Stay wildlife wise during spring cleaning
Although the unpredictable weather we’ve been having lately makes it tricky to tell exactly when spring is arriving, it’s a pretty sure bet that warmer weather is on the horizon. With the longer days and fresh green shoots also comes the arrival of many wild babies. Birds and mammals can be stealthy when constructing nests or selecting den sites, but a few simple reminders can help keep these wild families safe this spring.
This is the time of year when you might be heading out into your yard with pruning shears in hand, ready to trim back trees and hedges. It’s a good idea to take a close look at the branches in question, to make sure that you aren’t disturbing any birds’ nests along with the sticks and leaves. It takes a sharp eye to spot these nests sometimes – hummingbird nests, for example, can be the size of a toonie!
Similarly, brush piles and windfall that have accumulated over the winter provide perfect shelter spots for many small songbirds as they dart back and forth from feeders and gardens. They can also be good camouflage for a nest, or provide a hidden passageway for rarely-spotted mammals like mink or shrews to move safely from place to place. Use caution when clearing these areas, and consider leaving a few 'wilder' areas of your yard as extra wildlife habitat in our urban jungle.
With the burst of green things growing in your yard, it’s also time for the lawnmower to make its appearance. Be cautious when chopping down tall grass for the first time in the season – areas that have been undisturbed until that point are prime nesting area for shy cottontail rabbits. They dig just a shallow depression in the ground where they give birth to their babies, and they rely on the sheltering grass to keep the nest hidden from predators. That first round with the lawnmower can remove this protective shield or even injure the babies, so it’s a good idea to take a walk around the property first before running the mower.
Finally, when preparing to do small home repairs as part of your spring cleaning, be on the lookout for signs of wildlife. Damage to roof shingles, vents that have come loose or fallen off, or holes in house siding can all indicate that animals like raccoons or squirrels were looking for (and finding!) a safe and cozy place to have their babies. Before fixing these flaws, make sure to check that there are no young animals inside, and if you see an adult animal frantically trying to enter a recently-repaired area, remove the repairs immediately and allow her to relocate her babies before resuming your handiwork.
Spring is always a busy season for humans and wildlife alike, and by keeping these reminders in mind as we go about our seasonal cleaning and maintenance, we can make sure everyone stays safe and healthy in our backyards.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.