Hares and Geese and Skunks, Oh My! Cohabiting with wildlife this spring

Spring is the time of year when grass turns green, flowers begin to bloom, and plants start to sprout. It is also a time of year when many wild animals in Alberta have their offspring. Cohabiting with wildlife is a reality for Albertans throughout the year, but spring presents some unique challenges for people and animals (domestic and wild) living in communities across the province.

I recently connected with Elsa at WILDNorth who shared some information on how people can peacefully coexist with wildlife this time of year. Below is advice on what to do if you encounter three of the most commonly called about animals each spring: white-tailed prairie hares, Canada geese and striped skunks. Here is what Elsa mentioned:

White-Tailed Prairie Hares

Find a baby hare? Leave it right there! White-tailed prairie hares, or, jackrabbits, are having their babies this time of year. Mothers always leave their babies alone during the day and come back one to two times a night to feed them; this is so predators are not attracted to where their babies are nested. If you see a baby hare and it appears healthy, but is in the middle of a lawn or an unsafe location like a parking lot, you can gently move it to a safer area, such as a nearby shrub or bush (the baby hare does not need a large green space – just a safer location.) Do NOT keep the baby hare and attempt to raise the animal yourself as they are very easily stressed and frightened which often leads to sudden fatality.

If you find a baby hare that has an obvious injury (i.e., blood is present or broken leg) contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre and they will advise you on what you can do.

Canada Geese

Have you noticed a Canada goose just standing around in a parking lot, on a sidewalk or even on a road? If so, this is completely normal! They are more than likely not injured, lost, or unable to fly – this is just one of their natural behaviours. The goose that seems to be just standing around and not leaving is a gander (male goose) that is part of a mated pair. By standing in place, the gander is guarding the nesting female from a distance. Females will generally nest on top of buildings or away from others on small strips of grass, which is why you will not likely be able to spot her! If you see a Canada goose that seems to be just standing around and is unwilling to leave the area (with no obvious injuries) just leave him be. He is just protecting his nesting mate.

It is also important to remember that Canada geese are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. Therefore, it is illegal to tamper with the nest, eggs, or birds without a permit.

Striped Skunks

Did you know that stripped skunks mate from late February to early March, and their kits are born mid-May? If you see a kit outside that is lively, energetic, clean and consistently staying in and around one area, leave them be! The mother is either foraging for food or sleeping in the den. Monitor the kit for 24 hours, while keeping a safe distance, to see if the mother skunk returns or the kits maintain the same schedule. Do not capture and relocate the mother skunk, as it possesses considerable problems. Kits thrive in the wild with their mother, and if their mother is relocated, she may not survive.  

Share this information with students as they may come across these, and other wild animals, in the schoolyard or elsewhere in the community. Encourage students to share this information with their friends and family as everybody cohabits with wildlife and the more we know about the different species in our communities the more peaceful the coexistence can be.

Lastly, remind students that if they encounter wildlife, regardless of species, to not disturb the animal and give them space. If the animal appears hurt or injured, students should never help the animal themselves, instead they should tell an adult who can contact their local wildlife rehabilitation organization to receive proper instruction on how to help, if necessary.

For a list of wildlife rehabilitation centres across Alberta, many of which provide education opportunities to schools, click here.

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