creatures like fish will use those structures to hide from predators. And turtles will use them to bask in the sun!

Build a Better Path

Did you know improperly built paths can cause erosion? If your path leads straight from your cottage down to the water, it could be carrying soil and runoff right along with it. You want to build a path that follows the contours of the slope in an S curve pattern to avoid erosion. Better yet, lay gravel, mulch and wood chips on the path to protect it from the elements.

Swap Your Motorized Boat for a Canoe

canoeingWho knew boat wake could do so much damage? It can cause erosion when the waves crash against the shoreline, and can also flood the nests of loons and waterfowl. Why not swap your motorized boat for a canoe or paddle boat? You’ll be more likely to see wildlife since you won’t disturb them as you paddle by. If you just can’t get rid of your jet ski, slow down to 10 kilometres an hour within 30 metres of the shore to reduce your impact.

Pick the Perfect Dock for Your Cottage

Some docks can disturb fish habitat and damage shorelines. But there are environmentally friendly docks out there that don’t disturb the bottom of the lake or upset fish habitat. Our favourites? Pipe docks, cantilever docks (which sit entirely out of the water), and floating docks.

You don’t need glaring lights to light your path to the water. In fact, bright lights can negatively affect wildlife by changing how they forage for food, mate, hibernate and migrate. Get motion detectors for lights around the cottage, and put solar lights in the ground along your path to the water.

If you want to learn about other ways you can give your waterfront property some love, visit LoveYourLake.ca.