Monthly Programs

The Camano Wildlife Habitat Project, sponsored by Friends of Camano Island Parks, hosts public presentations the third Wednesday of the month.

If you have suggestions for topics and/or speakers, please email us.

"Mosses and Lichens, Our Evergreen Pacific Northwest"
by Deborah Smeltzer, Skagit County Master Gardener

June 15th, 2022 7:00 PM PST

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing the meeting link.

Deborah Smeltzer will talk about two interesting life forms found in abundance in the Pacific Northwest – Mosses and Lichens. For each, she will describe their biology and cultural characteristics, show portraits of the life forms, provide “fun facts”, discuss whether they are “friend” or “foe”, talk about how to encourage lush moss lawns or how to control them if needed.


Deborah Smeltzer, Skagit County Master Gardener since 2012, currently serves as chair of the Training Team. She has been an instructor for soils, fertility, composting, mosses, lichens, fungi, online tools, and presentation skills. Deborah has been honored as 2012 Skagit County MG Intern of the Year, 2014 Skagit County MG of the Year, and 2020 Washington State MG of the Year.Deborah has a BS in biology and an MS in medical microbiology from the University of California, Irvine, and an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She spent over 30 years in the biotechnology industry as a scientist, financier, corporate officer, business manager, and public spokesperson. She retired to the Skagit Valley where she enjoys gardening, hiking, wildlife viewing, and serving as a volunteer with community organizations focused on education in sustainable environments. Click to Download Deborah's Moss & Lichen Resources document.

Recent Presentations

hummingbird feeding on Camas

Photo by Kim Binczewski

"Native Plants for a Changing Climate"
by Brenda Cunningham

April 20th, 2022

As our summers become hotter and drier and winters become wetter and colder, how do we choose plants most likely to survive in our gardens? Brenda will present the most readily available native plants for your garden, their values to wildlife and pollinators and their tolerance for extreme weather events. We’ll also talk about sources for buying native plants and a bit about how to propagate them on your own.

Click to Download Native Plant Resources mentioned in the program.

"Birds and Glass Don’t Mix – Protecting Birds from Window Collisions"
by Hanae Bettencourt, Seattle Audubon

March 16th, 2022

The problem is clear: hundreds of millions of birds die each year due to collisions with glass, making glass one of the greatest human-related impacts that directly kills birds. But there are solutions! Hanae Bettencourt, Education Manager with Seattle Audubon, will explain what makes glass so deadly and what we can do at a personal and community level to make human-centered spaces safer for birds.

Click to Download Window Collision Resources

Shona Aitken

"Baby Season is Almost Here!"
by Shona Aitken

February 16th, 2022

Kits, pups, nestlings and fledglings. The time of year when wild babies are born or hatched is the busiest time of year for wildlife rehabilitation centers because these wild youngsters are vulnerable to all kinds of human impacts. Join Shona Aitken, Education Coordinator at Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to find out when different types of wild babies are likely to appear, the main reasons they get injured or orphaned, and what we can all do to reduce our impacts.

Wolf Hollow serves San Juan and Skagit counties, plus northern Whidbey Island. They have also helped some of our Camano seal pups.

Our closest wildlife rehab center is Sarvey Wildlife Care Center: 360.435.4817

Wildlife rehabilitation is costly. Donations are always appreciated!

"Creating Habitat & Ecological Connection via Native Plants"
by Mariah Thomson

January 19th, 2022

What makes a landscape an effective wildlife habitat?
Mariah Thomson, Snohomish Conservation District Restoration Project Assistant, will share her perspective on why native plants are ecologically important for wildlife and humans alike, will cover what constitutes wildlife habitat, and provide a sample of native plants for each component. Her goal is to empower us to create a backyard habitat that meets the needs of local wildlife and is personalized to one's interests. Resources for getting started and planning your habitat will be provided. Mariah studied the intersection of conservation and social science and brings us expertise in how to restore habitats, which could include our own yards.

Meet Mariah: https://snohomishcd.org/staff-bios/mariah-thomson

Click to Download Resources Mentioned In The Program, Lawn Reduction

"Parks Aren't Just for People"
by Montana Napier

November 17th, 2021


Join Montana Napier, the Interpretive Specialist at Cama Beach State Park, for a presentation on how parks are more than a place to vacation or recreate. Across the state, parks protect large intact habitats for native wildlife, so it's important to remember that when we're visiting parks, we're visiting animals' homes. Hear stories from the field, the "why" behind certain rules and regulations, and discover a technique you can use to educate your friends and family about Leave No Trace in a positive way.

Resources mentioned in the program:

· Leave No Trace: Authority of the Resource· Authority of the Resource Technique: How to Communicate Leave No Trace - Video​· How to Respond to Less Than Leave No Trace Moments· Law Enforcement and the "Authority of the Resource" - Essay by Dr. George N. Wallace· https://soundwaterstewards.org/· https://www.friendsofcamanoislandparks.org/· https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/west-coast/marine-mammal-protection/west-coast-marine-mammal-stranding-network· http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/· http://www.camabeachfoundation.org/
Photo courtesy of Neil Zimmerman - a Western Screech Owl that nested in Neil's garden.

"Attracting Birds to Your Yard"
by Neil Zimmerman

Oct 20, 2021

Join Neil Zimmerman, Seattle Audubon Outreach Chair and Master Birder, to learn how to attract and care for birds in your yard through plant selection, gardening practices and use of water features. Power Point photos, many from Neil’s yard, will be used to illustrate that gardening and birding are a natural fit.

Resources mentioned in the program:

"Holistic Gardening: Healthy Soil, Native Plants, Clean Water" by Gwendolyn Hannam

Sep 15th, 2021

A beautiful garden that thrives in challenging conditions and provides food and shelter for birds and bees is possible, but must be approached holistically. Learn how to create such a garden and how it can provide benefits even to the health of Puget Sound. Join Gwendolyn Hannam, environmental biologist and Natural Resource Planner for the Whidbey Island Conservation District, for an engaging webinar and get inspired to start planning your garden!

Download Resources Mentioned In The Program

Aug 18th, 2021

Peggy Wendel interviewed Pat and posted this
Stanwood-Camano News article: "
Bald eagles soaring back" on Aug 10, 2021

Learn about the life cycle of Bald Eagles through education and storytelling with Pat Holmes.

Pat Holmes began studying Bald Eagles in 2014 on Camano Island as a hobby. After spending hours under their nests at Camano Island and Cama Beach State Parks, she developed a passion for the eagles. In her presentations, she enthusiastically shares her close up and personal experiences.

"Turning Your Property into a Wildlife Lover’s Paradise" by Val Schroeder

July 21st, 2021

Resources mentioned in the program: Suggested Native Plants, Layering, Our three native Oregon Grapes, Snohomish Conservation District Plant guide, WA Native Plant Society Plant Lists, The Gardener's Guide to Global Warming.

Download our Application for Certification or you can certify online on at the NWF site.

Imagine turning your garden into a year-round haven for birds, butterflies, pollinators, Douglas squirrels and a host of other delightful creatures. It's easier than you might think to put out the welcome mat for the birds and animals you want to entertain in your garden – no matter where you live or what size garden you have. Val Schroeder, Camano Wildlife Habitat Project coordinator, will show you how to create a garden that's as inviting to wildlife as it is beautiful with simple techniques that benefit wildlife and help preserve and protect our natural resources. You'll learn the four basic habitat requirements needed to sustain wildlife and how to provide them in your garden. You'll also find out how to join a growing movement of folks in the Puget Sound region that are taking steps to become wildlife-friendly – one yard at a time!

Val Schroeder, Habitat Steward Host, is coordinator of the Camano Wildlife Habitat Project, the 10th Community Habitat in the nation certified by the National Wildlife Federation. Camano has more than 1,000 certified wildlife habitats, hosts monthly education programs on environmental issues, maintains public demonstration gardens, and participates in critical areas preservation and restoration efforts on the Island. Val received the National Wildlife Federation Volunteer of the Year Award in 2006 and is the author of Exploring Camano Island: A History and Guide.

June 17th, 2021

From Heidi's website (which also has info about prey diversity from the Whidbey Island River Otter Research project):Scat Collection and Otter Spotting Volunteers Needed!If you have otters in your area, please report them to the WIRS Citizen Scientist Otter Reporting Website. For the truly industrious and committed, I have specimen collection kits prepared for those who have active latrines along their property. Please contact me if you would like one. Further, if you have “problem” river otters occupying your decks, boats, or boathouses, please do not hesitate to contact me, I am interested in finding a solution for you and the otters. I would also be happy to plant an infrared camera in locations of heavy otter traffic – I share all images with the property owner.

Coastal river otters, like the ones that inhabit the Salish Sea, forage in both marine and freshwater environments and use the watershed and effluviant to the Sound to feed, travel, mate, and socialize. As otters move between these ecotones, they are exposed to pollution and environmental contaminants (e.g., brominated flame retardants). Through an understanding of the Puget Sound's coastal river otter diet, distribution, health and behavior, we have a better sense of the overall ecological health of our habitat. Dr. Island will discuss the natural history of otters, the local populations and how Island County's otters are serving as a comparator population for captive and rescued river otters.

Dr. Island is a Professor of Comparative Animal Behavior and Neuroscience at Pacific University in Oregon and a Senior Research Associate for the Oregon Zoo. She is the Principal Investigator in a 4-year longitudinal study of Whidbey Island's North American river otters. Her interests concern the welfare of captive and wild otter populations found in the Pacific Northwest (North American River otter and Sea Otters).

Read about her otter research on her blog.

See our YouTube channel for recordings of earlier programs!