An amazing number of different creatures share our urban spaces! Many go unnoticed, most are harmless, just a few are dangerous, and all of them are worth knowing more about.
Categories of Animals
Domestic animals are here because people brought them. Some, like cats, dogs and pigs, can cause significant problems when allowed to become feral (living in a wild state). Domestic animals can be further categorized as:
- Pets (such as dogs and cats). These are regulated under the Dog Bylaw and the Animal Keeping Bylaw
- Livestock. These are regulated under the Animal Keeping Bylaw as well as provincial legislation such as the Stray Animals Act.
Associate animals are animals that are not domesticated, but become well adapted to urban life. Examples include raccoons, European starlings, pigeons, house mice, rats, and European house sparrows. Many of these are non-native to our area, and as such can cause harm to native species.
Adapter animals are animals that can “take us or leave us”. They live equally well close to humans or in the wilderness. Examples include coyotes, white-tailed deer, black bears, American robins, red foxes, striped skunks, American goldfinches, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, bats and ravens.
Avoider animals are wild animals that typically do not fare well in close proximity to humans, but do from time to time find themselves in an unfamiliar urban setting. Cougars, wolves, snakes and pileated woodpeckers are examples of this category.
Reducing Human-Wildlife Conflict
To reduce conflict with urban wildlife, residents can:
Keep yards tidy and keep garbage in secure containers
Not leave pet food outside, as this may attract unwelcome wild animals such as skunks and raccoons.
Keep pets indoors at night
Keep cats indoors
Use birdfeeders specifically designed not to spill or to be accessible by non-target species
Be aware of any wildlife-borne diseases in your region that could infect you or your pet
When an unfamiliar wild animal enters your neighbourhood, begin by observing it and getting out a field guide! The tabs below offer information and practical advice about some of the more common species in our area.
Wild animals are often under stress from the effects of human activities such as habitat loss, light and noise pollution, invasive species, chemical runoff, other pollution, and habitat fragmentation. These impacts can push wildlife into closer proximity to urban areas and result in more interaction with humans than either would prefer. As suburbs and acreages expand into previously wild areas, the effects are compounded.
The goal is to co-exist with wildlife to the best extent possible. They live here too!
Animal Control, Pest Control, and Wildlife Management
Control of domestic pets, especially regarding dogs, is a service provided by the City of Meadow Lake in cooperation with the Humane Society. For inquiries please contact City Hall during regular business hours, or register a complaint using the form provided on the Bylaw Enforcement page.
Control of stray livestock is the responsibility of the owner of the animals in question. The Saskatchewan Government provides further guidance here.
If you have an encounter with aggressive wildlife, and/or if public safety is at risk, call the Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) line at 1-800-667-7561 or from your SaskTel cell phone at #5555.
Pest control services (including fumigation of buildings for infestations such as bed bugs) are provided by licensed private operators. A Public Health inspector may be able to provide guidance specific to the situation.
Skunks! Did you know you can borrow a skunk trap from the City if you are having issues with skunks on your property? Contact City Hall for more information at (306) 236-3622.
Saskatchewan Environment Conservation Officer Services: 800-567-4224 or 306-236-7557
- Conservation Officers would respond to wildlife such as moose, deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, caribou, wolves, bears, and cougars. Conservation Officers will also respond to eagles, hawks, pelicans, owls, falcons, grouse, and partridge.
Federally Protected birds: Geese, Finches, Robins, Ducks, Songbirds, seagulls, and swans would be referred to Canadian Wildlife Services.
Did you know that the City's Urban Wildlife Bylaw regulates things like outdoor feeding stations, keeping your yard tidy so as not to attract rodents or skunks or other urban wildlife to your property?
Did you know that the City asked residents for their thoughts regarding Urban Wildlife in a survey in 2022? view/download the SURVEY RESULTS HERE
The sections below provide further information on specific types of animals.
- Bats are naturally shy of humans.
- Bats are not blind, and have an excellent navigation system. This, combined with their natural aversion to humans, means that it is unlikely that they will dive at people, get tangled in long hair or attack pets, contrary to popular belief.
- Bats are an important component of our ecosystem and are beneficial to people. As insectivores, bats feed heavily on moths, flies and mosquitoes and consume forest and farm pests.
- Bats are increasingly threatened by habitat loss and white-nose syndrome.
DID YOU KNOW? A single little brown bat can eat up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour.
Bats and your pets
- Generally, having bats living nearby does not present a health risk to you or your pets.
- Bats, like cats, dogs, foxes and skunks, can have rabies, although this is rare. Bats with the rabies virus will behave unusually.
- Be extremely wary of bats that are active in the day or that seem unable to fly – they could be injured, sick or a young bat learning to fly. Although very few bats have rabies, it is always best to be cautious.
- If you see a bat behaving this way, keep children and pets away and ask to speak with a biologist at the nearest fish and wildlife office.
- Never attempt to handle bats without heavy leather gloves. Like any animal, bats will bite to defend themselves.
- The Wildlife Rescue Society of Saskatchewan has excellent information on dealing with bats.
- If there is a concern about rabies, call the Rabies Hotline at 1-800-667-7561.
- If a person is bitten by a bat, contact a physician as soon as possible.
What to do about bats on your property
- If a bat is sleeping on the outside of a building, leave it alone. It will fly away by nightfall when it wakes up to feed.
- Bats that accidently get inside the house will most likely find their way out if you leave a window or door open.
- A sleeping bat can also be captured by covering it with a large, empty coffee can (or smaller cardboard box or other similar size container) and gently sliding a piece of cardboard between the container and the surface the bat is sleeping on.
- Once a bat is trapped inside, take the container outside, remove the carboard cover and let the bat fly away.
- To give the bat a chance to fly away safely, make sure children and pets stay inside when you release it.
- If it is daytime, leave the bat in a dark area and release it at night, or place it in a tree or other sheltered area so the bat can leave on its own.
- When the bat is in mid-flight, do not attempt to capture it or to swat at it using a broom or stick. You will injure the bat.
- Some bat species roost in buildings and can enter through an opening as small as 3/8 inch in diameter. Bats do not chew holes in houses, they take advantage of existing holes to enter and exit a structure.
- If you have bats in a building and wish to evict them, there are several key steps to follow to ensure it is done safely and effectively.
- You will need to identify the entrance holes and plug them in the fall, after the bats have left to find hibernation sites.
- It is especially important to avoid sealing in flightless bat pups so do not plug entrances in June or July. For more information and advice, visit: Wildlife Rescue Society of Saskatchewan.
- Attempting to eradicate or physically remove bats from a building is not a solution because it is almost impossible to remove all bats, could result in death or harm to the bats and will not prevent other bats from using the roost at a later date unless all entry points are sealed. Additionally, two species that commonly roost in buildings are federally endangered and should not be disturbed.
- After the bat has vacated the building you may need to clean up the guano left behind. Dried guano becomes a powdery substance that can grow a type of fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum (although very uncommon, it is always best to be cautious). Spores from this fungus, if inhaled, can cause a lung infection called histoplasmosis. To prevent this, spray the guano with a 1:10 bleach and water solution to hold down the dust and kill the fungus, then remove the guano.
About Black Bears
Nearly all eastern North American black bears are jet black, often with a white chest patch. Individual bears may have coats that are blond, cinnamon, light or dark brown, or variations and mixtures of these colours.
Adults are usually 150–180 cm long from nose to tail, and approximately 90 cm from foot to shoulder when on all fours. Tail length is about 12 cm. Males usually weigh 115–270 kg, females 92–140 kg. Sharp, curved, black claws enable black bears to climb trees easily. Black bears tend to be most active at night, but may feed or travel at any time.
DID YOU KNOW? Though their regular gait is usually a lumbering walk, black bears can run about 45 km per hour and also swim well.
Bears in the City
Black Bears are common in our region, and will occasionally wander into urban areas. As a general rule, they are "passing through", and the best course of action is to let them do just that.
- Avoid leaving garbage, pet food and other bear attractants outside
- Do not try to chase a bear, and do not let dogs harass it. A bear that is provoked may become aggressive, or may retreat into a tree, which only delays its exit from your neighbourhood
- Call RCMP or a Conservation officer to report a bear in a residential area
- If you have an aggressive encounter with wildlife, and/or if public safety is at risk, call the Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) line at 1-800-667-7561 or from your SaskTel cell phone at #5555.
About cougars (mountain lions)
The Meadow Lake area is part of the cougar's natural range. These animals typically avoid contact with people, and sightings within city limits are very rare.
If you see a cougar in your community, avoid trying to approach or chase the animal. If you have an aggressive encounter with wildlife, and/or if public safety is at risk, call the Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) line at 1-800-667-7561 or from your SaskTel cell phone at #5555.
- Cougars are efficient predators that feed largely on deer and other mammals.
- A healthy cougar population is an indication of a thriving local ecosystem.
- Cougars are often confused with other animals, and many sightings reported to wildlife agencies are found to be coyotes, lynx, yellow dogs or even house cats.
- True cougar sightings are relatively low in number as they are elusive and generally not found within heavily populated areas.
- Cougars are active at all times of the day. If they enter open habitats and areas near humans, they typically do so when it is dark.
- It is very rare for people to hear the sounds cougars make. Cougars normally vocalize only when they are mating, feeling threatened or communicating with their kittens.
- Sightings have been on the rise in the last decade due to a greater number of people living and recreating in traditional cougar habitat.
Did you know? In years when deer, elk and moose numbers are high, the number of cougars will be high.
How can I keep cougars away from my yard?
- Urban deer that get food from unnatural sources such as your yard tend to become slower and more docile, making them easier prey for cougars. Cougars may be more likely to enter human-use areas if the deer there are easier to catch.
- Avoid attracting small animals to your yard. Keep your garbage in a container with a tightly fitting lid.
Are cougars a threat to humans?
- Cougar attacks on humans are very rare. The majority of those that do occur happen with adults who are in cougar territory alone, or with children.
- Children are small, have high-pitched voices and are more likely to make quick, erratic movements. These qualities mimic those of smaller mammals, so a cougar may mistake a child for a prey animal.
- Teach children that if they see a cougar, they should never scream in fear, turn their backs or run away. Tell them to stay with their friends in a close group and to back away to a place of safety.
Are cougars a threat to our pets?
- Cougars see domestic cats and dogs as easy prey.
- Keep your cats indoors and bring your dogs inside at night.
- Dogs that stay outside unsupervised should be kept in a secure kennel that is covered across the top.
- If you keep sheep, llamas or goats on your property, ensure they are kept in a secure, covered shelter at night.
What do I do in a cougar encounter?
If you see a cougar in the distance...
- Do not run or turn your back.
- If the cougar appears to be unaware of your presence, gather children and pets in close, slowly and cautiously back away and leave the area.
If you see a cougar in your backyard...
- Ensure that all people and pets are brought inside.
- Give the cougar enough space to leave the yard.
- Notify your neighbours, and the nearest Saskatchewan Environment office.
If the cougar is close...
If a cougar is close and showing aggressive behaviour (hissing and snarling or staring intently or tracking movements):
- Do not run and do not play dead.
- Bring your children and pets in close.
- Show the cougar that you are not easy prey by making yourself look big and speaking loudly.
- If the cougar makes contact, fight back and don't give up. Use all means at your disposal. Hit the cougar in the face with rocks, sticks or your fists. Don't stop. If you get knocked down, get back up.
- Use your bear spray.
- Coyotes look like a cross between a fox and a small collie or German shepherd and weigh between 9 and 14 kilograms.
- They have a narrow nose, large ears and a bushy tail they hold low when running.
- Coyotes are highly curious, intelligent and adaptable.
- Coyotes primarily feed on rabbits, mice and squirrels.
- Because coyotes feed heavily on abundant rodent species, they provide a valuable pest-control service to their human neighbours.
Did you know? Depending on where you're from, there are different pronunciations of the word "coyote" as ky-OAT-ee, KY-oat, or even KY-oot.
- Coyote populations are common in urban areas with individual coyotes showing modifications of typical wild behaviour in order to take advantage of available food and shelter while generally avoiding people.
- Coyotes readily access human food sources and these foods may make up to 30% of the coyote's diet. Coyotes typically access human foods at night and in areas with suitable cover to minimize the risk of encountering people.
- Some coyotes carry high parasite loads such as infection from sarcoptic mange and these individuals are more likely to utilize urban areas and consume human foods, risking human encounters in order to use less energy to forage and find shelter.
- Previous efforts to remove coyotes in other North American cities have failed.
- Conventional lethal control measures used to remove coyotes from cities have included live trapping and euthanasia, neck and leg snaring, poisoning, and shooting.
- These measures can pose serious health and safety risks when used in proximity to people and their pets. Additionally, coyotes are clever and perceptive and very quickly learn to avoid traps and snares.
- Removing individual coyotes or groups of coyotes merely leaves a vacancy for other coyotes to fill.
Remove attractants. The most important thing to do in residential neighborhoods is to prevent access to human sources of food. Remove or secure all food sources on or near the ground such as garbage, compost, bird seed, pet food, and fruit, including crab apples and berries. Avoid feeding any wildlife on the ground, which readily spreads disease as well as attracts rodents and coyotes. NEVER intentionally feed or leave food for coyotes, which puts people at direct risk of conflict and exposure to a parasitic tapeworm that can infect people.
Contain and control pets. Small pets can attract coyotes as potential prey and some coyotes may learn to target cats that roam and small dogs protected by short fences. Larger dogs easily cause territorial and defensive behaviour, particularly when they are off-leash in on-leash areas where coyotes do not expect to encounter them. Never let your dog play with or be chased by coyotes. These interactions teach coyotes how to manipulate or dominate dogs, creating conditions that will endanger other dogs in future.
Teach wariness. Ensure that coyotes keep their natural fear of humans by treating them aggressively, particularly in residential neighbourhoods. If comfortable doing so, directly approach coyotes in these contexts while throwing objects (such as a tennis ball or stone), carrying a protective stick, and shouting or shaking a can containing coins. This treatment, known as hazing, is intended to teach coyotes more fear of people. Wary coyotes that avoid close proximity to people reduce both opportunities for and perceptions of conflict. Coyotes that lose their fear of people and become habituated are much more likely to access human food and become food-conditioned. Food-conditioned animals seek out people whom they associate with food, which always leads to escalating conflict. Never run away from a coyote, which can induce a chase.
Important Tips for Kids
- If you see a coyote, never run, even if you are scared.
- Yell at the coyote in an angry voice and make yourself look bigger by putting your arms in the air.
- Never approach coyotes or any other wildlife.
- Do not leave food for the coyotes.
- Never litter. Keep your home yard, school yards and parks clean.
- When walking the dog, always keep it on a leash. Pick up the dog feces to throw away in a garbage can.
- Do not let cats out.
Why do coyotes visit schoolyards?
- Coyotes visit schoolyards for the same reason they investigate backyards and laneways; they are searching for food, such as leftover lunches and food wrappers.
- Children should place litter in schoolyard garbage cans that have secure lids, or put all their litter in garbage cans indoors. Garbage containers should be cleaned out daily to reduce odours.
Coyotes in Packs
- In January and February, coyotes may gather in groups, looking for mates.
- They tend to be more territorial and aggressive toward dogs at this time of year. Coyotes may try to entice your dog away and attack it to eliminate the threat. Keeping your dog leashed at all times is the best way to keep it safe.
- In summer and fall, coyote families travel together in search of food.
- Coyote sightings may be more common in summer and fall as young animals explore their surroundings. People make more frequent use of urban parks and green belt areas during this time, which also increases the possibility of encounters.
- Coyotes tend to be most active between dusk and dawn. They usually spend the day resting in their dens, under low branches of trees or any other sheltered area.
- You may see coyotes at any time of the day as they can adapt their daily routines, especially if they learn to find reliable food sources at a particular time.
Sources: https://www.alberta.ca/coyotes.aspx, https://edmontonurbancoyotes.ca/whatcanido.php
Crows and Magpies
About Crows and Magpies
- Magpies and crows will eat anything. They perform a service to people by consuming large numbers of insects and by feeding on carrion.
- In winter, magpies do not normally migrate. Their presence tends to be more obvious in the spring and summer when the young are noisy and when we spend more time outdoors. Crows migrate south in the fall.
- In the spring months the birds can be heard more frequently. The noise they make is often hungry young calling for food from their parents.
- Both crows and magpies are resourceful and learn quickly.
Did you know? Both crows and magpies are able to mimic the calls of other birds.
- Magpies and crows can damage landscaping in your backyard, including fruit trees, flowering bulbs and bird feeders
- Magpies and crows can be loud and have been known to harass pets
- As protective parents, crows and magpies may dive-bomb intruders they fear are approaching too close to their nests. This is more likely to happen in the spring months. To avoid being dive-bombed, stay away from the nesting area and keep children and pets from getting too close until the birds have flown away.
What can I do about the crows and magpies on my property?
- If you want the birds to permanently leave your property you will need to remove the source of food or shelter that they are finding there. Removing individual crows or magpies from your property will only leave a vacancy for another one to fill.
- Most likely the birds are in your yard because they are able to find food there. Keep garbage in a secure container with a lid, ensure your compost is covered, feed your pets indoors and store the pet food inside.
- If you would like the crows or magpies to move on, remove their nests before young are hatched. The birds will often settle in a different area.
- Frightening devices, such as scarecrows, eye-balloons and hawk kites, can be effective for a short time. To make them more effective, they will need to be moved frequently.
Did you know? There are more than 650 bird species that call Canada home throughout the year, and 436 of these have been recorded in Saskatchewan!
How can I help our community be more bird friendly?
You can help make your community bird-friendly and enjoy the benefits of our many wild species:
- learn about the birds in your region
- learn about ways to help birds
- get involved in Citizen Science programs, such as the annual Christmas Bird Count
- get a guide book and binoculars and start observing birds and their fascinating habits
- learn the do's and dont's of feeding birds
- create a safe and attractive yard that you can enjoy along with the birds
- prevent bird strikes on windows
- learn about Avian Influenza and other threats to wild birds
- Within urban areas, deer have enough habitat to provide them with cover for safety and trees and shrubs to browse for food.
- Deer have few natural predators within urban areas.
Did you know? Deer are normally timid and quick to flee when people come near, but can become surprisingly aggressive in protecting themselves and their young.
Threat to people
- Always keep your distance from any wildlife. If it appears that the deer will not run away as you approach, walk around the deer – giving it a lot of space – or back away and find another route to your destination.
- Never approach fawns that have been temporarily left alone by their mothers. Their mothers will return, and if they see that you are too close to the fawn, they may attack.
What to do about deer on your property
- If a deer has found its way into your backyard, it can find its way out. Bring your children and pets into the house to minimize the stress on the visiting deer and wait for it to leave.
- Do not let your dog bark at or antagonize the deer. This can further stress the deer and lead to aggressive, self-defensive behaviours.
- Never feed deer. Deer can feed themselves, and leaving out salt blocks to attract deer may also attract the larger carnivores that prey on deer.
- Remove all food sources that may attract a deer, such as fallen apples and bird seed spilled from bird feeders.
- Vegetable gardens and fruit trees may need to be protected with suitable fencing
How to Identify Feral Cats
As the direct descendants of domesticated cats, feral cats look exactly like any other housecat. They can be of any breed and usually have a similar body shape and size to one another. Most species of feral cats can grow up to 75 cm in length and weigh in excess of 5 kg. The size and general appearance of feral cats usually depends on the abundance of food and environment in which they live. Colouration and patterning of the fur as well as hair length varies greatly depending on the breed.
Did you know? Feral cats are found on every continent in the world except Antarctica.
Signs of an increasing population
The most common sign of an increasing population of feral cats is seeing the individual animals or groups of cats together. Due to their timid and fearful nature, feral cats are often difficult to spot otherwise. Missing pet food, knocked-over garbage cans, and the sound of caterwauling can also indicate increasing feral cat numbers.
Feral Cat Removal
Homeowners are discouraged from trying to trap feral cats without professional assistance. Though feral cats may not be regarded as wild animals in the strictest of definitions, their behaviour mimics that of untamed wildlife. Feral cats will scratch, bite, and claw in order to escape and can readily pass infections to people. Professional wildlife removal services can safely and humanely remove feral cats from the property.
How to prevent Feral Cats from invading
Spay or neuter your pet cats, do not let your cat outside, keep all pet food indoors, cover trash cans with tight-fitting lids, and do not feed strange or unfamiliar cats.
Habitat, Diet, and Life Cycle
Feral cats readily adapt to their surroundings and prefer to live in colonies. These colonies can range in size from a few individuals to several dozen cats. Multiple generations of the same family will live together as long as there is an abundant food source nearby. Feral cats can be found in urban, suburban and rural areas throughout Canada.
Cats are carnivorous creatures that regularly hunt for their food. Rodents, birds, fish, and even insects make up a typical feral cat’s diet. Feral cats can also subsist on garbage, unattended pet food, and even roadkill.
The root of the feral cat problem comes from the animal’s propensity to breed. Cats can produce several litters each year. Feral cats are sexually mature by six months of age and can have anywhere from a single kitten to as many as 12, multiple times a year. The average lifespan of a feral cat is only a couple of years. Most don’t live to see adulthood due to predation, disease, and malnutrition.
Commonly Asked Questions
Why do I have feral cats?
Feral cats are the offspring of house cats, but for whatever reason, have had no contact with humans. Often confused with stray cats, a feral cat has never actually belonged to a person or had any socialization with people.
They prefer to live in colonies, ranging from a few individuals to several dozen feral cats. Multiple generations of the same family will live together if there is a food source nearby.
Feral cats typically eat rodents, birds, fish, insects, garbage, unattended pet food, and even roadkill. Once a cat colony finds an easy source of food, the animals will keep coming back.
How worried should I be about feral cats?
Feral cats reproduce rapidly, producing a litter of up to 12 kittens several times in a year, and can become pests due to their sheer numbers, which can have a serious impact on local bird populations.
These pests can also spread parasites, like tapeworms and roundworms, and serious diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis, to humans and pets.
Feral cats are fearful and will not adapt to living with humans. They will scratch, bite, and claw humans in order to escape, so it is advisable to leave the safe and humane removal of feral cats to professional pest control services.
- Foxes are omnivores, meaning that they eat a varied diet of small mammals and birds, fruit, insects and other foods.
- Foxes are adaptable to most habitats within their range.
Did you know? Foxes may move around in the daytime, but they are most active in the early hours of dark and in the morning.
Are foxes a problem?
- Foxes are normally wary and unlikely to approach humans. However, foxes in residential areas may be threats to cats and small dogs.
- Keep your cats indoors and don't allow your dogs to roam.
- Foxes in rural areas may prey on poultry and small pets.
- Though foxes can carry the rabies virus, rabies hasn't been found in a fox in Alberta since the 1950s, and is very rare in Saskatchewan.
What to do about the foxes on your property
- Never feed foxes. They are efficient hunters and can easily feed themselves.
- Removing individual foxes will only create a vacancy for another animal to fill. To prevent uninvited wildlife from visiting your property, you must remove the food or shelter the animals are seeking.
- Removing shelter:
- Foxes may seek cover in spaces under decks and patios or in brush piles, wood piles or construction debris.
- Clear out any debris and use chicken wire to close off the openings under structures that can serve as possible shelter for the fox.
- Removing food: Remove all possible food sources from your back yard, such as loose garbage. Make sure the compost pile is tightly covered, feed your pets indoors and store pet food inside.
- Store your garbage and recycling in containers that have tight-fitting lids. Garbage cans that are in poor repair should be replaced.
- Clean up fallen fruit, bird seed, garbage and other things that attract mice and squirrels.
- If you keep rabbits or chickens in your backyard, ensure that their enclosure is in good repair:
- Clean up dog feces from your back yard. Dog feces can attract other canid species such as foxes or coyotes.
- Red fox may be trapped during the open season ONLY by the holder of a license authorizing the trapping of fur-bearing animals
Is it a bee or a wasp? Will it bite? Is it a pest? Is it beneficial?
Insects and other invertebrates are all around us. Some are familiar, but most go about their lives mostly unnoticed.
As with all wildlife, the key to successful co-existence is to begin by understanding each species, its life and habits, and its unique niche in the ecosystem.
Did you know? Many wasp species prey on insects that are considered pests of vegetable and fruit crops
Some of the more commonly noticed insects include
Mosquitos and other biting flies
- Mosquitos are a common feature of Canadian summers. Cool wet weather brings them on in abundance. Mosquitos and their larvae are an important food source for many other creatures
- Strategies for control of mosquitos in your urban yard include
- Eliminate stagnant water (mosquitos begin their life cycle underwater). Even small amounts of water such as may be found in gutters, old tires and garbage, can be breeding grounds for mosquitos
- Encourage predators, such as dragonflies, barn swallows and bats
- Ensure that window screens and storm doors have no gaps that mosquitos can get through
- Other biting flies include black flies, horse flies and midges (no-see-ums). These are more rare in urban settings, but are commonly encountered in rural and wilderness areas. Hats fitted with insect netting are recommended.
- "Flies" include a very large number of species. Most go about their lives unobserved, and most are quite harmless to humans
- Some flies look similar to bees or mosquitos, but do not sting or bite
- Several species of "house flies" are common in and around houses. Good housekeeping keeps their numbers low
- Domesticated honeybees are the most familiar species of bee, but many wild bee species also live among us. These range widely in size and appearance, from large bumblebees to tiny leaf-cutter bees.
- Unlike wasps (see below) bees are not aggressive and will generally not sting unless provoked. Many wild bee species do not sting at all.
- Bees are among the most important pollinators, and are of vital importance in the ecosystem. Approximately 75 percent of food crops depend on the pollination services of bees and other insects
- A wasp is not a bee! Bees are mostly pollinators, while wasps are mainly predators. Wasps and bees are both members of the Hymenoptera order of insects
- Most wasp species live quiet lives and attract no notice from humans.
- Paper Wasps, Yellowjackets and Hornets are the notorious outdoor-party-crashers with the painful sting. Their paper nests are a familiar sight, especially in hot dry summers.
- Control of offending colonies is best done at night, while the wasps are less active
- A successful non-poisonous strategy involves using a shop-vac to trap the insects as they leave the nest.
- Ants are among the most populous species on earth, and fill a wide variety of ecological niches.
- In your home, ants are unwelcome guests. Some, like Carpenter ants, can cause serious damage.
- Gardeners are often concerned about ants in the yard and garden. However, the benefits may outweigh the harm in many cases.
Butterflies and moths
- These are among the most spectacular members of the insect world, in a wide range of species. Read more here about moths and butterflies
- Many species are important pollinators, along with bees and certain flies
- A few, like the cabbage moth, can be a serious pest in the garden, and various effective organic control measures are available
- These are not insects (count the legs!)
- Poisonous spiders, like the Black Widow, are very rare in Canada. Some spiders can indeed bite when handled, resulting in temporary localized swelling.
- Spiders are very effective at controlling insects, and are considered mainly beneficial.
Leave the insecticide on the shelf!
- Improper use of pesticides has resulted in widespread damage to the earth's biological systems.
- At the local level, insecticides intended to kill a perceived pest very often harm beneficial species, as well as pets and children.
- Worldwide, the cumulative effects of such toxins is substantial.
- For most domestic purposes, various non-toxic control measures are effective, safe and affordable. The first step is to properly identify the insect in question, and determine whether an effort at control is even necessary
- Where a serious need for chemical control exists, leave the handling of pesticides to the experts. (Fumigation of buildings to kill cockroaches and bedbugs is one example of professional services available when needed).
Mice and Rats
Did you know? The Norway rat builds elaborate systems of tunnels and burrows at ground level.
The house mouse has large ears and is light brown to dark grey, with a lighter colour on its belly. It is often found in urban areas.
Mice cause damage by gnawing on insulation and building material, furniture, paper, clothing, and books. They contaminate food with their urine, hair, and droppings. Food can become contaminated with germs like salmonella. Mice also carry fleas, mites, and the disease hantavirus.
The deer mouse is brown or grey with a white belly and feet. The white colour on the underside of its tail is an easy way to spot a deer mouse. It may invade buildings near fields and woodlands in the fall.
While preferring to live outside in underbrush, tree cavities, shrubs, tall grasses and crevices in rocks, they do at times invade nearby homes, garages, sheds, barns, warehouses and factories. This commonly occurs in the fall when colder weather moves in, and they are searching for warm shelter, food and water. Once indoors, the deer mouse seeks refuge in basements, attics and crawl spaces where human activity is minimal. They will eat what humans do, including discarded food waste, and they create food reserves in holes close to their nesting areas.
They cause damage to property through biting, chewing, foraging and burrowing. They can and will chew through vinyl, wiring, insulation, drywall, plastic and books. Deer mice are one of the main carriers of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a respiratory disease, which is dangerous to humans.
A rat is larger than a mouse and can weigh up to 0.5 kilograms (1 pound). Rates prefer damp areas like crawl spaces or building perimeters. The Norway rat has a wide range of colours – from reddish to greyish brown or completely black on the back and sides. The underparts are tinged with grey to a buff or yellowish-white. White, spotted and ‘laboratory’ rats are only colour variations of the Norway rat.
Knowing the type of pest you have can help you figure out the best approach to controlling them. (For example, a rat trap is too large to kill a mouse.)
- Moose are built to move easily through any terrain.
- Wolves and bears are the main predators of moose, so moose may be more likely to wander close to populated areas to avoid them.
Did you know? Moose are strong swimmers and their long legs help them cross any landscape.
Threat to people
- Normally, moose are not aggressive; however a moose that is stressed, a bull moose in the fall rut or a cow moose protecting her young may be easily provoked into an attack.
An agitated moose may show some of the following behaviours:
- Neck and back hairs standing up
- Ears going back against its head
- Lip licking
- Always keep your distance from any wildlife, even if they appear calm or friendly.
What to do if charged by a moose
- If you are charged by a moose, run away as fast as you can and try to find a car, tree or building to hide behind.
- If the moose knocks you down before you reach safety, do not fight - curl up into a ball and cover your head.
How to prevent confrontation with a moose
- To help prevent a possible confrontation, do not allow your dog to harass the moose and do not try to scare the moose off by yelling or throwing things.
- Never approach moose calves that have been left alone by their mothers. The mother may have temporarily left the calf in a safe spot and may not be too far away. Moose mothers can also be very protective. If she senses that you are too near her calf, she may defend them.
What to do if there is a moose in your yard
- If you live in an urban neighbourhood where the moose may have difficulty returning to the wild because of roads, buildings or other barriers, contact the nearest Saskatchewan Environment office.
- If you have an aggressive encounter with wildlife, and/or if public safety is at risk, call the Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) line at 1-800-667-7561 or from your SaskTel cell phone at #5555.
- Draw the curtains on patio doors and large windows so the moose doesn't mistake them for escape routes.
- If the moose is blocking a route you need, try to find another way around or wait for it to leave.
- Moose that are experiencing a moderate to severe tick infestation – commonly in late March or early April – may seek shelter in open buildings such as sheds, barns or carports or near exhaust ventilation from houses or other buildings. Moose with tick infestations will have bald patches and in extreme cases may seem to have no hair. These moose can be stressed and aggressive. Contact your nearest Sask Environment office.
- Keep your dog inside. A moose will sometime go out of its way to kick at a barking dog because it is annoying it, causing it stress or distracting it from making an easy exit from your yard. The moose may be extra defensive because dogs resemble wolves, moose's main predator.
- Children and cats should also be kept indoors until the moose has moved on. This precaution is for their safety.
What to do if you see a moose in the city
- In winter, moose may use the city's park paths, streets and alleys for easier movement, especially if there has been a freeze/thaw/freeze pattern that has left the snow difficult to move through.
- Moose may also be attracted to the road salt or de-icer that coats cars in winter. If you live in area where moose can visit, watch for moose as you approach your car, or wash your car more frequently to avoid a build-up of salt.
- Raccoons have traditionally resided largely in the province's south. However, raccoon territory has expanded to include central Saskatchewan, and they are occasionally signted in the Meadow Lake area.
- Raccoons have a highly developed sense of touch. They use water - not for washing - but to soften the tough bristles on the bottom of their paws. This makes the bristles better able to pick up and transmit information about the object that the raccoon is handling.
- Like bears, raccoons must spend the warmer months fattening up for winter dormancy. Though not true hibernators, raccoons still become inactive enough to lose up to 50% of their body weight.
- Raccoons are omnivores that can easily adapt to whatever food sources are available.
- In the wild, raccoons feed on fruits, nuts, berries and insects, and foods that can be found near water such as fish, birds, eggs and frogs.
- Near human habitation, raccoons will eat whatever we deliberately or inadvertently provide, such as garbage, chickens, corn, compost, bird seed or pet food.
- Raccoons are nocturnal, though they may also roam in the day. They make their dens in culverts, attics, chimneys, outbuildings, tree hollows, barns, abandoned buildings or rock crevices.
Did you know? If a raccoon finds that its den has been discovered, it may be uncomfortable enough to relocate.
How raccoons can be a nuisance
- Raccoons can leave a mess when they root through poorly secured garbage or compost.
- Raccoons may raid gardens and damage or partially eat the vegetables within it.
- When attempting to gain access to the attic or crawlspace of a house, raccoons may tear at broken shingles, soffits and fascia boards. Once inside, raccoons can be noisy. There's also a risk that they'll chew wiring or block exhaust vents, creating a fire hazard.
Raccoons and disease
- Some raccoons may be infected with diseases or parasites of concern, such as raccoon roundworm, canine distemper, or leptospirosis.
- Although raccoon rabies is rare, any raccoon that is unusually aggressive or approaches people and other animals without fear should be avoided, and reported to Saskatchewan Environment.
- Raccoons use a designated latrine area outside of their den. If it's necessary to clean up such a latrine, keep in mind that raccoon roundworm (a parasite in the intestines) can be transmitted to people through the eggs shed into raccoon feces. Be very cautious – wear gloves and a mask, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Cover outdoor sandboxes to prevent raccoons from using them as a latrine site.
What to do about the raccoons on your property
- To prevent raccoons from visiting your property, you must remove the food or shelter the animals are seeking.
- Before closing off the space that raccoons are using as a den, you must be sure that no raccoons are still inside. This is especially important in spring or early summer, when the young are still too dependent to leave the den.
- To test whether the raccoon still resides inside, or whether young remain, find the hole that the raccoon is using as an entrance.
- After the sun sets, when the raccoon has left the den to find food, plug the hole with a loosely wadded ball of newspaper.
- Monitor the plugged hole. If the paper remains intact after about a week, the raccoon has likely vacated and there are no young inside
- If the paper is removed, that space is likely still being used by the raccoon and its young.
- Be patient as you monitor. Raccoons may rest inside for days at a time, especially if the weather is inclement.
- Removing shelter:
- Clear out brush piles, stacked lumber and debris piles that raccoons can use as cover.
- Look around your property for spaces underneath sheds, porches, decks and crawlspaces. These spaces should be closed off with a ¼ inch hardware cloth. Again, make sure there are no raccoons inside when you close off the space.
- Raccoons need a hole of only about 4-6 inches to gain entry to the attic or crawl spaces of your house. Replace broken or rotten boards and nail down any piece that may be loose.
- If a raccoon finds that its den has been discovered, it may be uncomfortable enough to relocate. Spend more time near the den opening, or leave a radio playing loudly. It may be put off by your persistent presence or the noise of the radio.
- Trim back the tree branches that hang close to the roof. Raccoons can use these branches as bridges to cross from the tree to your house.
- Gable vents and mushroom vents should be covered with ¼ inch hardware cloth, and secured with screws and washers at corners and mid-points.
- Chimneys should be covered with professionally manufactured chimney caps.
- Raccoons that have already taken up residence under a building or other location on your property may also be deterred by the harsh smell of mothballs or rags soaked in ammonia.
- Removing food:
- Secure your garbage:
- Keep your garbage in a shed or garage until it can be removed from your property.
- Feed your pets indoors, or remove their food and water dishes immediately after feeding. Store the pet food inside.
- Remove your bird feeder until winter, when raccoons are dormant.
- To protect your garden, consider adding electric fencing
- Secure your garbage:
- Skunks feed heavily on insects and rodents such as mice.
- Though not usually social, skunks will den with other skunks in order to share body warmth.
- Normally skunks are not aggressive and will let you know that they feel threatened by:
- stamping their front feet
- raising their tails
Respond to this threat by quietly and slowly backing away and making no sudden or aggressive movements as you do.
DID YOU KNOW? Skunks do not truly hibernate but will become inactive in the coldest months of winter.
How skunks can be a nuisance to people
- Skunk spray can cause watering eyes, nasal irritation and nausea. Skunk spray has been known to temporarily blind people for up to 15 minutes.
- The lingering odours that skunk spray can leave on clothes will eventually fade if you wash them and air them out.
- Call your nearest veterinarian for advice on ridding your pet of skunk smell.
Skunks and rabies
- Skunks can carry rabies, although very few rabid skunks are reported in Saskatchewan.
- Any skunk that is active in the daytime, unusually aggressive or approaches people and other animals without fear should be avoided.
- In the later stages of rabies infections, skunks may wander, be listless and docile, and have head or body tremors.
- If you see such behaviour in a skunk, bring children and pets indoors, and then notify the nearest Conservation office.
- Keep your pet's rabies vaccinations up to date, and do not allow pets to roam.
What you can do about skunks on your property
- To prevent skunks from visiting your property, you must remove the food or shelter the animals are seeking.
- Removing shelter:
- Clear out brush piles, stacked lumber and debris piles that skunks can use as cover.
- Look around your property for spaces underneath sheds, porches, decks and crawlspaces. These spaces should be closed off with a ½ inch hardware cloth. Make sure there are no skunks inside when you close off the space.
- Skunks that have already taken up residence under a building or other location on your property can be deterred by putting mothballs in these spaces. Skunks are repulsed by the smell of mothballs.
- Removing food:
- Store your garbage and recycling in containers that have tight-fitting lids. Replace garbage cans that are in poor repair.
- Feed your pets indoors.
- Honey producers can stop skunks from raiding beehives by installing and maintaining an electric fence perimeter around the apiary. Also place beehives on stands 1 metre (3 feet) off the ground.
- Skunks are not good climbers and, if they fall into window wells or other holes on your property, may need assistance in getting out. To do this, lay a 2 x 6 or other wide plank into the window well or hole and wait for the skunk to climb out.
- If a skunk has found its way into your house or garage, leave the door open and allow the skunk to depart on its own time. Do not prod or agitate the skunk.
- If the above measures are unsuccessful, you can contact the City of Meadow Lake Bylaw Enforcement Department, 306-236-0213, to arrange for a skunk trap permit application form or fill out the online form here: SKUNK TRAP PERMIT
- In North and Central Saskatchewan, only the harmless Garter Snake is found. Species include:
- Plains garter snake
- Red-sided garter snake
- Wandering or Western Terrestrial garter snake
- They will sooner hide or flee than risk a confrontation with potential handlers or predators, including humans.
- A Garter snake will not bite unless you are trying to severely provoke, harm or capture it. In the rare event that you are bitten, treat it as you would any cut, and consider seeking medical attention to ensure that it's properly cleaned.
DID YOU KNOW? Garter snakes are not venomous and are not aggressive by nature.
Snakes in my back yard
First, please recognize that Garter snakes pose no threat to you, your family or your property. In fact, they are natural allies who help control mice and other small creatures.
Snakes favour cool, damp places, such as brush, rock piles, tall grass and shrubbery for shelter, and may take residence under or even inside buildings. They seek places to hibernate in fall.
Keeping snakes out of your house
- To prevent snakes from entering your house through the basement or crawl space, check for any cracks in the foundation (especially those ¼ inches or bigger) and seal them with mortar, caulking compound or 1/8 inch hardware cloth.
- Snakes can pass through very small openings under doors or around loose fitting screens and windows. Check for holes or cracks around doors or windows, or around electrical wiring and water pipes, and ensure these openings are sealed.
It is not recommended that you make use of snake repellents (either commercial or home-made), as there is no conclusive data supporting the effectiveness of such products.