Knight's Canadian Info Collection
Knight's Canadian Info Collection


Little Critters of B.C.

British Columbia is home to more mammal and bird species than any other Canadian Province. Of 209 known terrestrial mammals in Canada, 119 live in BC. Of 462 known resident species of birds, 362 live in BC.

The following are just a few of the "Little Critters" that make their home in BC.

Tamiasciurus douglasii
Douglas Squirrel This species is British Columbia's "native squirel" and is found in Canada only along the southwest coast of BC. Adults are somewhat smaller than the grey squirrels. In summer its back is dark grizzled olive-brown above with blackish ear tufts, black flank stripe and orange feet and underparts and a whitish eye ring. The tail is reddish brown with a black band near the tip and white tip. The winter coat has less contrast although the tail remains the same. It is also known as a "pine squirrel" or "chickaree"
They are mostly arboreal and live in hollow trees or nests they have made. They are also having habitat problems in the urban areas. If food supply is sufficient, both Grey and Douglas squirrels can live in the same territory, but will always chase one another for first crack at the food.

Sciurus carolinensis
Grey Squirrel Known in BC as the "Eastern" grey squirrel, they are black, grey or brindle in colour. They were introduced to Vancouver's Stanley Park prior to 1914, but are not considered to be a native species. They have spread throughout Vancouver, the North Shore and into the Fraser Valley area surrounding the city.
They make their nests (called drays) in trees. Usually they have two, in case of danger. Unfortunately in the city the lack of trees forces them into attics to nest, thereby annoying intolerant humans. The babies are raised by only the female. Adults are 20 to 24 inches long including a 10 to 12 inch long bushy tail and weigh 1 to 1 1/2 pounds at two years of age. They have 22 teeth including four large and sharp incisors which grow continuously.
Squirrels can run 12 m.p.h. on the ground, and jump six feet at high speed. They prefer to be in trees where they can jump up to 30 feet from branch to branch. They are active during the day. Squirrels love peanuts and sunflower seeds (they love the 'black-oil' variety) and will use their considerable skills to rob bird feeders of these treats.

Glaucomys sabrinus
Flying Squirrel This small squirrel lives all across North America from Labrador to Alaska and down to the Western Rockies and all of BC. It is sociable, living in a "commune" and the male stays around when the female is raising her young. They are usually just a bit smaller than a grey when fully grown.
The flyer is nocturnal. It lives in drays or tree cavities, preferably in cedar or spruce trees.
The flying squirrel is reddish brown on top with grey and pinkish brown splotches on the cheeks and upper underparts. The lower abdomen is grey and the broad flattened tail is grey above and brown grey underneath.
These squirrels are called "flying" but they actually glide from tree to tree. They have a membrane of fur-covered skin and muscle which is attached to the wrist and ankles and forms a "wing" on each side of the body. When the squirrel wishes to use its legs the membrane is pulled up over the back. It is more or less like a delta-winged airplane. They can steer with their tails. They also have webbed feet to assist in stearing while in flight.

Didelpis virginianus
Opossum North America's only known marsupial (female has a pouch), the opossum is a strange and wonderful mammal. The female carries and nurses her young in her marsupium until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months whenever they are away from the den.
They grow to the size of a cat and have grey to black fur, black eyes, pink nose, feet and tail, black ears and pointed nose.
Solitary and nocturnal, they are usually slow moving, but when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state - "playing 'possum".
Opossums hiss or growl and show their 50 sharp teeth when frightened, but, in reality, they are gentle and placid they prefer to avoid all confrontations and usually just wish to be left alone.
Omnivorous animals, they eat insects, snails, slugs, rodents, berries, over-ripe fruit, carrion. Occasionally they will eat snakes, ground eggs, corn or other vegetables.
They are very adaptable and able to live wherever water, food, and shelter exist. At home in trees, the 'possum uses its prehensile tail to help stabilize position when climbing it does not, however, hang by its tail.
Few opossums live beyond the age of 1 year in the wild, but can live up to 10 years in captivity. They are killed by many predators: humans (and cars), dogs, cats, owls, and larger wildlife, such as coyotes.

Procyon lotor
Raccoon Raccoons are one of the most familiar North American animals, if only in folklore and stories. Their adaptability has allowed them to withstand drastic changes in their habitat while their intelligence, cleanliness and appealing looks have combined to make them popular. Their head and body length is 16-24 in. with a tail of 8-16 in. and they weigh up to 45lb. Their fur is grey to black with black rings on the tail and a distinctive black 'burglar mask' over their eyes. Their feet have long toes and front paws are almost hand-like and very dexterous.
Raccoons are relatives of pandas, kinkajous and coatis. There are seven species, the best known ranges from Canada to Central America.
Raccoons originally lived in woods and brushy country, usually near water, but as the woods have been cut down they have adapted to life in open country. They are solitary, each one living in a home range of about 4 acres, with a den in a hollow tree or in a rock crevice. They come out more at night, and are good climbers and swimmers. In the northern part of their range raccoons grow a thick coat and sleep through cold spells. Where trees have been cut down raccoons move into fox burrows or barns and they have been known to spread into towns, even to the middle of cities where they live in attics and sheds and raid garbage bins for food.
Raiding garbage bins is one of the raccoon's less popular traits. Apart from the mess, the bins are sometimes carried away bodily. There are stories of ropes securing the bins being untied, rather than bitten through. This is evidence of the raccoon's extreme dexterity. They use their hands almost as skilfully as monkeys - experiments have shown that their sense of touch is very well developed.
Raccoons eat a wide variety of both plant and animal food. It is the ability to take so many kinds of food that is probably the secret of the raccoon's success and of it's ability to survive changes in their environment. Raccoons are primarily carnivores; earthworms, snails, slugs, insects, frogs and other small creatures are included in their diet and raccoons also search in swamps and streams for crayfish and along the shore for shellfish. The eggs and chicks of birds, both ground and tree nesters, are eaten and raccoons are sometimes pests on poultry farms and in waterfowl breeding grounds. They are also pests on agricultural land because they invade fields of corn, ripping off corn ears and scattering them half-eaten. Fruits, berries and nuts are also eaten.BR> Raccoons mate in January or February, each male mating with several females then leaving them to raise the family. The young, usually 3 or 4 to a litter, are born from April to June, after 60-70 days gestation. They weigh 2 1/2 oz at birth and are clad in a coat of fuzzy fur, already bearing the characteristic black mask. Their eyes open in 18 days and at about 10 weeks they emerge from the nest for short trips with their mother. The trips get longer as the young learn to forage for themselves, but they stay with their mother until about one year old. Raccoons live as long as 13 years in the wild.

Mephitis mephitis
Skunk The skunk is a large-bodied animal about the size of a cat. Their color is pure black and pure white. They have short legs, a bushy tail and sharp, curved claws used for ripping food. They have short ears and the soles of their feet (pads) are nearly bare. They are black, with white stripes down their back - from short to narrow and broad. Skunks have very well developed scent glands containing a very powerful chemical with a disgusting odour that will burn your eyes and skin if they come in contact. They can spray this scent for quite a distance, and it is their main defence weapon against predators.
Skunks average around 7 or 8 lbs, but larger animals have be seen. They are usually found around buildings where there are plenty of mice, rats and table scraps to eat.
Skunks belong to the Weasel family, and are found throughout North America. The skunk is not strictly a nocturnal animal, as they are sometimes seen in broad daylight, especially in the mating season. In the Fall of the year, they can be seen out early in the evening hunting for grubs, grasshoppers, insects, crickets, mice, rats, frogs and snakes which make up their main diet.
The skunk breeds in February, and litter from 7 to 10 kits which are born in early April.

Critter Care Wildlife Society
In 1984 a small group of caring British Columbia citizens began providing their homes as temporary sanctuaries for orphaned small mammals. By 1993 the group had become a fully fledged registered charitable organization known as Critter Care Wildlife Society. Its mission - to provide short and long-term in-home care to small native mammal species and, through rehabilitation and public education, to help prevent suffering of injured and orphaned wildlife. Since home care seems to be the best method to bring orphaned infants to maturity, the Society seeks, recruits and trains in-home caregivers who are not only willing to take these animals into their homes but to make every effort to ensure the animals are wild upon release. Working with the cooperation of veterinarians, humane animal control businesses and other wildlife rehabilitation groups, Critter Care has provided consistent care for a caseload that more than doubles each and every year! Critter Care operates under a permit from the B.C. Ministry of Environment.

To learn more about Critter Care and the important work they do to save our British Columbia wildlife, please click on Critter Care Logo or name below.

Critter Care Wildlife Society

Thanks to Critter Care for the use of the following information

Urban Wildlife
Wild animals move into our homes because the continual encroachment of human development has destroyed their homes. Please keep this in mind when dealing with any uninvited wildlife guest and treat them with patience and compassion.

Raccoons most frequently seek out attics, garage rafters, crawl spaces or sun decks as isolated safe places to have their young. By mid-June, when the young are old enough to climb, the family will seek a den closer to a food source. When weaned the young will begin foraging. If you don't want them in your yard - remove any food. Don't put garage out until pick-up time. use bungee cord restraints on garbage can lids.

Skunks can be of great benefit to gardeners because they consume a variety of insects, grubs and gypsy moth caterpillars. If they do take up residence under a porch or garden shed, wait until around late June, then sprinkle a thin layer of flour around the hole and examine for tracks soon after dark. When you find tracks leading out, seal the hole with lumber, wire fencing or concrete. Skunks are diggers so you will have to extend your barrier 12-18 inches underground. Remember, skunks are peaceful animals that when disturbed, providing you don't overreact, will usually walk calmly away. Spraying is used only as a last resort when the animal feels seriously threatened.

Rabbits do not invade man's home but they can cause havoc with his garden. Bone meal, human hair and netting may help. Some people plant a special "bunnypatch" of dandelions, clover and greens. If the rest of the garden is screened, they will take the easiest route and eat freely from the patch.

Squirrels sometimes seek out an attic as a safe location to have their young. But after about six weeks, when the young are able to leave the nest, the entire family will move to a summer nest in the trees. This is the time to repair attic openings to prevent a recurrence, since squirrels have two litters a year. Bone Meal fertilizer mixed with topsoil should put an end to garden excavations and baffles added to your bird feeder will prevent pilfering.

Opossums are the least troublesome mammals but should they decide to den under a porch, they may make nocturnal raids on the compost heap or domestic pet dishes. They are, however, very wary and can be scared off quite easily by opening the nearest door.

Does the Animal Need to be Rescued?
The general rule of thumb is if you can approach the animal as though to make contact and the animal does not run, then something is wrong! Remember, too, it is far better for baby animals to be raised by their parents. Don't assume they have been abandoned until you have monitored the situation for some time - the parent could just be out foraging.

10 Golden Rules For Living with Wildlife

Keep these basic tips in mind:

1. Trapping adult animals during the birthing season has a devastating impact on the young which are then left to die. It is expensive and ineffectual for the homeowner as nature hates a vacuum and other animals will simply attempt to occupy the vacated space.

2. Prevention is the safest, less expensive and least traumatic method for handling wildlife problems so animal-proof your home before the critters move in.

3. Wild animals are attracted by food, so eliminate the attraction. Feed domestic pets indoors.

4. Do not encourage wildlife who do their foraging at night by leaving garbage or pet food outside, by not closing shed or garage doors, or by hand feeding.

5. Installing netting around the vegetable garden will discourage raccoons.

6. Keep branches pruned on any trees near the sides or roof of your house so that wildlife will not have a "ladder" onto your property.

7. Check at least once a year for any area needing repairs in your attic, chimney, exhaust vents, eaves and overhangs, etc. that could encourage animals to enter. Repair any weak spots immediately.

8. Erect a low voltage wire around swimming pools, fish ponds and hot tubs.

9. Keep all domestic pets in after dark.

10. REMEMBER - it is ILLEGAL to keep any wildlife without a valid permit.

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