Coyote on UCalgary campus. Photo copyright Dr. Dianne L. Draper, Department of Geography

Living with Wildlife

Get to know the wildlife on campus

The University of Calgary has been home to many wildlife species for decades. Living with Wildlife is a flagship model of co-existence with wildlife, providing our university family and surrounding neighbourhoods with accurate and timely information, education and safety guidelines. This mandate enhances a sustainable approach while minimizing human and wildlife conflict.

Photo by: Dr. Dianne L. Draper, PhD, Department of Geography

31st Annual Emerald Awards Finalist Badge

Wildlife Co-Existence Outreach Program

This program aims to empower communities to prevent conflict and foster positive relationships with all wildlife.

Interested in learning more or having your community host a free virtual webinar? 

Contact Dr. Shelley Alexander

Coexistence with Wildlife

Conflict with wildlife is preventable. These four cornerstones help ensure safety for humans and wildlife.

Prevention

Working in multi-linked partnerships, monitoring wildlife behaviour and changes and establishing a hierarchy of response.

Education

Messaging must align with current science and best practices that foster healthy and safe communities for people and animals.

Enforcement

Partnerships with campus security for incidents with wildlife and accountability for garbage, leash and feeding bylaws.

Mitigation

Using field evidence to determine the causes of incidents with wildlife and integrating the best response: area closures, education signs, and humane hazing of coyotes if required.

Wildlife on Campus

A coyote caught on camera.

Coyotes

Coyotes (Canis Iatrans) are part of the family Canidae, which also includes foxes, wolves, and domestic dogs.  Having evolved on the North American continent over 1 million years ago, coyotes have become very resilient: they replenish their numbers quickly, can consume many different food sources, and are highly adaptable to new situations. As well, coyotes can live alone, in pairs and in family groups; they form strong bonds and are immensely protective of their offspring. These points underscore coyotes’ ability to survive in urban environments and highlight why they get into conflict with people.  

Scientific research shows that the risk of negative encounters between coyotes and people is very low, that killing coyotes does not solve co-existence problems, and that most conflict is preventable by increasing awareness of factors that lead to conflict and reinforcing human actions that support co-existence. 

Click here to view other wildlife on campus

Learn more about coyotes

Our UCalgary researchers with the Canid Conservation Science Lab have been studying coyote ecology, behaviour, conflict with humans and pets, health, human dimensions and co-existence strategies since 2005. Through the dedication of faculty, staff, students, citizens and volunteers, we have developed an evidence-based adaptive coyote coexistence program on our UCalgary campus, and we have achieved the broadest suite of scientific research about coyotes in Canada.

At UCalgary we have used scientific evidence to inform our Living with Wildlife coexistence program, which promotes a healthy, diverse, and sustainable ecosystem of wildlife and people on campus. A hallmark of our Living with Wildlife program is mobilizing science into education to support coexistence efforts of communities in Calgary, as well as across North America.

Coyotes Promote Healthy Ecosystems

Coyotes provide humans with important ecosystem services, such as rodent control and carrion removal. In some studies, coyotes have been found to play a vital, ‘keystone’ species roles. As keystones, coyotes have positive impacts across all trophic levels in the urban ecosystem – from other carnivores to smaller prey species, and plants. Coyotes in Calgary show a direct effect on all trophic levels, feeding primarily on small mammals, birds and insects, they also eat various plant species, especially those bearing fruit (saskatoon berry and crabapples).

Coyotes also can control the expansion of other species like racoons and skunks and can suppress some diseases of risk to humans and pets. Education and experiences play a huge role in how people respond to coyotes and whether they choose to coexist with or kill (Alexander & Draper, 2019). Understanding the benefits of coyotes in our urban ecosystems – their role of ecosystem ‘stewards’ that promote biodiversity and healthy ecosystems - can support decisions that are good for people and wildlife.

Coyote Family Life

The coyote family tends to defend territories from other unrelated coyotes. It is not uncommon for extended family members to visit, but the size of a resident family is controlled by available food and habitat.

In general, only the mated pair (mother and father) of a family will reproduce and subordinates may help raise the litter. In times of population pressure (i.e., harsh winters or killing by humans) more animals and younger animals may breed to compensate for losses in the overall population.

Although coyotes live in family groups, they tend to travel and hunt alone or in loose pairs, consuming small mammals, such as rodents. Coyotes also may hunt as a family unit, in which case they can take down larger prey like deer.

Coyote families in larger protected areas that are very prey rich (e.g., multiple food types like small ungulates, small mammals, and abundant carrion) can be as large as 8-10 animals, but typically families are much smaller. Urban coyotes, like those in Calgary, must live in smaller remnant greenspaces that are surrounded by an urban matrix; There, they live solitary, in pairs or small families (3-5 individuals).

Why killing coyotes is not a solution

Scientific evidence from various locations in North America has shown that killing coyotes does not solve conflict and is ecologically destructive. While removing coyotes may have a short-term effect of stopping a conflict, if suitable habitat remains, new coyotes will migrate into that area and if the root cause of conflict (e.g., feeding) was not addressed then conflict will re-emerge. In addition, research has shown that killing coyotes can result in greater conflict because: it disrupts coyote social systems, results in the loss of those older or key individuals who would pass coexistence knowledge to their young, can lead to more transient animals that tend to be more aggressive, and can force younger animals to breed and have larger litters in order to replenish numbers to the original level.

Research by the Canid Conservation Science Lab at UCalgary analyzed 12 years of Canadian print media reports to determine the frequency, type and preceding conditions to attacks on people and pets. Attacks are defined as an incident where a person or pet is bitten or scratched by a coyote.

That UCalgary research found that on average fewer than 3 people (2.4 people) per year were scratched or bitten by coyotes in Canada (Alexander & Quinn, 2011). This is consistent with U.S. research, which determined approximately 3 people per year were bitten by a coyote.  

As well, the researchers found 92.3% of medium to large sized dogs that were attacked by coyotes were described by owners to be “off-leash” and running after coyotes (Alexander & Quinn, 2011).  An evaluation of the bite patterns on dogs supported the previous result, showing wounds on dogs were consistent to those inflicted by coyotes defending their territory or pups against other coyotes – the wounds were not consistent with predatory biting. This is very strong evidence that leashing dogs in areas where coyotes are active is a critical step to reducing negative coyote interactions. Following the guidance of coexistence programs across Canada, we recommend that fixed leads always be used, as expandable leads contribute to attacks on dogs by all wildlife.

Finally, observations show that small dogs can be viewed as prey if they are running off-leash or on extendable leads (Alexander & Quinn, 2011). However, it was observed that in cases where small dogs were attacked by coyotes, if the human intervened and ran at the coyote, the dog was dropped and survived in 50% of the cases.  Leaving small dogs unattended increases the risk they may be predated by a variety of wildlife (owls, eagles, foxes, bobcats, and coyotes).

Our UCalgary research on the spatial and temporal patterns of conflict with coyotes in Calgary was the first of its kind in Canada (Lukasik & Alexander, 2011), and showed that true conflict represents a very small portion of coyote encounters. 

In that research, fewer than 5% of reported incidents involve a person or pet being followed or a pet being bitten. There were reports of coyotes biting dogs, and coyotes killing cats and small dogs in Calgary, but serious negative encounters between people and coyotes were rare: No medium or large size dogs were killed by coyotes in Calgary at that time, and there had been only one event (2005) where two children were bitten by a coyote in Confederation Park (CBC Broadcasting). While a rare occurrence, this event was significant because it marked a change in human perception towards coyotes in Calgary.

Through UCalgary research, we identified two critical pieces of information about coyote conflict in Calgary:

  1. Coyote conflict reports are significantly higher at two times in the year:
    1. the pup rearing season (April-June), when coyotes are in dens with pups
    2. the dispersal period (September-November), when young, relatively uneducated animals are leaving their family for the first time.
  2. Neighbourhoods with greater conflict was reported in Calgary, where also areas where coyotes were found to eat more garbage and human sources of food (including deliberate feeding), which yields strong evidence that a coyote problem, like a bear problem, is the result of human behaviour. 

Why is food conditioning and habituation important to prevent?

Across Canada and the U.S., people have deliberately provided food to wildlife and coyotes: some people like to keep wildlife near their homes and will put out attractants to see the animals. Other people feel sorry for wild animals and will leave food out to keep them alive. Others still may accidentally feed coyotes (e.g., garbage or bird seed). We call this type of food attractants.

Researchers across the globe agree that when wild carnivores spend too much time around people, they can become habituated and can quickly lose their fear of people.  When coyotes are also dependent upon human sources of food, they can become food conditioned.  It is a well-known, scientifically proven fact that habituated, food conditioned wild animals of many kinds are more likely to get into conflict with people and pets. 

The more time coyotes spend around people, the less they fear them, but it is the deliberate or accidental feeding that creates a situation where the coyote may depend on human food or protect a human food source from a dog or person.

What are some common attractants?  

  • birdseed
  • pet food
  • free roaming pets
  • feral rabbits
  • poorly stored garbage or compost
  • back alley gardens
  • restaurant grease bins or garbage disposal
  • food provided for other wildlife like rabbits, deer or birds of prey
  • People in Calgary also have been found to directly feed coyotes meat or other food (Lukasik & Alexander, 2012)

Scientific research also indicates that successful coexistence programs MUST enforce the removal of attractants and stop feeding by people. This is the most critical aspect of a coexistence plan, alongside education and monitoring – these can prevent and minimize conflict and the need to use hazing.  Hazing without the removal of attractants will not realize coexistence.

If you encounter a coyote nearby, attempt to avoid conflict by widening the gap between you and the coyote:

The instant that a coyote is detected (especially those with dogs) you should widen the gap.  Do not stare at the coyote, do not allow your dog to stare at the coyote, keep your pets on a short leash and kids close, walk away if you can or walk far around; keep moving away and never walk towards or try to pass nearby the coyote. 

If you are approached by a coyote or feel concerned for your safety, there are some basic rules to follow to help avoid or de-escalate the encounter. Usually coyotes will move away from you if you give them the space.

  • STOP: Pick up children and small pets if necessary   
  • STAND STILL: Never run from a coyote, fox or dog 
     
  • MAKE YOURSELF BIG: Arms in the air and clap, pop umbrella, snap plastic bag 
     
  • BE LOUD AND ASSERTIVE: Shout “Go Away!”, stomp your feet, never scream
     
  • BACK AWAY: Always widen the gap. Be assertive as you leave, if need be, to ensure the animal knows it is not welcome  

Download the Coyote Rules Sheet

Reducing conflict with coyotes during denning and pup rearing

From May through July, coyotes are first looking after pups in the den, then moving pups to a secondary den or settling in at a rendezvous site (i.e., a site where the coyotes gather each day and pups may always be present or may move with adult coyotes at night and return early the next day).

When humans with dogs, and rarely humans alone, get too close to coyote dens or their pups, this can cause coyotes to become very fearful and protective of their young. This fear creates significant stress for adult coyotes whose job is to produce, raise and protect their young.

Humans should not try to condition, train or force coyotes to stop using aggression to protect their young; using aggression to protect pups is normal aggression. 

Coyotes typically will not attack dogs immediately but will give warning signs that humans should pay attention to.

  • In a normal situation, coyotes will first come out, stand or lay down and stare at the human and dog. That is your cue to leave or move far away (over 100 m if possible).
  • If a human with their dog does not leave the location immediately the coyote will feel more threatened and will feel it ‘speak’ more loudly (e.g. growling, barking).
  • If the coyote cannot make the human and dog leave, then it’s fear will increase and it may escalate aggression, and ‘bluff charge’ and ‘bark howl’. 
  • When people continue to stand, stare, approach, or let the dog investigate or walk forward that continues to escalate the situation and make the coyotes sense of urgency intense. The coyote may do a ‘threat gape’, in which it arches its back and hiss and snap or some combination of all of the above in a desperate attempt to make you go away. After that, the coyote will bite your dog.

Be aware: When you leave areas upon encountering a coyote during denning or pup rearing time, one or more coyotes may follow a person and dog for some distance before they stop and lie down or return to their pups.  This behaviour is called ‘escorting’ and they are moving you out of the ‘home or den site’.  This commonly is reported as ‘stalking’, when it is in fact not predatory.  These types of events are the most reported negative encounter with coyotes in the months of May-July.  Learn to be aware and help avoid such negative encounters. 

Coyotes are a natural part of the ecosystem. It is up to humans to de-escalate conflict during denning and pup rearing times – move away efficiently, calmly and with purpose. Coyotes are evolutionarily programmed to protect their pups – it is not humane or effective to attempt to remove that instinct through hazing, harassment or standing your ground.

Other Wildlife on Campus

White-tailed Jackrabbit

White-tailed Jackrabbit

(Lepus townsendii)

Contrary to their name, White-tailed jackrabbits are actually ‘hares’ rather than a ‘rabbits’. All hares and rabbits belong to the family Leporidae, but they are not one in the same. The White-tailed Jackrabbit ranges throughout the central and western regions of both the United States and Canada.4  White-tailed jackrabbits do not migrate, and instead shed their summer coats for winter coats that more closely resemble their surroundings.

Typical habitat for the jackrabbits includes open prairies and grasslands, but they also live in mountainous pastures and urban areas.Like most leporids, white-tailed jackrabbits are primarily nocturnal, making use of excellent lowlight eyesight to forage for food.2 Foraging jackrabbits will feed on grasses and forbs, as well as shrubs in the winter.12

The breeding season for these hares is usually between February and mid-July. These hares then have a short gestation period that ranges between just a month and 43 days. The number of offspring produced in a litter is commonly between four and five offspring each and the number of litters produced per year depends on the environment in which the hare resides.

The White-tailed Jackrabbit play an important ecological role. They provide an abundant food source for predators like coyotes, foxes, and bobcats, as well as altering the plant composition depending on grazing habits.12

Deer

White-tailed Deer

(Odocoileus virginianus)

White-tailed deer belong to the Cervidae family, the same family that elk, moose, deer, and caribou fall into. All member of the Cervidae family are “true deer”; true deer are hoofed mammals that regurgitate their food from their stomach to chew it repeatedly, also known as being a ruminant.

White-tailed deer are dispersed across a diverse range of habitats and geographic area.15 As far north as Canada and as far south as Peru these deer can be found.15 White-tailed deer are extremely adaptable animals, which allows them to call a large range of habitats and latitudes home.18 Often, they can be found existing in human dominated spaces due to their ability to adapt.18 The White-tailed deer is also known to be polytypic, meaning that it’s morphological features (pelt) change across geographic space.18

The White-tailed deer live in social groups called herds, typically segregated by sex. Bucks will form a herd of their own while the does and their fawns form another. Mothers are very protective of their fawns, and for the first 4 months of their life, the fawn will remain hidden in foliage. Herds of deer employ several strategies to communicate with each other including markings, sounds, scent, and body language. Mothers and fawns have their own unique bleats that they use to communicate with one another. Since White-tailed deer are such skittish animals, communicating with one another aids in their impressive response time. The iconic white tail of the deer is used by the animals to signal potential danger to one another; a raised tail signals some sort of disturbance.18

White-tailed deer provide multiple essential ecosystem services. Some of these services include controlling the abundance of grasses and shrubbery, seed dispersal, and providing larger predators with a source of nutrients. Being a primary consumer means that the health of the ecosystem can vary based on the presence or absence of the White-tailed deer.

Skunk

Striped Skunk

(Mephitis mephitis)

The striped skunk can be recognised by its black body and signature two white stripes along its back. This distinct colouring acts as a warning signal to predators about its volatile spray. Producing their iconic spray costs the skunk energy and time, it would much rather not use it if given the option.

The striped skunk is a house cat sized member of the Mustelidae superfamily. This means that they are in the same classification as weasels, wolverines, racoons, an several more species. Like most members of the weasel superfamily, the skunk makes its home in natural cavities or burrows.8

Striped skunks are highly versatile animals that can call a diverse range of habitat home, such as woods, plains, and deserts, forest-edges.27 They also can live in urban areas, under houses and garages.10 This is due in part to their omnivorous nature and life history. Skunks eat primarily insects but will also eat small mammals, birds, and plant matter if it is available.25

For striped skunks, mating season is usually between mid-February and mid-March, gestation is typically around 63 days, litters of 4-11 are born in April or May.8

Striped skunks are primarily solitary and spend most of the year on their own. However, during breeding season and the winter months, there are times when these skunks come together. On rare occasion male and female skunks may den together during the winter, but it is rare for male and female skunks to remain together beyond mating. Mating season occurs from mid-February to mid-March and entails males seeking out multiple females to mate with; After mating has occurred, the female skunk becomes hostile to the male skunk and begins the process of raising the offspring alone.28 Gestation lasts for 8 weeks, and the juvenile skunks are born with their eyes closed, during the beginning of their life they are fully dependant on their mother.

Much like other members of the Mustelidae superfamily, the skunk is both predator and prey.25 They aid in controlling small mammal and bird populations, as well as determining the plant composition of the area. Being prey for top predators, such as coyotes, and great horned owls is also important as without them the predator population would experience a decline.8

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpies

(Pica hudsonia)

All magpies belong to the Corvidae family; a broad group of birds which also includes crows, ravens, jays, and several other birds. The black billed magpie is highly present throughout the northwestern United States and western Canada where they are present all year round.17

Typical habitats include grasslands, shrublands and rocky outcrops, but magpies are commonly observed throughout suburban and urban areas.23 Magpies consume a wide variety of foods including seeds, fruit, insects, and rodents, but will also eat garbage and carrion when they are available.23

While magpies do not have any major threats beside human interference, they provide many essential services for other members of an ecosystem. Disposing of carrion, controlling insect populations, and providing a home with leftover nests all contribute to the overall health of an ecosystem.

Magpies also mate monogamously, and their social groups revolve around existing mated pairs. Large community groups can form and live together containing several mating pairs and family.

Mated magpies will construct a dome shaped nest, usually atop a tree, consisting of a loose collection of sticks and soft materials.17 Females lay between 1 and 9 eggs, which incubate for up to three weeks. Like most birds, the juvenile magpies are born featherless and blind for the first seven days. Juveniles will begin flying by 4 weeks of age and leave the nest to join others after 2 months learning from their parents.

  • Black billed magpies often feed on the parasitic ticks of large mammals.6
  • Wolves and coyotes often form a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with magpies.
  • Black billed magpies will create fake food caches to trick other magpies that attempt to steal hidden food.3
Canadian Goose

Canada Geese

(Branta canadensis)

Canada Geese are part of the Anatidae family, which also includes ducks and swans. They are native to north America but migrate south for the winter months.16

Canada Geese like to spend their time in grassy areas close to bodies of water and easily live in agricultural or urban areas.16 They mostly feed on plants, including stems, leaves, tubers, fruits, and seeds.19 Like people, geese are very social creatures and form large flocks, as well as long-term mating pairs.16

Geese are defensive creatures, especially when their offspring are present, which creates the potential for conflict with people.16

Their breeding season takes place in the spring. During this time, pairs will separate from the main flock and defend their own territories. The female will build a nest and lay 2-8 eggs. She will then incubate them for around 25-28 days. Once the eggs hatch, the goslings will stay in the nest for 1-2 days, and then spend the first year of their lives with their parents, learning how to survive on their own.

During the breeding season, males are very protective of their nests, so it is very important to give them space if you encounter one.

Canada geese are important for plant growth, as they act as seed dispersers for the many plants they eat. Geese and their eggs are also prey for several predators that share the university campus as their habitat.

  • Canadian geese fly in a v-like formation to reduce drag and increase lift which allows them to save energy during long distance travel.19
  • Groups of gosling broods sometimes join and follow at least one adult. These groups are called “gang broods”.19
bobcat

Bobcat

(Lynx rufus[11]

The bobcat, as the name may imply, is closely related to domestic house cats. As members of the Felidae family, they are a member of the same clade as lions, tigers, domestic cats, and several other felines. Bobcats differ from other types of lynxes by their range and their coat colour; Bobcats can be found much further south than Canada lynx, and their fur is much browner than the Canada lynx’s white fur.

Bobcats have a wide range across the United States and Canada, from coast to coast. While they live in various habitats, they prefer shrublands and areas with high density ground level vegetation. They most commonly inhabit areas with high prey density, namely hares and jackrabbits. Habitat preference in bobcats varies based on food abundance, in the summer bobcats prefer higher elevation, and the opposite is true in the winter.

Bobcat mating typically occurs during the early spring but varies based on altitude, longitude, latitude, and climate. During this time, polygamous mating occurs with both males and females will mate with multiple other bobcats. A typical bobcat litter consists of one to six offspring that will gestate for 2 months before being born. Once a mother has had her clowder, she will be aggressive to any males, even the father of the kittens, as a means of pre-emptive defense. Male bobcats do not participate in the offspring raising process.

The Bobcat is not only a top predator, but also a keystone species that has a proportionately larger impact on the ecosystem than their population should. Bobcats control the abundance of smaller mammals like rabbits and hares, which in turn allows vegetation to grow without facing overconsumption by the leporids.

Squirrel

Eastern-Grey Squirrel

(Sciurus carolinensis)

The eastern-grey squirrel is part of the Sciuridae family, which includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels. Their native range primarily includes eastern United States and southeastern Canada.9 They are mostly grey, with some brown or red fur, although black morphs can commonly be seen in Canada.  It is likely that the black fur helps the squirrels thermoregulate in cold climates.5

These squirrels are often found in mixed composition forests but are also commonly found in suburban and urban areas.9 Eastern-grey squirrels are primarily active in the morning and late afternoon but may be completely inactive for multiple days during extreme cold.9 They feed on seeds, fruits, nuts, fungi, insects, and sometimes small vertebrates.9 They often bury nuts and acorns in the fall and consume them in the winter or spring.9

The breeding seasons of eastern-grey squirrels occur in December-February or May-June.9

Eastern-grey squirrels usually have one or two litters per year, each comprising of 2-3 individuals and their gestation period is 44 days.9 Usually, winter-spring litters are born in tree cavities whereas spring-summer litters are born in leaf nests.21

Eastern-grey squirrels have an important ecosystem role as prey for several predators on campus, such as coyotes, bobcats, hawks, and racoons.9 They also act as seed dispersers for various plants, when they forget where they cashed their nuts.

Raccoon

Racoon

(Procyon lotor[13]

Raccoons belong to the Procyonidae family, which makes them closely related to weasels and other mustelids who belong to the same superfamily; Mustelidae. They are present throughout the United States and southern Canada, aside from a from pockets in and around Arizona where the temperature is too extreme.

Raccoons are extremely versatile omnivores that can eat a wide variety of foods and exist across several habitats. The raccoons diet consists of anything from fruits, nuts, and seeds to carrion and small birds or reptiles. When food is abundant, they are more selective of what they eat, and when food is scarce, they will take whatever they can get. Washing of food is a trait closely associated with the Raccoon, and as such, they are commonly found near bodies of water so that they may wash their food before consumption. When water is not present, raccoons can still be observed rubbing their food to clean it, or rubbing their hands together in the absence of food.

The raccoon is a primarily solitary animal that only get together for the purpose of breeding. Raccoon mating season occurs from December to June, but most of the mating occurs during February. During this time, both male and female raccoons will attempt partner up with multiple mates.7 After mating, male and female raccoons go their separate ways and females will raise the young. The Gestation period of raccoons is just over 2 months (63 days), Juvenile raccoons will remain with their mother for 9 months before they are weaned and begin fending for themself. Like many other animals, communication is extremely important for raccoons. Raccoons use over twenty different vocalizations to communicate with one another, primarily used for mating or for young and their mother to communicate.

Omnivores like racoons typically play an important role in the regulation of smaller mammals, carrion, and green plants. Raccoons also are prey for top predators like bobcats or coyotes, which makes them an important food source.

American Crow

American Crow

(Corvus brachyrhynchos[1]

American crows have fully black bodies, and often are confused for the common raven, because of their similar colouring. The crow can be distinguished from the raven by its smaller size, straight bill, and shorter squared tail.  As members of the Corvidae family, American crows are closely related to jays, ravens, and several other birds. American crows are one of the most widespread birds in all North America. They subsist in an extremely wide variety of habitats; including fields and forests, but also do very well in people populated areas, from neighbour hoods to garbage dumps.

Like magpies, crows are very intelligent, which helps them survive in urban environments. They can also be aggressive towards other birds, even ones larger than themselves. American crows are very generalist eaters, which makes them highly adaptable and able to call any area their home. The American crow’s diet consists of invertebrates, carrion, small vertebrates, bird eggs and young, seeds, fruit, and nuts.24

American crows form lifelong mated pairs but will occasionally mate with others to increase genetic diversity. Breeding season is in early spring; this is when they mate and build their nests. Crows nest in coniferous trees, deciduous trees, shrubs, or on rare occasion, the ground. They make their nests out of bark, twigs, branches, moss, feathers, fur, leaves, and other soft materials. It takes them 5-13 days to build their nest.24

American crows are excellent seed dispersers due to the distance they travel. They also feed on many smaller animals (rodents, insects, amphibians) which keep population in check. Being prey for top predators also plays a key role in the health of any ecosystem they are part of.


What actions can we take to better coexist with the wildlife?

Across Canada and the U.S., people have deliberately provided food to wildlife: some people like to keep wildlife near their homes and will put out attractants to see the animals. Others feel sorry for wild animals and will leave food out to keep them alive. Others may accidentally feed geese with their waste (e.g., garbage). We call this type of food ‘attractants.’

When wild animals spend too much time around people, they can become habituated and can quickly lose their fear of people. When geese are also dependent upon human sources of food, they can become food conditioned. It is a well-known, scientifically proven fact that habituated, food conditioned wild animals of many kinds are more likely to get into conflict with people and pets.

The more time wildlife spends around people, the less they fear them, but it is the deliberate or accidental feeding that creates a situation where the animal may depend on human food.

  • Do not approach the wildlife, give them space
  • Do not deliberately feed the wildlife
  • Do not leave out birdseed
  • Pick up your garbage, including all compostable food items
  • Do not leave garbage bins open or accessible
  • Be mindful of bags and containers that can be opened by wildlife, such as magpies

  1. American Crow Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Allaboutbirds.org.   2022 [accessed 2022 Jul 27]. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/id
  2. Banfield A, Brooks A. The mammals of Canada. [Toronto]: Published for the National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada by University of Toronto    Press; 1977.
  3. Buitron D, Nuechterlein G. Experiments on Olfactory Detection of Food Caches by Black-Billed Magpies. The Condor. 1985;87(1):92-95.
  4. Chapman J, Flux J. Rabbits, hares and pikas. Gland: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; 1990.
  5. Ciurej A, Oblander A, Swift A, Wilson J. Melanism as a potential thermal benefit in eastern fox squirrels (Sciurus niger). European Journal of Ecology. 2019;5(2):79-87.
  6. Found R. Interactions between cleaner-birds and ungulates are personality dependent. Biology Letters. 2017;13(11):20170536.
  7. Feldhamer G. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 2003.
  8. Jones J. Mammals of the northern Great Plains. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press; 1983.
  9. Koprowski J. Sciurus carolinensis. Mammalian Species. 1994;(480):1.
  10.  LARIVIÈRE S, WALTON L, MESSIER F. Selection by Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) of Farmsteads and Buildings as Denning Sites. The American Midland Naturalist. 1999;142(1):96-101.
  11. Lariviere S, Walton L. Lynx rufus. Mammalian Species. 1997;(563):1.
  12. Lim B. Lepus townsendii. Mammalian Species. 1987;(288):1.
  13.  Lotze J, Anderson S. Procyon lotor. Mammalian Species. 1979;(119):1.
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