Wildlife in Windsor
Squirrels are both grey and black in colour and weighs up to 600 grams (21 oz.) and can reach lengths of 55 cm or 21 inches from head to tip of tail. They live in a small nest and typically bury their food in numerous caches or up trees. They give birth once and sometimes twice per year with one to four young in each litter. They are prey to predators such as hawks, coyotes and domestic cats.
Skunks weigh up to 15 pounds and are about the size of a housecat, though lower and wider. Skunks can discharge a foul-smelling liquid when they feel they are at risk. Skunks give birth in late spring, with litter sizes ranging from four to eight kits. Skunks do not hibernate in winter but go into a dormant or semi-active state.
Common raccoons are well-known for their mask-coloured face and dexterous front paws. Raccoons typically weigh between 9 and 20 pounds, but their winter weight can be nearly double their spring weight due to fat storage. Their mixed diet includes nearly equal parts invertebrates, plant material and vertebrates. Raccoons average life is only 2 to 3 years in the wild, depending on human population density and traffic conditions.
The largest marsupial in the western hemisphere, opossums (or possums) have a long snout, thin tail and white/grey colouring make them distinctive among nocturnal creatures. They have a short gestation period: as many as 13 young possums are born and find their way into their mother's pouch where they remain until they are 70 to 125 days old. Those unable to get into the pouch do not survive. Opossums are omnivores and can successfully find food and shelter.
This fast running rodent can call any open field, meadow or lightly wooded area home. Eastern cottontails have three to four litters of five kits per year. Female rabbits can begin breeding by the age of 3 months, and males will mate with multiple females. The diet is vegetation-based. Rabbits have been known to eat 70 to 145 different species of plants in some areas. They can live up to five years on average but in the wild, the average lifespan is 15 months due to predation and vehicular collisions.
The eastern coyote is extremely intelligent and adaptable species. Though they appear quite large, eastern coyotes rarely are any heavier than 40 pounds, but their long legs and thick coats give them a bigger structure. Coyotes are monogamous and live in family units with their pups until they reach maturity. Coyotes are remarkable in their breeding. Studies have shown that when persecuted, they reproduce at a higher rate and have larger litters.
The Brown Rat can be found throughout North America and is common anywhere humans live and is considered the most successful mammal on the planet, after humans. Rats are about 10 inches long and have a slim tail approximately the same length. Males are the larger in this species with an average weight of 350 g (12 ounces) and females weighing an average of 250 g (9 ounces). Rats are strong swimmers with a highly-developed sense of smell and excellent hearing, and poor vision. They are omnivores, and their diet and foraging behavior are based almost entirely on what's available around them. Rats can reproduce throughout the year, if conditions allow for it, and typically have five litters of seven young per year. Their burrows can contain multiple levels and often have a secondary entrance point.
Human-wildlife conflict is frequently started by a homeowner either intentionally or unintentionally providing a reliable food source to animals. It can start simply with an overflowing bird feeder, unsecured garbage can or fallen fruits and vegetables. But it can also be someone feeding feral cats and not cleaning up at the end of the day, intentionally giving handouts to rodents (squirrels and chipmunks) or even coyotes.
Animals are always looking for easy food, and when humans provide it, they tend to hang around. While many residents love having wildlife in their backyards, there are others who do not want to share their properties. Additionally, attracting wildlife with unnatural food or handouts can be unhealthy and damaging to individual animals as well as the ecosystem.
Feeding wildlife can lead to direct human-wildlife conflict in the form of vehicular collisions, wildlife in homes or aggressive behaviour from animals.
Animals are able to forage and hunt on their own, without assistance from humans. If you see a neighbour feeding wildlife inappropriately, contact the City of Windsor at 311. If you see an injured or orphaned animal, contact the Windsor/Essex Humane Society at 519-966-5751.
Wild animals can get into all sorts of awkward places, including outside structures (sheds, decks) and into homes. Wildlife proofing your home is the first step to prevent this kind of intrusion.
Look for large gaps or cracks in the foundation of your home and seal appropriately.
Keep garage or shed doors closed when not in use, particularly at night.
Repair damage to roofing as soon as possible, as raccoons or squirrels can easily pull up loose shingles to gain access. Always take every safety precaution when repairing your home or doing renovations.
If animals have already gained access to your home, contact a reputable and humane removal company. Be sure to get references and ensure they have the appropriate insurance.
Gardens and Lawns
Many species, from rabbits to white-tailed deer, can wreak havoc on gardens and lawns. Every gardener has their own ways of preventing this, and you can find numerous books on the subject at your local library branch.
A few easy tips include:
Consider fencing in your garden, or your entire yard. A properly installed fence can keep deer from jumping over or small omnivores and herbivores from getting under.
Consider biodiversity when planting. Every animal has known favourites – by planting these in one area and your garden in another, you can provide for the animals and yourself without mixing the two.
Coyotes and Pets
The presence of coyotes can bring worry to pet owners in any situation. But numerous studies have shown coyotes don’t want to eat dogs or cats. In fact, coyotes are omnivores, preferring small rodents or fallen fruits and vegetables. When conflict does arise, it is typically one of these situations:
Mistaken identity. Small dogs or cats can look like the regular prey of coyotes, such as rabbits. If you have a small dog or cat and know coyotes are in the area, simply staying with your pet, not allowing them to run off leash and keeping them in well-lit areas can prevent conflict.
The handout. When someone starts intentionally or unintentionally feeding coyotes, the animals quickly learn that people mean a free meal. This will increase their proximity tolerance – their comfort around people of whom normally they’d be wary. Making sure that no one in your neighbourhood is feeding coyotes is the easiest and fastest way to make sure this kind of conflict doesn’t occur.
Off-leash dogs. Curiosity can get everyone in trouble – even your pet dog. A common incident is an off-leash dog chasing a coyote or surprising them in a bushy area, which leads to a conflict. It’s not unusual for both dog and coyote to get banged up but not have any serious injuries – both are surprised or afraid and simply want the other to go away. Off-leash dogs in areas with lots of wildlife can be a danger to the dogs themselves, the wild animals and even people.