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Nature in the raw
Bulloch County couples love of nature motivates them
011007 WILDLIFE HABITAT 2
Angel Vivian can watch the backyard action in her recently certified Wildlife Habitat from her rear window. The Vivian's property and surrounding area provide food, water, cover, and places to for wildlife to raise their young. A pair of red-shouldered hawks are frequent visitors. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Wildlife habitat

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It's a place where a pair of red-shouldered hawks hunt for mice, a place where a rescued German Shepherd named Scout plays freely, a place where horses graze and wild rabbits scamper about.
    It's also a place the National Wildlife Federation recognizes as an official wildlife habitat site, and a place Steven and Angel Vivian call home.
    The Vivian's Kendrick Pond Road home in Brooklet is a haven for wildlife and for their pets and themselves, Angel Vivian said. The four acres are as close to natural as they could keep it when building their home a few years ago, and it's a piece of property that welcomes and encourages wild birds and wild animals to come and feel safe.
    The Vivians have always been kind to the Earth and its inhabitants, so when they saw an opportunity on an Animal Planet Backyard Habitat show to apply for wildlife habitat status, they jumped at the chance, Steven Vivian said.
    "We filled out the application on their web site, and it was approved," he said.
    The Vivians never use pesticides or chemicals on their four acres, and have not landscaped the property. They do have a compost pile, which attracts a pair of red-shouldered hawks to nest in the area and hunt for mice around the compost area, he said.
    "We raise horses, work with the Humane Society rescue groups, and have several dogs," he said. Scout is a Humane Society rescue that had been sadly neglected, but now he romps around, the picture of health and happiness.
    He shares his territory with a host of wild creatures who feel welcome in the natural environment, Vivian said.
    "We like the environment here, with the rabbits and the deer," he said. When the couple noticed the pair of hawks frequenting the area, they built a perch for them. "They will sit there all day long," he said.
    The Vivian home is all woodlands and pasture - they even allow their horses to graze in the fenced yard, he said.  A pond borders the property as well, an additional lure to wild creatures.
    The land "is not manicured," he said. "We keep things natural, and the horses take care of the lawn mowing."
    The Vivians have lived in their peaceful haven for over two years. It had already been cleared for residency and contained a mobile home they moved when they built their home.
    "We're very big animal activists," Vivian said. "We've also offered our property to the Humane Society for use in horse rescues."
    It is relaxing and peaceful living in nature, he said. "It is a nice stress-reliever to get out and let the animals do their thing."
    The National Wildlife Federation began the Wildlife Habitat certification program in 1973, and has since certified over 75,000 habitats nationwide, said Mary Burnette, NWF Communications Department spokesman. These certified habitat sites include post offices, hospitals and places of worship as well as schools, business and community sites, in addition to home sites, she said.
    The sites range from urban balconies to thousand-acre areas, she said.
    Any property can become a wildlife habitat. In order for it to be certified, it must provide food, water, cover and places to raise young, she said.
    "It must also employ sustainable gardening practices," she said. "Habitat restoration is critical in urban and suburban settings where commercial and residential development encroaches on natural wildlife areas."
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