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Wildlife Management

Coyote in the field

As with most cities, it is common to see wildlife in Saskatoon.  Animals that can be seen in Saskatoon include coyotes, skunks, foxes, moose, deer, rabbits, porcupines, beavers, muskrats and many others. The City of Saskatoon offers some limited services related to wildlife, you can see further details in the accordions below.

If you have concerns about wildlife in Saskatoon, please call Urban Biological Services at 306-975-3300.  If there is an emergency after hours, please call the 24-hour Customer Service Center at 306-975-2476.  For concerns about larger animals (e.g. moose, deer, bears), contact the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment at 306-933-6240.

Useful links

Saskatchewan Environment
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan

Badgers

Appearance

  • elongated face with a distinctive black and white pattern
  • small round ears
  • fur is brown, black and white
  • stocky body with short powerful legs
  • body length is 60-75 cm (23.6-29.5 in), weight is 7-9 kg (15.5-19.8 lbs)
  • large fore claws, up to 5 cm (2 in) in length

Behaviour & Habitat

  • Use aggression as a defense mechanism and will snarl, hiss or bare their teeth if provoked. Typically they do this while backing away. Sometimes they move forward in an attempt to chase a threat away from their burrow.
  • Use many burrows within their home range. Many of these burrows will be re-used by other animals such as other badgers, foxes and coyotes.
  • Habitat is typically open grasslands where badgers can find prey. They prefer prairie regions containing sandy loam soil.
  • It is rare for badgers to live within a city. They can be seen moving through urban areas during the fall when they are expanding their territory to find mates and when the young are dispersing in May and June.
  • When seen in the city, it is usually in neighbourhoods close to large natural areas.
  • Are mostly solitary and nocturnal.
  • Despite being nocturnal, badgers can be seen during the day, especially during the spring when females forage and return at night to stay with the young.
  • Do not hibernate but become less active during the winter.

Diet

Badgers are fossorial carnivores, meaning they dig and feed on animals under the ground. They feed predominantly on agricultural pests such as ground squirrels, pocket gophers and voles, but will also prey on other small animals, insects (including bees and honeycomb) and some vegetation.

What to do if you have a close encounter with a badger?

  • Never approach or feed a badger.
  • Identify and maintain escape routes to allow badgers to retreat to their burrows.
  • Badgers will act aggressive when they feel threatened. If this occurs calmly leave the area. Badgers will not pursue over great distances.
  • If you see a badger in the city it is most likely just moving through, take the opportunity to admire it from a safe distance.
  • If the badger is injured, trapped or diseased call Urban Biological Services at 306-975-3300.

 Living with Urban Wildlife - Badger Brochure

Bats

About

The most common species of bat in Saskatoon is the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). This species will often roost in homes and old buildings. All bats in Saskatoon feed on insects and it is common to see them foraging at night. Bats eat large quantities of night flying insects including moths, beetles and flies (including mosquitoes). If bats are disturbed from a roosting site or during the spring and fall migration, it is possible to see them during the day. If you see a bat during the day leave it alone as it will likely leave during the evening.

Reproduction and life cycle

Bats hibernate from November to May. The females form maternity or brood colonies. This is where the pups are born. The brood colonies can be found in barns, houses, trees and crevices. The colony size can vary from less than ten to several hundred individuals. Males will roost singly or in small groups. Young bats can fly at approximately 6 weeks. Mating occurs in the fall.

Disease

A bite from any animal can be dangerous and if you are bitten you should consult a physician. Bats can carry rabies and potentially transmit rabies to people or pets. Rabies is a serious neurological disease that is often fatal. If you observe a bat lying on the ground do not touch it, as it may be sick or injured. These can be reported to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan 306-242-7177 or the City of Saskatoon, Parks Division 306-975-3300. It is important to have your pets vaccinated against rabies.

What you can do?

Bats are protected under the  Saskatchewan Wildlife Act and cannot be killed. If you find that you have bats in your home, exclusion is the best option. This can involve installing one way doors so that as bats leave they cannot re-enter. This should not be done in July and August when the pups cannot leave the roost. Pest control companies can assist with the installation of a one way door. Installing a bat house in combination with exclusion methods increases the likelihood that bats will change their roost location.

Coyotes

About

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are members of the dog family, native to North America. They resemble a medium-sized dog, with adults weighing 10-18 kilograms (20-40 pounds). Long winter fur often makes these animals appear larger. Coyotes are up to 1.5 meters long including the tail, and stand about 60 cm at the shoulder. Males are typically larger than females. Coyotes vary in colouration but their fur is usually reddish-brown to gray. Coyotes tend to walk in a straight line and will often form well packed trails within their territory. Coyote tracks differ from dogs in that the print is much narrower.

Coyotes can be found throughout much of North America. Coyotes are being seen with increased frequency in many urban centers including Saskatoon. They tend to be found in open spaces like parks and school grounds but can also be seen in residential neighbourhoods especially in the winter months.

Throughout much of the year coyotes are in the city, but they are rarely seen as they are primarily nocturnal and often stay in territories which typically include larger open spaces such as naturalized parks. In the winter coyotes have different habits, which can include activity throughout the day and increased frequency in residential areas. This is especially true of young coyotes which do not have established territories and are seeking food and shelter. Coyotes will seek shelter under decks and other structures and will often feed on fruit, bird feed (especially containing lard or suet), and pet food.

Coyotes and disease

Rabies is rare in Saskatchewan and rare in coyotes. In Saskatchewan the most common carriers of rabies are bats and skunks. Coyotes are not common carriers and are rarely involved in the transmission of the disease to humans or pets. Coyotes can be carriers of canine distemper and Echinococcus multilocularis, a tapeworm that can be found in the digestive tract of coyotes. It is important to remember to vaccinate pets and provide de-worming medication on a regular basis.

Coyotes and pets

Coyotes will occasionally act aggressively towards dogs and cats. Aggression towards dogs is more likely to occur when coyotes have pups in their den. If a negative encounter (displaying barred teeth, charging towards a dog) occurs, act aggressively towards the coyote and scare the animal away. Remove the dog as soon as possible. Although rare, coyotes can feed on smaller pets such as cats and small dogs. It is important to keep pets supervised when outside and especially in natural areas such as the off-leash dog parks.

If you encounter a coyote

  • Allow the coyote to escape by identifying and maintaining escape routes for them
  • Never approach and never attempt to feed a coyote
  • Do not turn your back or run
  • Act assertive, yell and wave your arms (act Big, Bad and Loud!)
  • Keep pets under control to avoid creating additional stress for the animal
  • If the coyote is acting  unusual (approaching people, limping, staggering or acting confused) DO NOT APPROACH, call Pest Management at 306-975-3300.

 What you can expect from us

  1. We will monitor coyote activity in the City of Saskatoon and place warning and information signs in areas with coyote activity or den sites
  2. We will provide educational materials to the public about keeping coyotes out of your yard and how to have safe encounters with coyotes on public property.

 How you can help us

  1. Reporting coyote sightings by calling Urban Biological Service at 306-975-3300
  2. Secure your yard with fencing and ensure that gates remain closed
  3. Do not feed pets outside
  4. Clean around barbecues, bird feeders and fruit trees
  5. Remove and prevent potential hiding and den sites
  6. Install motion activated lights

 Living with Urban Wildlife - Coyote Brochure

Foxes

Appearance

  • Tail is large and bushy and is the most distinguishing feature. The tail is 70% of the head and body length.
  • Ears are upright and large in relation to the head
  • Muzzle is long and slender
  • Fur colour is often rusty-red with yellow tints. Chin, throat and chest are typically white. The colour may vary from dark brown to pure white.
  • Body length is 45-90 cm (18-35 in), height is 35-20 cm (14-20 in), weight is 2.2-14 kg (4.9-30.9 lbs), tail measures 32--53 cm (13-21 in)

Behaviour & Habitat

  • Foxes live in family groups and often share territory. Many leave the group once they reach adulthood to secure their own territory.
  • Burrows are divided into a den and temporary burrows.
  • Foxes tend to leave pieces of prey around their dens, which can be a way to identify whether a den is being used by a fox or other animals.
  • Fox dens have a musty smell when they are in use.
  • The home range of a fox is 4 to 8 km² around den sites.
  • Despite being cautious, foxes are inquisitive animals and can become accustomed to people.
  •  Foxes have a wide vocal range from high-pitched whines to barks.
  •  Foxes are most active from dusk until dawn. They prefer to hunt in the early morning and late evening but can be active at any time.
  •  When hunting small animals, foxes use their hearing to locate prey. They may then leap high in the air with a characteristic pounce. 

Diet

Foxes are omnivores, eating both animals and plants including rodents, birds, fish, fruits and vegetables and will shift their diet to take advantage of the available food.

What to do if you have a close encounter with a fox?

  • Allow the fox to escape by identifying and maintaining escape routes
  •  Never approach or feed foxes
  •  Act assertive, yell or wave your arms (act big, bad and loud)
  •  Keep pets under control to avoid creating additional stress for the animal

Foxes living near urban environments may find man-made structures (decks, sheds, wood piles) and landscapes appealing. Making your property unwelcoming to foxes can prevent conflicts.

  •  Prevent access to property or structures like decks and sheds
  •  Use motion activated lights or sprinklers
  •  Change the landscape by moving furniture or objects in the yard
  •  Do not leave pet food outside
  • Clean around BBQs, bird feeders and fruit trees
  •  Remove potential hiding and den sites
  •  If the fox is acting unusual (approaching people, limping, staggering, or acting confused) do not approach, call Urban Biological Services at 306-975-3300.

 Living with Urban Wildlife - Fox Brochure

Muskrat

Appearance

  •  Short brown, black or grey fur and can have a belly that is lighter in colour 
  •  Long, vertically flattened tail that is as long as the body
  •  While swimming, the tail moves side to side to propel the animal and is visible on the surface
  •  Tracks often have a distinct tail mark
  •  Length is 40-70 cm (16-18 in) and weight is 0.6-2 kg (1.3-4.4 lbs)
  •  Muskrats can be mistaken for rats 

Behaviour & Habitat

  •  Muskrats are very common in Saskatoon.
  •  Muskrats live in small family groups consisting of a female, a male and their offspring.
  •  Muskrats create small raised lodges in sloughs, ditches and other places with permanent water. These houses are made of cattails, grasses and mud.
  •  Muskrats may also dig holes and tunnels in the banks of streams, rivers and lakes, especially when cattails and bulrushes are not present.
  •  When frightened while in water, muskrats will dive and remain under water for up to 15 minutes. 

Diet

Muskrats are semi-aquatic small mammals. They feed on aquatic vegetation such as cattails and grasses but will occasionally eat fish, mussels and other small animals. 

Seeing muskrats on your property

  • Muskrats are not dangerous but like any wild animal, they should be not be approached.  
  • Watch your step when traveling around wetlands including parks ponds. These rodents burrow into the banks which can create tripping hazards. 

Muskrat movement and human interactions

  • Muskrats generally use the same travel routes and do not move far from their den. However, during ice break-up at the end of winter muskrats will disperse in search of their own territory. These juveniles can move up to 30km in search of mates and unoccupied water bodies. Muskrats found wandering are not a threat and should be left alone.
  • If a muskrat is injured, trapped or diseased call Urban Biological Services at 306-975-3300.

 Living with Urban Wildlife - Muskrat Brochure

Pocket Gopher

Since pocket gophers live below ground, they are commonly called moles in Saskatchewan and the term gopher is used to describe the Richardson’s ground squirrel and other ground squirrels. True moles are members of the family Talpidae. There are no mole species in Saskatoon with the closest species, the star-nosed mole, occurring in southern Manitoba. 

Appearance

  • Fur is light brown to black and lighter on the underside
  • Front claws modified for digging
  • Eyes almost closed
  • Body length is 17-25 cm (6.7-9.8 in) including the tail, weight is 90-100g (0.2-0.22 lb) 

Behaviour & Habitat

  • Named for the fur lined pockets on their cheeks that are used to store food.
  • Northern pocket gophers are native to Saskatchewan and are common in Saskatoon.
  • One pocket gopher is capable of constructing a large below ground network of tunnels (up to 75 square metres).
  • Tunnels are used to find food and mates.
  • Females have one liter of 4-6 young in May or June and the pups disperse in late summer or fall.
  • Create distinct mounds of soil that do not appear to have an entrance. They use a soil plug to hide the burrow entrance.
  • Pocket gophers will feed in gardens and fields and build mounds, which is a concern because of potential damage they can cause to crops and equipment. 

Diet

These animals are herbivores and feed on many different plant species. Most of the feeding occurs below ground but pocket gophers will also feed on the surface. Pocket gophers feed in gardens and can damage vegetables, particularly plants with below ground tubers (e.g. carrots and potatoes).

Advice for residents

There may be cases where pocket gophers are not problematic and co-existence is an option. If management is required, there are lethal and non-lethal control options. Consult home and garden centres for advice on managing pocket gophers on private property. 

 Living with Urban Wildlife - Pocket Gopher Brochure

Richardson's Ground Squirrel

Appearance

  • Fur is dark brown and lighter on the underside
  • Weight varies considerably throughout the year; at emergence ground squirrels weigh 200-400g (0.44-0.88 lbs) and 750 g (1.6 lbs) by the time they are ready to hibernate
  • Body length is 30 cm (12 inches) long including the tail

Behaviour & Habitat

  • Native to the prairie provinces and common in urban areas.
  • Known to flick their tails as they retreat into their burrow, which is why Richardson’s ground squirrels have the common nickname ‘flickertails’.
  • The burrows are grouped closely together in colonies.
  • Their burrowing behaviour can create hazards in sports fields, golf courses, parks and open spaces. They are also known to dig burrows under and beside structures including sidewalks and patios.
  • Males emerge from hibernation in March and establish territories before the females emerge a few weeks later.
  • Females produce one litter per year, litter-size ranges from 6 to 14. The pups are born in April or May and remain in their burrows for 30 days. The pups emerge from natal burrows late May to mid-June.
  • Adults may hibernate as early as July, although in their first year, ground squirrels may not hibernate until September.
  • Richardson’s ground squirrels have a number of predators in Saskatoon including badgers, coyotes, hawks, weasels and foxes. 

Diet

Richardson’s ground squirrels are omnivores, eating seeds, nuts, grains, grasses and insects. Feeding on annuals and perennials can be problematic in urban areas, although, the more common concern is the damage caused by the burrows. 

Advice for residents

Richardson’s ground squirrels are unlikely to form colonies and be problematic in residential yards. Co-existing with ground squirrels is an option but there may be circumstances where ground squirrels need to be controlled. Consult home and garden centres for more advice on managing ground squirrels on private property. 

 Living with Urban Wildlife - Richardson's Ground Squirrel Brochure

Skunks

About

Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are native to North America.  Skunks are well adapted to urban areas and are commonly found in Saskatoon.   Skunks are most active from dusk to dawn, but can be seen during the day particularly in the fall and winter. In urban areas, skunks den under sheds, decks and porches. Skunks release an oil that produces a pungent odour. Before spraying, they give warnings such as stamping their feet, vocalizing and raising their tail. Skunks eat a variety of food including pet food, insects, eggs, small rodents, plants and bird seed.

Skunks are recognized by their thick black fur with white strip down the back.  They are about the size of a cat and have a bushy tail, short legs and visible claws, their paw prints are very similar to cats.

Skunks can carry and transmit rabies. Rabies is primarily transmitted through bites from an infected animal. People are not likely to be bitten by a skunk, but pets can contract rabies from skunks. It is important that your pets receive vaccinations, as recommended by your veterinarian.

Services

Our Pest Management section offers a skunk trapping service for those residents that find a skunk den site in their yard.  We only set traps at residential locations, if a trap is set at your location you must check the trap every morning and night, if you are unable to check the trap is should remain closed.  It is especially important to check traps on hot days.  If a skunk is trapped keep pets away to avoid causing additional stress for the animal.  Do not feed the skunk in the trap.  If you encounter skunk den sites on non-residential properties you can contact a local pest management company for assistance. To have a trap set a your residential property you must have a location within your yard site where the trap can be secured 

What you can expect from us

  1. Skunk trapping and removal service is offered for residential locations where a den site has been found in April and again from August 1st to October 31st each year, we do not offer trapping during denning season from May to the end of July to ensure that mothers are not separated from their young.
  2. When a call is received we will dispatch a technician from Pest Management who will inspect the area and determine the most appropriate course of action
  3. We will remove the animal and trap once we are notified that an animal has been caught

 How you can help us

  1. Ensure that garbage, bird seed and pet food are contained and inaccessible to skunks
  2. Prevent access underneath sheds and other structures by putting L-shaped barriers below grade
  3. Remove wood and other construction waste that can shelter skunks or harbor insects that skunks feed on promptly
  4. Ensure that gates and fences remain in good repair to prevent easy access by skunks to your property.

 Living with Urban Wildlife - Skunk Brochure

White-tailed Jackrabbit

Appearance

  • Dark brown or greyish-brown on upper side and pale grey or white on underside.
  • Long ears with black tips and white tail.
  • They shed in the autumn and become white except for the ears.
  • Long powerful hind legs.
  • Bondy length is 56-65 cm (22-26 in), including a tail measuring 6.6-10.2 cm (4.0-5.5 in).
  • Weight between 2.5-4.3 kg (5.5-9.5 lbs).
  • Females are slightly larger than males.
  • Snowshoe hares are slightly smaller and occasionally found in Saskatoon.

Behaviour & Habitat

  • Native to the Prairie provinces and common in urban areas.
  • Often described as nocturnal but can be seen at any time of day.
  • They can have multiple litters per season consisting of 4-11 young.
  • The young weigh about 100 g (3.5 oz). Small white-tailed jackrabbits can be mistaken for cottontails.
  • Young start to forage around 2 weeks old and are weaned by 4 weeks.
  • They are sexually mature around 7 or 8 months, but do not normally breed until a year after their birth.
  • They have a number of predators in Saskatoon, including coyotes, foxes, badgers and birds of prey.

Diet

  • Feed on grasses and other green plants.
  • During the winter they feed on buds, twigs, and bark of trees and shrubs.

Advice for Residents

Jackrabbits are well adapted to urban areas and are commonly found in Saskatoon. To prevent rabbits from entering your property consider these tips:

  • Fix open gates or broken fences to prevent easy access to the property.
  • Install smaller fences or barriers around gardens, shrubs and trees in open areas such as front yards.
  • Consult home and garden centres for more advice on managing rabbits on private property.

Rabbit & Human Interactions

Young jackrabbits are often left unattended and mistakenly assumed to be abandoned. In most cases the mother will return and it’s best to leave the young rabbit undisturbed. If a rabbit is injured, trapped or diseased, call Urban Biological Services at 306-975-3300.

 Living with Urban Wildlife - White-tailed Jackrabbit Brochure