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McDuffie yards becoming National Wildlife Federation certified wildlife habitats

The National Wildlife Federation has a big goal for 2007, and some Thomson residents are helping them meet it. The organization is trying to certify 100,000 wildlife habitat sites nationwide by the end of the year.

And the Handlos' home on Devonshire Drive just became one of those certified sites.

"It's an ongoing process of things that I am continually doing," Clarissa Handlos said. "I really have enjoyed doing it. It's not complete yet, but one day...."

According to printed information from the NWF, a certified wildlife habitat is property that attracts a variety of birds, butterflies and other wildlife while helping to protect the local environment. In order to become certified, the property must provide the four basic elements that all wildlife need: food, water, shelter and a place to raise young.

"I have squirrels, chipmunks and all kinds of different birds," Mrs. Handlos said. "So I got books and read what they eat, and I provide all the types of foods."

Mrs. Handlos said her three-year-old daughter, Summer, spreads peanut butter on pinecones and rolls them in birdseed for the birds and squirrels to enjoy. Mrs. Handlos, her husband Steven, Summer, and their youngest daughter, Sierra, also have put up bird houses, bird feeders and bird baths and planted shrubs. They plan to install a small pond soon.

The average habitat space is between one-third and one-half acre, but can range from urban balconies to thousand-acre areas, according to NWF literature. Louisa Grant, the program director for NWF, said there are five certified habitats in Thomson and one in Dearing - Dearing Elementary School.

Ms. Grant said the program started in 1973, and to date has certified 95,300 sites.

"We are getting close (to our goal), and getting closer by the day," Ms. Grant said. "Many habitat enthusiasts have turned their yards into wildlife refuges."

And Mrs. Handlos has let her enthusiasm overflow from her yard into her laundry room, where she has started raising mealworms. The larval form of the mealworm beetle are a food source for reptiles and birds, particularly during nesting season.

"It's kind of weird," Mrs. Handlos said. "It took a while to get them started, but I've finally got them going. ...It's a neat little process. ...My girls love it, because they love being outside just as much as I do."

For more information on the NWF or certified wildlife habitats, visit

Web posted on Thursday, November 22, 2007

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