Watch this short video to understand what the planet is going through these days. An informed citizen is the best kind of citizen!
Submitted by Julia Kole on Tue, 2013-07-16 08:54
They dart in front of our cars as they cross the road (sometimes unsuccessfully). They taunt our pets as they climb just out of their reach. Every spring, gardens and lawns everywhere are at their mercy as they search for stored acorns from the previous fall.
It is easy to forget that the Sciurus carolinensis is a wild animal and not just an animated lawn ornament. With their abundant populations in Ontario, it almost seems like every tree in every forest, park and yard has a grey squirrel occupying it. Their comical behaviour as they show off their acrobatic abilities makes for some entertaining wildlife. However, remember that these urbanized critters deserve their space just as much as any wild animal.
The Fast Facts:
Size: 380 to 525 mm, including the tail
Weight: 338 to 750 g
Lifespan: About 6 years in the wild and up to 20 years in urban areas.
Diet: Omnivore. They will eat seeds, nuts, berries, insects, eggs and human foods.
Most active during: The day. Grey squirrels do not hibernate in the winter but are only significantly active on warmer winter days.
Predators: Owls, hawks, racoons, foxes, lynx, snakes, feral and domestic cats, dogs, weasels, minks, and skunks.
I was not in short supply of comments and anecdotes when I asked my online audience to send me their thoughts on the grey squirrel. Here are some questions and comments that I decided to expand upon, and one little story that I just thought was fun to share:
“I see both grey squirrels and black squirrels in parks everywhere. Are they related?”
Actually, they are both one and the same! Black squirrels are eastern grey squirrels that have adopted a glossy black coat instead of the salt-and-pepper look of other grey squirrels. There are two schools of thought as to why this is. One theory is that squirrels living in city parks and suburban neighbourhoods encounter very few natural predators and thus do not need to wear their camouflaging coats anymore. Another popular theory claims that grey squirrels in Ontario and Quebec have developed a black coat to adapt to the cold-weather climates they live in. A black coat would attract more of the sun’s warmth than a reflective grey fur coat and thus would be more beneficial in the wintertime.
“My mom strongly dislikes them because they ‘relieve themselves’ on our window sill and dig up her entire garden”
As opportunistic omnivores, a squirrel may be quite comfortable searching around a house to fulfill their basic needs of food, water and shelter. Bird baths, ponds and other water landscaping provides squirrels with a water source. Bird feeders and garbage bins are buffets waiting to be devoured for a squirrel. The dug-up gardens you lament over in the spring? People normally attribute rabbits to the upheaval of bulbs and young plants but new evidence points an accusing paw towards the grey squirrel. In addition to wanting tasty flower bulbs, they may also be searching for their food caches they had buried the previous autumn. Although squirrels can find most of their caches through their sense of smell (not by memory as is commonly thought), about 20% of buried nuts and seeds are forgotten and left to germinate and grow in the soil. A squirrel may not approve of your taste in the flowers you have planted but they unintentionally may leave you a lovely tree or shrub instead. Squirrels are an essential part of natural reforestation in their natural habitat and will apply these practices in an urban setting as well.
“A squirrel bit me once when I was a kid. There is no love lost on squirrels. I read somewhere that they are related to rats. When I look at a squirrel, I think of a rat”
Squirrels are a type of rodent so she was right to relate them to rats. As to why this squirrel decided to get confrontational with a human, there may be a few reasons. Young squirrels spent their young lives up in the trees so when they first venture from their nest they are completely unaware of the dangers of humans. Juvenile squirrels will get very close to humans out of curiosity and are known to eat from their hands and even climb up pant legs. If startled or again just out of curiosity, it is possible for a squirrel to nip at a hand so it is best to give all squirrels their distance.
A squirrel may get aggressive when they feel that they or their young are threatened and their bite can go through most fabrics so again, give these creatures their space. Squirrels are not known to carry rabies or display unnecessarily aggressive behaviour but may get very bold with humans if they are used to being fed human food.
It certainly may seem that squirrels are a few acorns short of an oak tree. Anyone who has watched them understands where the expression “gone squirrely” comes from. They are agile, vocal creatures who have fantastic agility and balance. They also decide to play “chicken” with traffic very frequently, often with terminating results. If you encounter a squirrel running across your driving path, slow down or stop if it is safe to do so. However, the safety of yourself, your passengers and the traffic around you takes precedence so if you are unable to avoid the squirrel, just keep driving ahead. Sometimes they get lucky, sometimes they do not. You can assure yourself that it’s just natural selection at work.
Their incredible ability to climb up and down almost anything can make them a menace at bird feeders and around a house. Common issues a homeowner may face are squirrels taking up free room and board in chimneys, attics, eves- troughs and air vents. The best way to avoid run ins with squirrels is through prevention. Make sure you squirrel-proof bird feeders by attaching aluminum flashing on the polls the feeders are sitting on. It is a good idea to install wire mesh over any openings on your house to avoid unwanted furry families living with you.
To end it off, here is an observation of campus squirrels from my friend who attends Guelph University:
“Since moving to Guelph I have realized that squirrels can really vary in size. The ones here are about double the size and they have no fear… especially the ones on campus. If you are eating lunch outside they will steal it if you aren’t looking! There are pictures on Facebook of the Guelph squirrels holding entire waffles, slices of pizza, and parts of sub sandwiches. They seem to prefer pizza though. My friends that have come to Guelph from different parts of Canada all agree on the fact that they are insanely huge.”
For more information about eastern grey squirrels in Ontario, please check out the following websites:
Brilliant ideas for the green office of tomorrow!
Which of these green inventions would revolutionize the modern office more?
1. The pencil printer concept separates the wood from pencils and uses the lead to print documents. There’s even a built-in eraser component that allows you to remove text from a page and reuse the paper.
2. The White Goat machine converts normal paper into toilet paper. Simply insert about 40 sheets of paper, and in 30 minutes you’ll receive a freshly made roll of toilet paper.
Inspirational! Cars are overrated.
Erin Perkins sold her car on July 23, 2010, jumped on her bike and never looked back. The Charleston, S.C., art director started her blog, High Heels & Two Wheels, to prove that people don’t need to be so dependent on their cars.
Check out some other bloggers who documented their green journeys — from one who adopted to a plastic-free life to those who tried to live a zero-waste life.
Shark fishing and finning is responsible for the shockingly steep decline in the populations of our oceans’ apex predators — as much as 99% drop among several species. Sharks, a vital part of marine ecosystems, are disappearing throughout the world’s oceans as they are caught as by-catch, actively fished, and most cruelly, finned.
Thankfully, governments around the globe are picking up on the problem and many are instituting stricter regulations or outright bans on fins or the practice of finning — catching a shark, cutting off the fins, and dropping it into the sea to slowly die by drowning.
The latest news is a big victory for these important animals: The European Union (EU) officially adopted a strict ban on shark finning late last week.
Great job Europe! Let’s hope the rest of the world gets on board with this movement!
Here is a great example of upcycling!
Submitted by Julia Kole on Wed, 2013-06-12 15:18
“Common Canadian road-kill. A gardener’s worst enemy. The reason my dogs won’t stop barking at night. ”
It sounds like everyone has a love/hate relationship about theSylvilagus floridanus, the eastern cottontail rabbit. Like them or loathe them, they are a common sight in farmer’s fields, suburban backyards, city parks and unfortunately, on most roadways. Unexpectedly resourceful, they have found numerous ways to adapt to an environment shared with humans.
The Fast Facts:
Size: 39.5 to 47.7 cm
Weight: 800 to 1533 g
Lifespan: about 2-5 years
Most active during: the night, when feeding but can be seen throughout the day.
As abundant as rabbits are all over the province, it appears that on the surface, Ontarians do not seem to mind their presence. Children squeal with delight when they see this large rodent hop across their path and it seems very few people, regardless of age or nationality, can resist their adorable features. However, that admiration can quickly turn into disinterest, annoyance and downright anger. Taking an opinion poll online, I received confirmation of the love/hate relationship humans have with wild rabbits.
“I love them but they make my dog go crazy”
Any dog owner can relate to this. Regardless if you have a dog bred for hunting or not, all canines will let everyone in the neighbourhood know when they have found a rabbit. From my own personal experience, many calm walks have been interrupted by a rabbit coming into view and my dogs forgetting the many sessions of obedience school as their instincts take over. Rabbits provide an inconvenient distraction for dogs and their owners, but seeing as most rabbits will escape from danger long before your pet has a chance to get close; there is little harm in it all. If your dog does happen to find a nest of baby rabbits, take your dog away from the area but DO NOT move the rabbits. In a matter of weeks those babies would be old enough to live independently and will leave the nest anyways.
“I wish I could capture one and keep it as a pet”
It may be a tempting idea, seeing as there are more than enough rabbits in our province, but taking a wild animal in as a pet is never a wise idea. A stuffed rabbit may be cute and cuddly, but a wild rabbit has no desire to become a novelty item for humans. Wild rabbits are difficult to domesticate, even if captured as babies. The life cycle of a rabbit is short and quick. Just after 4 to 5 weeks, a rabbit is fully independent and at 3 months is sexually mature. Keep in mind that rabbits do have sharp claws and teeth and can carry diseases (see the last section). If you feel inclined to own a rabbit as a pet, find a responsible breeder of domesticated breeds instead.
“I found an abandoned nest of baby rabbits, shouldn’t I try to raise them?” Actually, a nest of baby rabbits is almost never actually abandoned. Eastern cottontail rabbits give birth to blind, deaf, fairly helpless young in shallow depressions in the ground lined with fur and soft materials. In a matter of days, the young develop their eyesight, their hearing and their fur. The female will frequently leave the nest, only to come back to feed her young. In a matter of weeks, the babies will be mature enough to live independently and then will leave the nest altogether. Yes, the babies seem pretty helpless, but it is natural for them to behave this way and human interference would just do more harm than good. Rabbits have pretty poor defence mechanisms but they make up for being easy targets by breeding prolifically. Just let them alone and let nature run her course.
On the surface, finding a rabbit in your backyard doesn’t seem like a huge deal. They hop around, help you with your de-weeding and lawn mowing and fertilize your property with their droppings and urine. This free lawn service would probably be more appreciated if rabbits just stuck to grass and weeds as their food of choice. However, if a rabbit finds even tastier foods, who can blame them from sampling those wares as well? Keeping a lawn or garden impeccable may prove difficult when rabbits also enjoy leafy garden plants, buds, twigs, bark and most garden vegetables. Farmers and hobby gardeners alike can find that rabbits do significant damage to crops that are not properly protected. Also, with a lack of natural predators in suburban settings mixed with the creation of more open spaces that serve as their ideal habitat, rabbit populations can reach staggering numbers due to their high reproductive rates.
So what can you do about these cotton-tailed rodents? If you are in rural areas, you are allowed to trap and hunt rabbits with the proper permission from the proper authorities. In suburban settings, the unpleasant sight and smell of rabbit road-kill is not the best way to deal with population control but it certainly does help. In regards to gardens, it helps to grow rabbit-resistant plants such as daffodils, day lilies, marigolds and snapdragons. Fence in your garden areas and be sure to secure the bottoms so that rabbits cannot crawl underneath. You can also make a diluted “hot sauce repellant” and spray it on any plants you do not want eaten by rabbits. You can also plant certain herbs that rabbit don’t care to eat, such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano.
“They make a great stew”
One could make a really strong argument to why Ontarians should incorporate rabbit into their cache of cuisine options. Relating to the paragraph above, it would be a practical (and tasty) way to enforce population control. Many cultures in South and Central America, Europe and the Middle East consume rabbit in a variety of ways. I myself have tried rabbit when I was in Italy, unintentionally but was not worse for wear upon finding out later. A lean, neutral-flavoured meat, rabbit can be compared to something between chicken and pork, allowing it to be seasoned in a variety of ways.
Before you go off now and hunt down your dinner, keep in mind there are some health risks with eating wild rabbit. The most common health issues linked with consuming wild rabbit are tularemia, or rabbit fever, and a condition known as “rabbit starvation”. Tularemia is a bacterial infection that can prove lethal to humans, so do your research before you tuck into a spoon of rabbit stew. Also, keep in mind that we spray our lawns and produce with chemicals that rabbits then ingest. With all of the chemicals used in lawns and gardens, it would be especially wise not to sample suburban and urban rabbit anytime soon.
For more information about wild rabbits in Ontario, please check out the following websites:
National Geographic. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/cottontail-rabbit/
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/2ColumnSubPage/290041.html
Ohio Department of Natural Resources.https://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/species_a_to_z/SpeciesGuideIndex/easterncottontailrabbit/tabid/6606/Default.aspx
Centers for Disease Control and Protection. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/16/12/10-1013_article.htm
The rich are NOT above the law when it comes to the environment!
Facebook billionaire hit with $2.5 million fine after Big Sur wedding runs afoul of conservation rules
The Internet mogul’s lavish $10 million wedding featured movie-set-like installations, a rich and famous guest list — and a massive fine for stepping all over ecologically sensitive areas of California’s Big Sur.
Worth making the switch? I think so!
LED lights saved $675M in energy costs in 2012
And that’s just the savings for some common lighting applications.
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