Four ways to help wildlife through winter

Grey squirrel photo by gjohnstonphoto / Getty Images

Winter is falling across Canada, and with it a change in how people and wildlife behave while outdoors. As many compassionate animal lovers seek opportunities to help wildlife, The Fur-Bearers has put together this short list to get you started in a humane, ethical way.

  1. Volunteer with a wildlife rehabilitator. Whether it’s helping with transportation, capture, cleaning, fundraising, or other support, certified wildlife rehabilitators can use all the help they can get. Reach out to your local rehabilitator to find out what they may need through winter and how you can best support them. These dedicated individuals and groups will have the most direct impact on local wildlife, including injured, orphaned or ill animals.
  2. Reduce your impact. Holiday gift giving is a wonderful tradition, but it can also create a lot of waste, that impacts the ecosystem and animals. Look for opportunities to use zero waste gift wrapping and giving practices (coming up on an episode of our podcast, The Switch!), and make an effort to effectively reduce, reuse and when able, recycle.
  3. Give the animals space. While some species are in for a long winter nap, others will remain partially or fully active through winter. Be sure to give the animals space by practicing ethical photography, keeping pets leashed in natural or wild areas, and considering how our recreational activities may be impacting them.
  4. Keep managing attractants. Animals who hibernate or experience torpor may delay their long rests and remain active when food sources are available, putting them at risk for negative encounters and delaying necessary behavioural changes. As the lean winter months arrive, attractants can keep animals in an area where natural resources are scarce, as opposed to moving to where more resources are available. Continuing to maintain our properties and remove attractants, secure garbage and follow positive habits like these year-round are a major benefit to animals and their ecosystems.

Feeding wildlife in winter may often seem innocuous, or necessary. When development has occurred there is often a belief that wildlife requires supplemental feeding. Unfortunately, adding food to an ecosystem changes it, including the carrying capacity of animals benefiting from the feeding (by adding resources like food, we’re artificially increasing the number of animals who can inhabit an area). This becomes a problem for spreading of disease, attracting predators, leading to a population crash, and/or otherwise affecting the ecosystem and how animals behave.

These four tips can go a long way to increasing the positive impact you have on local wildlife, ecosystems and greater community. We’d love to hear how you’re helping! Tag us on social media using the links below and let us know what you’re doing to help wildlife!

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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