Tri-Cities is about to become a nursery for urban widlife
Everyone loves a baby — but not when it’s a skunk or raccoon kit or a coyote pup. And this is the season when these urban critters mate and bear their young.
All of these animals have adapted to our neighbourhoods and this is the time of the year when they will be looking for a good home — perhaps in the nearby woods, beneath your porch or under a shed.
“It’s baby season coming up,” says Coquitlam urban wildlife co-ordinator Drake Stephens. And while it may be pleasant to imagine these creatures gambolling about in nature, they can make for troublesome neighbours in an urban setting.
Repairing damage to homes and paying exterminators to remove nesting animals can get expensive, Stephens said. But there are simple fixes homeowners should be making now to avoid being the local wild animal daycare centre.
For example, this is the time of year to remove all bird feeders, which can attract bears, as well as smaller mammals. Make sure your garbage is secure and don’t leave pet food outdoors. Stephens also recommends walking around your house and taking notice of where small animals could get access to porches, decks or crawl spaces.
Blocking off holes with wood and wire mesh, even digging it into the ground, is recommended, as is trimming tree branches next to a house so climbing animals, such as squirrels, can’t get in.
“Make sure they can’t get into the soffits,” Stephens said.
Coyotes are also living close by in bushes and ravines. Last year, for example, 383 coyote complaints were made to the BC Conservation Officer Service from people living in the Tri-Cities and Maple Ridge. Most of the time, coyotes mind their own business and, in fact, do us all a favour by feasting on rodents, but there have been reports of people feeding them, which can be a problem.
The Stanley Park Ecology Society website (stanleyparkecology.ca) offers information about coyotes, including a package for school parent advisory councils. It notes, for example, that feeding coyotes is a criminal offence in B.C. and the presence of a coyote in your yard or neighbourhood is a sign of a nearby food source.
“Whether intentional or not, someone in your neighbourhood is providing a food source for coyotes,” it states, recommending neighbours band together to keep the area clean of attractants.
(Various deterrents, such as homemade “pot clangers” are also recommended.)
Sometimes coyotes will go after a small dog, seeing it as something to eat. Conservation Officer Kyle Ackles said a coyote attacking small a dog is rare but it does happen, and is one source of complaints about coyotes.
Occasionally, bobcats are spotted in the Tri-Cities but Ackles says they don’t pose a danger. Cougars should be reported, however, and Ackles noted last year, there were 225 reports of cougars in the area.
If you spot a cougar, Ackles recommends making yourself look as big as you can, keeping small children close and, when in a group, standing shoulder to shoulder. Never turn your back on a cougar, he said.
“If you do see a large predator and you feel there’s a threat to public safety contact, 1-877-952-7277,” he added.
There’s plenty of wildlife in even the most developed parts of the Tri-Cities. Here’s how to deal with some wild animals on your property:
• Maintain sheds and garages to prevent unwelcome tenants.
• Babies will be in dens starting in April.
• Find out more about their habits and how to discourage them from moving in at BC SPCA (www.spca.bc.ca under Urban Wildlife).
• An estimated 2,000 coyotes live in the Lower Mainland and pup-rearing season is April through July.
• Teach your child to identify a coyote and tell them to be Big, Brave and Loud in coyote encounters.
• Keep cats indoors and small pets on a tight leash.
• Find out more from the Stanley Park Ecological Society (www.stanleyparkecology.ca under Urban Wildlife).
• As intelligent as dogs and cats, raccoons have routines for gathering food and seeking shelter. They will den in a chimney, attic, crawl space, shed or storm sewer, and will usually have more than one den site.
• Raccoons can lose their fear of people and become aggressive towards food and injure pets.
• They don’t carry rabies but their feces can carry a roundworm parasite that is very dangerous to humans.