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Animals in the garbage, in the backyard and in the headlines

Whether it’s a deer smashing through a coffee shop window in Halifax ora black bear taking a snooze in a Kanata backyard, wildlife lovescities almost as much as commuters.

Whether it’s a deer smashing through a coffee shop window in Halifax or a black bear taking a snooze in a Kanata backyard, wildlife loves cities almost as much as commuters.



And this summer has seen myriad of tales of animal-human conflicts in Canadian cities, with the case of a Toronto man allegedly hitting a baby raccoon with a shovel drawing out both animal lovers and raccoon haters in protest.



But, despite the attention, are citizens really having more run-ins with critters?



“It’s massively manmade this idea we’re having more interactions … but there’s no doubt we’re encroaching on their territory,” said Simon Gadbois, an animal behaviour researcher in Halifax.



Habitat encroachment and climate change play a role, but conflicts come in cycles depending on animal populations and their environment, he said.



These days, he said, people are more likely to report animal sightings after learning of a horrific event, such as recent bear attacks in B.C. and the 19-year-old Toronto woman who was killed by coyotes in Cape Breton, N.S., in 2009.



In the short term, growing cities mean a loss of habitat as animals creep into cities looking for food and shelter, but in the long term it means there will be fewer animals, said Kevin Strange, with the conservation outreach program at the Calgary Zoo.



“Cities and towns are almost always built on a water body, and in the west here they’re always on a river and rivers are green highways (for animals),” he said.



“There are times when climate change can really make animals migrate.”



Climate change can be good for some animals and bad for others. If there is a shortage of rabbits, for example, coyotes will range further into cities and find that cats make a good substitute, he said.



“Cats think (coyotes) are dogs and it’s not until the last second they realize they’re not dealing with the average dog,” Gadbois said. “And some cat owners put those little bird bells around the necks of cats, which becomes like a lunch bell for the coyotes.”



Experts believe the keys to making cities less attractive to wildlife is to take a serious look at waste management and get people to stop feeding creatures like deer and raccoons.



Gadbois said people need to realize wildlife is always going to hang around cities — it might not be ideal, but not as dangerous as people think.



“Hey, get over it,” he said. “That’s what it is to live in Canada.”



No party animals here

When you have an uninvited, furry pest living in your house, throw a party.



Reesa Atnikov, a supervisor with the not-for-profit Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre in Manitoba, said they take thousands of calls every year about wild animals like raccoons or skunks that have become a little too comfortable in an urban setting.



“We recommend bright lights, loud music and rags soaked in bleach. They don’t like the smell, they don’t like the lights and they don’t like the loud music,” she said.



But if you’re in the backyard and Winnie and Yogi wander in to sniff out your garbage bin, the best plan is to call a conservation officer, said Kevin Strange with the Calgary Zoo.



“That’s got to be a fairly threatening situation … and it may have a desire to protect the food source,” he said.

 
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