“Canadian geese or Canada geese? Year-round residents! Noisy, mean, green-pooping machines! ”
Even though the Branta Canadensis has “Canada” in its name, very few Canadians are proud to lay claim to this vocal, abundant, messy bird. Although rather striking to look at, people are quick to consider these birds just a pretty face. People in urban, suburban and rural areas have all come to label Canada geese - not Canadian geese, they cannot have sole citizenship since they can be found from the Arctic Circle to Northern Mexico- as pests, hazards and at times, aggressive animals.
The Fast Facts:
Size: Body, 76 to 110 cm; Wingspan, 1.3 to 1.7 m
Weight: 3 to 9 kg
Lifespan: 24 years
Most active during: daylight hours, although they do migrate at night
It is hard to believe that in the 20th century, Canada geese populations were so low that they required an official wildlife protection program and had to be reintroduced in areas where their populations had dwindled. Their present populations are living examples of the success of their conservation and reintroduction, although it is doubtful that many people today are rejoicing over this. Nevertheless, these birds are a familiar symbol of the change of the seasons. In the spring and in the fall, these birds fly in their infamous “v” formations, allowing the flock to maximize their travel efficiency. This aerodynamic way of flying allows flocks to cover up to 2,400 kilometers in a 24-hour period if the wind is in their favour.
For this article, I asked both Canadian and Americans what they thought of these grass-eating geese. Here are their thoughts, paraphrased, along with some related information that may smooth your ruffled feathers in regards to your opinion of these birds:
1. Their existence consists of eating grass, hissing, and making a mess in every park, sidewalk and shoreline.
As herbivores, Canada geese are constantly foraging for green and leafy sources of sustenance. Because grass is very easy to digest, these geese relish in the abundance of tender, verdant lawns in city parks, golf courses and neighbourhoods. “Easy to digest” translates to the fact that if it’s easy to go in, it’s easy to come out. When you find your shoe making the inevitable contact with goose droppings, fear not! It is mostly grass anyways and poses no danger, save some grass stains.
Grassy areas also mean areas clear from obstruction so geese can spot a potential predator or an overly-friendly dog coming from far away. They are able to protect themselves, their young and other members of their flock this way. When they do encounter potential danger, they will normally fly off or retreat to a safer area. However, some Canada geese have adapted to urban environments so much so that they have become a little bolder when it comes to interacting with pets and humans. We break down that barrier of fear even further when we feed them bread and other processed foods (which is very much discouraged as bread, crackers, and other such foods act more as an empty calorie filler). When people or a dog gets too close to a goose, especially if they have their young with them, they will do their best to defend themselves and their young. This may include behaviour such as hissing, wing-flapping, honking, head-bobbing, and sometimes chasing and charging. Make sure children and dogs do not pester or chase geese, especially ones with goslings.
2. They must be a little confused with their directions as they never seem to fly south for the winter anymore!
Did you know there are about 11 subspecies of Canada geese? Their appearance changes slightly depending on the location they occupy; geese are normally smaller and darker in the North and the West compared to geese that reside in southern regions. Some of these subspecies have totally adapted to urban living and decide to stay in city parks or along waterfronts all year round. That may explain why so many of them call the GTA their permanent residence! Migration patterns also may change depending on weather patterns, land development and agricultural advances.
As well as eating grasses, Canada geese will enjoy berries, grains and corn kernels in the autumn months. Southern Ontario is littered with famers fields that provide flocks of geese with ample supplies of missed grain and corn left in the husks. Geese that find some great fields to feed in will be reluctant to leave. Also keep in mind that the goose you see waddling around in the winter time may have already migrated south from Northern Ontario or even the northern territories.
3. These geese seem to be very dedicated in regards to raising their young.
Finally, a positive comment! Yes, Canada geese certainly are dedicated parents to their goslings. Adult geese will find a mate around their 2nd to 4th year and pair with it for life. Size does matter to these birds, as they try to pair with a mate that is equal in size, with the male always being a bit larger than the female. The female will construct most of the nest and be the sole incubator of the eggs. Once the eggs have hatched, the mother will brood the young goslings during wet, windy or cold weather. Goslings will spend a whole year being constantly watched over and led by their parents. Sometimes, multiple broods will group together, known as “gang broods” and parents will care for multiple goslings collectively.
For more information about Canada Geese in Ontario, please check the following websites:
National Geographic: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/canada-goose/
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/2ColumnSubPage/290001.html
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/canada_goose/lifehistory
Also, be sure to check out the City of Toronto’s Biodiversity Booklet series, available at local libraries:http://www.toronto.ca/planning/environment/biodiversity.htm
From Michael Marten’s series, Sea Change, which explores rising sea levels from regular tides and also climate change. His statement:
‘Sea Change’ is a study of the tides round the coast of Britain. The views in each diptych are taken from identical positions at low tide and high tide, usually 6 or 18 hours apart.
I am interested in showing how landscape changes over time through natural processes and cycles. The camera that observes low and high tide side by side enables us to observe simultaneously two moments in time, two states of nature.
Recent landscape photography often focuses on human shaping (and reshaping) of the environment - urbanisation, globalisation, pollution. Even when critical and committed, this approach can emphasise, even glamorise, humankind’s power over nature. I’m interested in rediscovering nature’s own powers: the elemental forces and processes that underlie and shape the planet.
The tides are one of these great natural cycles. I hope these photographs will stimulate people’s awareness of natural change, of landscape as dynamic process rather than static image. Attending to earth’s rhythms can help us to reconnect with the fundamentals of our planet, which we ignore at our peril.
‘Sea Change’ also comments on climate change. The tide floods in and quickly recedes again, but rising sea levels will flood our shores and not recede for thousands or millions of years. Many of the views in these pictures may have disappeared in 100 years’ time.
— Michael Marten
Best bathmat ever!
La Chanh Nguyen’s moss carpet brings a little green into your bathroom in an unconventionally natural way. This living bathmat features three types of green mosses — forest moss, island moss and ball moss — that grow in plastazote, a decay-free, recycled latex foam. This mat will certainly liven up your shower space, and it’s wonderfully low maintenance. Because moss flourishes in damp, humid places, your bathroom is the ideal location for the moss carpet — even the green-thumb challenged can keep it alive!
Here is my second article posted by the Sierra Club Canada Ontario chapter! Visit them here: http://o.sierraclub.ca/en
“Masked troublemaker! Rabid garbage-eater! Urban pest on four legs! Annoying, noisy, furry neighbour!”
I am certain stronger words than these have been used to describe the Procyon lotor. Perhaps it is their suspicious-looking markings or the fact that their curious nature is mistaken for deliberate destruction. The sentiment remains that raccoons, whether you live in a rural or urban setting, are rather difficult animals to co-exist with.
The Fast Facts:
Size: 60 to 95 cm, from nose to tail
Weight: 1.8 to 10.4 kg
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Most active at: Night
We have all had a run-in with a raccoon at some point in our lives which I am sure makes for a humorous story, usually at the storyteller’s expense. The fact that the majority of Canadians do have a story related to this masked mammal only helps to prove how incredible of an animal it really is. Here is a wild animal that has demonstrated the ability to adapt its lifestyle and behaviours to live quite successfully in any sort of artificial environment humans have set up for themselves. They have broadened their eating habits, become creative in regards to places to den, have found numerous ways to avoid traps and barriers to get what they want, and have accepted a rather diverse set of neighbours in which to coexist with. Sounds very similar to another kind of mammal with great adaptation abilities, doesn’t it?
With so many similar traits to us, one would think that humans would have more respect and awe for this cunning omnivore. However, perhaps it is because that they are so similar to us that we feel threatened by their presence and their ability to defy our attempts rule over them.
I asked friends, family and strangers about what they thought of raccoons. Here is a summary of the feedback I received:
1. Hide your kids! Hide your pets! Raccoons are rabid!
Rabies is an infectious and contagious disease of the central nervous system that can be passed on through bites and scratches and contact with moist tissues, like the mouth or eyes. If left untreated, it can result in death.
To be fair, all mammals can carry the rabies virus. Statistically speaking, the most common carrier of rabies in Ontario wildlife is the raccoon. With dense populations in both urban and rural areas (8-18 raccoons per square km in urban areas and 4-12 per square km in rural areas), the probability with coming into contact with a raccoon is much higher than most other wild animals. It’s not that raccoons are more likely to have rabies; it’s just that due to large populations, the probability of one contracting the virus is higher.
Remember, if you encounter a raccoon that seems very tame, is behaving oddly, or is injured or sick, please notify animal services. It is best to make sure you keep pets away from raccoons and resist the urge to let them go off and chase them. Make sure children keep their distances and never encourage hand-feeding, or feeding of any kind.
2. No garbage can or bag is safe from a raccoon’s dexterous little fingers.
Thanks to their hand-like paws, raccoons have the ability to manipulate the world around them. This includes picking berries, catching crayfish and frogs, snatching eggs from nests, climbing trees and other surfaces quite “handily” and of course, raiding your garbage and compost bins. Omnivores by nature, raccoons are the ultimate opportunistic feeders. Anything that looks or smells remotely edible is fair game. Garbage bags and bins must look like giant buffets to a hungry raccoon and really, who can fault them? They would take every opportunity in the wild to find an easy meal when they can, so why not take advantage of a feast that humans have no apparent use for? It would be a stretch to say that raccoons may be the solution to our urban waste problem, but they are carrying out part of the carbon cycle as they help to break down and distribute organic material around the ecosystem. Just try not to step in their “distribution packages”.
In all seriousness, there are simple ways to keep your garbage safe. Firstly, keep garbage bags, compost bins and cans in garages or closed off areas and invest in a garbage and/or compost bin with a lockable lid. Take compost and garbage to be collected out on the morning of garbage collection. Yes, waking up a bit earlier to drag it to the corner does seem like work, but having to rake up a lawn littered with garbage after an all-night food fest is far more work by comparison.
3. They can be free-loading squatters that destroy attics.
Due to a lack of hollow trees and logs and other suitable places to raise their young in urban settings, raccoons see an insulated, waterproof, spacey attic as an ideal choice. If raccoons see an opportunity to get inside an attic, they most likely will if nothing more suitable is available to them. Those paws and claws can do significant damage as they rip off shingles, rip apart siding and insulation and bring in outside materials to make bedding for their nests. Once raccoon cubs start to grow up, they use an attic as a playpen and can further the destruction of the area as they try out their new talents.
A step-by-step process about raccoon home invasion can be found on Toronto’s website (link provided below), but in summary, just make sure that chimneys and attics are well sealed-off and that there are no easy ways for a raccoon to climb up and onto roofs and garages by cutting down overhanging branches or trellises that go right up to the roof of the house.
For more information about Raccoons in Ontario, please check the following websites:
National Geographic http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/raccoon/
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/2ColumnSubPage/289998.html
Coolest printer ever!
If Hoyoung Lee’s concept printer becomes reality, you’ll never throw away another pencil stub or buy another ink cartridge. The pencil printer 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, so you’ll be saving money and trees.
In honour of Earth Day this coming Monday, enjoy!
Earth Day photos: Celebrating the beauty of our planet
From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the surreal glacial formations of Patagonia, here are 12 stunning photos showcasing the diverse collection of landscapes found across the planet.
You don’t want to miss these stunning images.
Sneaky suburban invader? Pesky predator? Mangy mutt? Wile E. Coyote?
Are any of these the taglines that come to mind when you think of the Canis latrans? Many people are familiar with this clever wild canine; however, there are many misconceptions out there that give these creatures a bad name. I hope that this small article will help bring coyotes out of the shifty shadows of misunderstanding and into the light of respect.
The Fast Facts:
Size: length, 120-150 cm; tail, 40 cm; height, 50-66 cm
Weight: 9-18 kg
Lifespan: up to 14 years
Most active at: dawn and dusk
To break down this information into easily digestible chunks, below are 5 opinions that have been expressed about coyotes, followed by a more realistic approach:
1. Coyotes come to live in urban areas to attack me and my pets!
The Coyote is a naturally intelligent and highly adaptive animal. Their increasing presence in urban areas may be partly due to human activity pushing them out of their natural habitat, as well as the fact that we have created a very attractive habitat for coyotes to stick around in. Coyotes are predators and scavengers and highly opportunistic when it comes to food. A bag of garbage left outside is a free meal ready for pick-up as far as they are concerned. Landscaped lawns, gardens and feeders that distribute seeds and nuts attract many of the coyotes natural prey, including rabbits, mice, voles, frogs, groundhogs, snakes, grasshoppers, and birds. Small woodland parks and ravines next to subdivisions provide great locations for coyotes to den and rest. So when a cat or small dog wanders around the neighbourhood that has become a coyote’s new home, they don’t see them as a member of a human pack but as a potential next meal. Coyotes are naturally very wary of animals larger than they are and will keep their distance from humans.
2. Coyotes are blood-thirty predators with hunting on the brain.
Coyotes have no interest in picking a fight with a creature larger than they are; they are too smart for that! As omnivores, a coyote will gladly eat carrion or berries for nourishment instead of their normal diet of the animals listed above. They only hunt to eat and may only become defensive if it is spring time and you or your pet have come too close to their den. If this is the case, a coyote will try to intimidate the intruder or try to send a message to stay away the only way it can; through physical actions. If you encounter a coyote behaving this way, do not take it personally. I’m sure if the creature could explain its distress to you, it would. To find out what to do if you come into a close encounter with a coyote, please see point 5 below.
3. Coyotes always have rabies or mange so they should be eliminated whenever possible.
It is very rare for a coyote to be a carrier of rabies. Actually, they account for less than 1% of all diagnosed incidents of wildlife rabies cases in Ontario over the past 40 years.
Mange, however, is a common problem in Ontario coyote populations. The parasitic mite that causes mange burrows under the skin, causing irritation and hair loss to the animal and in some cases, death. These mites can be transferred from host to host, meaning that pets and even pet owners can be affected. If you know there are coyotes with mange in a certain area, it is best to avoid the area and reduce the risk of your pets or yourself picking up the pesky mites.
Despite these health risks, it does not give humans the right to automatically eliminate a coyote on sight. As a large predator and scavenger, a coyote plays just as an important part in an ecosystem as any other animal. They help keep rodent populations down, which should actually earn them praise from gardeners who constantly complain about rabbits and mice ruining their hard work. As a scavenger, they help clean up carcasses from the ecosystem and speed up the decomposition process, a necessary step in an ecosystem’s nutrient cycle. Removing them or reducing their numbers drastically would put the whole ecosystem- natural or human enhanced- out of balance.
4. If I try to tame a coyote and get it used to human activity, we will both learn to get along with each other.
Coyotes naturally try to avoid people whenever possible. They are still wild animals after all, and should not be approached. You should never intentionally feed a coyote, as providing them with food habituates to human activity. It is not in the best interest of either you or the animal to try and “tame” it through feeding or constant exposure to you and your pets. Destroying the boundary of fear a coyote has of humans will endanger both parties equally. Letting a coyote into your “territory” and giving it food will send the message to the animal that you are no longer a threat and it will become bolder and try to take ownership of the area. Again, we are dealing with a wild animal who does not possess the ability to reason or compromise and sometimes humans forget this. We need to think like them in order to truly understand their motives and actions and know how to act around them to keep both parties safe from potential harm. The best way to get along with wildlife is to allow it to continue to act as wild as possible.
5. If I encounter a coyote in the wild or in an urban setting, I should quietly turn around and then run like the wind in the opposite direction.
Here is what you should do in case you have a close encounter with a coyote:
- Remain calm and confident.
- Never approach or touch a coyote.
- Do not turn your back on, or run from, a coyote.
- Back away from the coyote while standing tall, waving your hands and making lots of noise.
- Carry a flashlight at night to scare off coyotes.
- If a coyote poses an immediate threat or danger to public safety, call 911.
To also protect yourself and your pets form a potentially dangerous wildlife encounter, consider doing the following:
- Keep your dog on a leash and don’t let it run into a forested area known to have an active coyote population.
- Avoid walking your dogs, especially small dogs, in and around wooded areas and dawn and dusk.
- If you live in the country or have a large property, make sure your dog is within sight or designate an enclosed area for your dog.
- Keep cats indoors if you live in an area known to have coyotes.
- Do not leave garbage bag outside. If garbage must be left outside, place it in a sealable container.
For more information on Coyotes in Ontario, please check the following websites:
Please check out the Sierra Club Ontario page, where my article and numerous others are posted:
Oh the abuse the environment takes from us for the sake of a quick thrill.
Activists claim film crews shooting the new sequel destroyed parts of the ancient Namib Desert.
Fantastic work, UofT!
A system designed by students at the University of Toronto was inspired by fish gills, tadpoles and human arteries.
Certain people are looking for the same kind of green they’ve always sought — the green of dollar bills.
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