Is cohabitation with wildlife in the city possible?

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Under the theme, “Is cohabitation with wildlife in the city possible?”

Photo : Ville de Montréal


Activities in the afternoon of May 6th will focus on the challenges of human/wildlife cohabitation

In addition to the environmental activities taking place the morning of the Corvée du Mont-Royal clean-up next Sunday, May 6th, a variety of activities in the afternoon will focus on the challenges of cohabitation between humans and wildlife in an urban environment. The activities will take place from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Chalet du Mont-Royal and admission is free.

Finally, Les amis de la montagne’s environmental educators will be posted at the kiosk devoted to Mount Royal’s biodiversity, on the lookout near the Chalet. Both young and young-at-heart will enjoy the animation, information and games related specifically to the mountain’s fauna.

The Corvée du Mont-Royal clean-up kicks off the activities during “May 2012: Mount Royal Month”. A variety of events will be featured throughout the month of May to explore the mountain’s heritage, inviting citizens to take part in its conservation.

A special series of activities featuring the birds of Mount Royal will be held from May 16 to 21. The complete May calendar of events is available on Les amis de la montagne’s website by clicking here.

Éric Richard, Director of Educational Services, and Claude Drolet, Coordinator of Educational Services – Conservation, are biologists working for Les amis de la montagne. They have prepared three articles below, inviting us to reflect upon the challenges of human and wildlife cohabitation. The articles also provide information on behaviours that are conducive to harmonious cohabitation.

Feeding wild animals has serious consequences

Photo : Ville de Montréal

In an urban environment, conserving biodiversity and keeping our natural ecosystems in balance is a great challenge. One significant problem is the feeding of wild animals by humans. Many people derive pleasure from the ties they feel they establish by providing animals with food, whether the intention is to observe the animal a little more closely in a yard or a park, or to capture them on film. But feeding wild animals has serious consequences.

Feeding wild animals is often detrimental to the animals’ health. The food we offer may not correspond to their natural diet and could cause nutritional deficiencies. The animal may develop dependencies and can even become aggressive. The concentration of animals in a “feeding” area increases the risk of epidemics and creates greater competition between animals. The concentration of animals can further create an imbalance in the ecosystem, with certain links in the food chain becoming more abundant in comparison to others.

Opportunistic species that take advantage of these food sources take over habitats that would otherwise be occupied by animals that are more fearful of humans or for whom humans have less of an attraction. Certain species, such as the seagull and squirrel, have become so abundant and familiar that they have acquired a bad reputation due to their nuisance behaviour. Other species present a risk to human health through contact or biting.

So the next time you consider feeding a wild animal, please think twice!

Stop! Animal crossing …

Even if wild animals are well protected in parks, a large number of animals are killed because of us.

The automobile is responsible for the death of many mammals, particularly for those most active at night. On Mount Royal, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs and foxes are often hit by cars as they attempt to cross the Voie Camillien-Houde. Many provincial parks have built animal crossings, such as tunnels under roadways or green bridges over top. We could build such a structure on the mountain to provide a safe crossing point for the wildlife between Summit Woods and Mount Royal Park via a structure built over or under Chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges.

Other animals succumb to the temptation of our left-over garbage. Animals have been known to choke on plastic bags or remain trapped in metal cans, and acquire a variety of health problems caused by this nutritiously poor source of food.

Birds are not immune to a variety of dangers. Many fall victim to domestic cats and dogs left to stray in the natural environment, while others collide with high rise buildings and antennas.

Living in the underbrush of the mountain is not always the good life

Picture a chipmunk rummaging for its food along the forest floor in the quiet of an early morning on Mount Royal. Sounds bucolic, no? In reality, the life of an animal on the mountain is often the very opposite. These animals must constantly endure numerous disruptive elements.

Many dog owners take advantage of visits to Mount Royal to allow their dogs to run freely. What appears to be an innocent gesture can in fact be fatal to hatchlings whose nest is located within the dog’s reach or to small mammals unable to outrun a dogs’ bite.

Circulation by pedestrians and cyclists off-trail is another disruptive element, of particular concern on the mountain. This behaviour not only disturbs the wildlife, but it also results in soil compaction, which damages the vegetation and increases erosion in the steeper sections of the mountain. A study conducted in 2008 resulted in an inventory of more than 65 km of trails in the underbrush, two-thirds of which are superfluous and should be closed permanently.

Several bird species are greatly affected by the fragmentation of their habitat. Some species, such as certain types of warblers, seek nesting sites that are more than 50 metres from the nearest path. Due to the proliferation of rogue paths in Mount Royal Park, these warblers can no longer find nesting sites that correspond to their criteria.

There remains but few tranquil spaces for the wildlife in our urban environment.

Launch of an awareness-raising campaign

The Ville de Montréal, in collaboration with Les amis de la montagne, launched an awareness-raising campaign on May 3rd to help reduce the increasing problems associated with the feeding of raccoons by humans in Mount Royal Park. To read the press release, please click here (in French).

Photo : Ville de Montréal

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