Published On: Wed, Mar 1st, 2017

February marks wildlife mating season

The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) is asking the public to be aware of our animal neighbours as a number of the province’s wildlife enter mating season in February.

The striped skunk is an animal that AIWC development and communication co-ordinator Michelle Suttie said humans are likely to have contact with during this time.

“So many people have (skunks) and don’t even realize they do,” she said. “Mating is going to happen, and there’s nothing you can do about that.”

Skunks, which are mainly nocturnal, are not only great for Alberta’s ecosystem, Suttie said, but are also good neighbours, as they feed on agricultural and garden pests as well as clear a property of rodents and wasp nests.

Though AIWC promotes harmonious living between humans and skunks, she said people worried about the animal taking up residence on their property need to be proactive.

When scouting a yard, homeowners should look for any access points under decks or sheds that a mother skunk could go into and build a den, Suttie said.

If any are uncovered, it is important to make sure skunks have not already created a home there, she said.

“That would be awful to seal them up in that access point once they’re already in,” Suttie said.

Skunks are also attracted to cat, bird and dog food, which she recommended homeowners bring inside at the end of the day.

Using a heavy plastic or metal garbage bin to seal in the odour of trash and recycling would also prevent the strong-nosed skunk from sniffing it out, she said.

“Those are a few ways to certainly try to prevent them from moving in,” Suttie said. “Obviously, if they’re already in there (then) there are natural deterrents that AIWC can give advice on.”

In 2016, AIWC admitted 57 orphaned skunk kits, which she said was a 174 per cent increase from the previous year.

Often, these orphaned kits were the result of the mother being trapped and relocated to another location or killed, Suttie said.

Since skunks are nocturnal and rely on their mother’s milk throughout the first few months, it is important to contact AIWC if kits are found wandering about in the daytime without mom, she said.

Separating the mother from kits leads to the little ones getting into trouble, Suttie said, as they often fall into contraptions such as window wells and can’t climb back up.

“It’s a domino effect when mom is not around,” she said. “It’s best to keep the family together.”

Another animal humans frequently have contact with at this time of year is the white-tailed prairie hares, Suttie said.

Hares are unlike skunks in that it is common for a mother hare to leave her babies alone for up to 12 hours a day.

“She’s back and forth between dusk and dawn,” Suttie said. “That’s when she’s there to feed.”

The baby hares give off no scent, she said, which protects them from potential predators.

When humans come across baby hares with no mother in sight, it is often with good intentions they pick them up and take them to a place such as AIWC, Suttie said.

This act is called “kidnapping,” which she said gives the baby hares about a five per cent chance of survival even in a facility such as AIWC.

“It’s the fear alone that is their demise,” she said. “(Baby hares) are perfectly fine on their own.”

“That’s the message we are always wanting to give.”

AIWC encourages anyone who finds injured or potentially orphaned wildlife to call its hotline at 403-946-2361.

To learn more, visit aiwc.ca.

February marks wildlife mating season | Local Entertainment | Rocky View Weekly.

Source: February marks wildlife mating season | Local Entertainment | Rocky View Weekly

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