Wild mint (Mentha arvensis)

This forb is distinctive and reminds many people of refreshing rejuvenation during hot summer days. A crushed leaf releases a sharp mint smell, and cooking with the leaves of wild mint adds a sharp fresh taste to your food. Keep your eyes open for this strong smelling plant as you walk through moist lowlands or the edges of riparian areas.

mint.jpg

Why they Matter to Us

  • Wild Mint is edible and is a useful foraging food for humans. The compound responsible for it’s distinct smell and taste (Menthol) is used in many products.

  • Because mint can flower throughout the growing season, it is important food for pollinators.

  • Mint leaves can be used as a natural treatment for minor ailments from headaches to anxiety.

  • The Mint plant or its leaves can be used as a natural pesticide or air freshener, and make a nice ground cover in gardens.

IMG_4484.JPG

How You Can Help

  • Leave wetlands in their natural state. This will ensure that there is always habitat for Wild Mint to grow in.

  • Plant Wild Mint in your garden using a cutting from a native plant. Be aware that they grow vigorously!

  • Support protected areas such as those conserved by EALT!

  • Avoid the use of pesticides. Some pesticides can reduce the growth of native and beneficial plants and insects.


How to Identify

To identify wild mint, look for these distinguishing features:

mint.jpg
  • All plants in the mint family have square stems, so this is an easy place to start identifying this plant.

  • Wild Mint can reach 1-2 meters in height.

  • The leaves are opposite, and the direction that each pair of leaves face alternates along the stem. The leaves are toothed, and have prominent veins and a hairy underside.

  • To differentiate it from others in this family, it has pale purple flowers cluster on the stem near each pair of leaves. Each flower has 4 petals and one petal is lobed.

  • Finally, to differentiate Wild Mint from other plants in its family, the easiest distinction from other plants in this family is to crush the leaves or stem. Wild mint will smell strongly of mint.


Where to Find

Mint is found across North America in wet or moist areas. Examples of places you could find Wild Mint include lowlands, wetlands, and edges of riparian zones, in areas that get at least some sunlight. It spreads effectively by rhizomes, and may cover a large area of ground where it is established.

 Weidemeyers Admiral by Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble

Weidemeyers Admiral by Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble

Food Chain

  • Wild Mint are primary producers and create food through photosynthesis. They require soil full of minerals, water, and sunlight.

  • Wild Mint provides food for certain insects including spider Mites, Aphids, Flea Beetles, some butterflies, as well as slugs and snails. This in turn provides food for other forest creatures

  • Wild Mint also provides an important food source for bees and other pollinators. They collect and use the nectar of the mint flowers to feed their young. Mint can flower throughout summer providing a reliable food source.

 Illustration of Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld and wife of Hades. Photo by sandpaper_tiger at flickr.com

Illustration of Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld and wife of Hades. Photo by sandpaper_tiger at flickr.com

Fun Facts

  • There is a Greek myth behind the naming of the mint genus, Mentha. The story goes that Persephone, Hades wife, turned a nymph named Minthe into a mint plant so that Minthe would not be seduced by Hades.

  • Historically Mint has been used by a variety of groups to help with a number of ailments including stomachaches, headaches, digestive issues, flatulence, cramps, and stress.

  • Mint is a deterrent for many animals and insects, including deer, mice and other rodents, mosquitoes, ants, flies, fleas, wasps, hornets, cockroaches, and moths. Either grow a live plant or place crushed leaves where you want to deter insects. Crushed leaves need replacing every few days.

  • Mint is edible and can be used in many foods, such as jelly, as a herb in many dishes, in sauces, teas, and in other drinks. The Mojito is an Cuban alcoholic drink that normally contains mint.

  • Menthol is the compound that gives this plant its characteristic aroma and taste. It is added to many items today including chewing gum, toothpaste, lozenges, and cosmetics.


Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small owl, but don’t let their small stature fool you! It just screams attitude with bright yellow eyes staring at you from its large cat-like face. You will probably not spot this bird as its coloring blends in with its habitat, but you might hear their unique call echoing through the forest.

 Photo by Doris May

Photo by Doris May

Why They Matter to Us

  • Saw-whet Owls are excellent rodent hunters and help keep rodent populations down.

  • Since these owls can nest in nest boxes, we can observe them and learn more about their behavior.

  • This species is very secretive, so little is understood about the population trends. There probably has been a decline due to forest habitat loss.

How You Can Help

  • Put up a Northern Saw-whet nest box. You can build your own box with these blueprints.

  • Avoid the use of poison to control rodent populations as these owls may become poisoned by eating the tainted rodents.

  • Avoid cutting down old, dying or dead trees as they can be perfect places for owl nests.

  • Support protected areas in the Edmonton area such as those conserved by EALT! You can donate or volunteer your time to help with conservation efforts!

 Juvenile Saw-whet Owls Photo by Marg Reine

Juvenile Saw-whet Owls Photo by Marg Reine

How to Identify

Identify by Sight

  • Adults have a mottled brown and white body

  • Juveniles have a cinnamon belly and a brown back

  • Typically a white ‘V’ in between their eyes

  • Bright yellow eyes

Identify by Flight

You would typically not spot this bird by flight but if you do, characteristics are:

  • Fluttering wing beats

  • Direct silent flight path from one point to another

  • White legs

Identify by Sound

  • The Northern Saw-whet Owl has a distinctive song of “too-too-too”, used to advertise territory and courtship typically heard from January to May. They also make other sounds including high “tssst” calls, and snapping their beak. Click here to listen to the different calls of the Northern Saw-whet Owl.

 Photo by Betty Fisher

Photo by Betty Fisher

Where to Find

Northern Saw-whet Owls are found in southern Canada, throughout the United States and into Mexico. Some are year-round residents and others are long-distance migrants which usually spend the winter in the States.

This species prefers to reside in mature forests, nesting in deciduous trees and roosting in conifer trees for protection. Despite this preference, this species has been found nesting in other habitats including coniferous swamps, disturbed forests and riverside forests like our own River Valley! The Northern Saw-whet Owl will also nest in nest boxes successfully.

Social Life

  • Northern Saw-whet Owl nesting behavior is partially understood but more research is needed due to its elusive nature.

  • Males draw in females to a potential territory with their “too-too-too” call.

  • The female probably builds the nest but the male helps choose potential sites.

  • The females do the nest incubation and brooding while the males do all the hunting.

  • Babies are born white and semi-helpless with closed eyes.

  • They will typically find new partners every year.

Food Chain

  • Owls are predators and the Northern Saw-Whet is no exception, targeting mice and other rodents.

  • If migrating, the Saw-whet may target birds, insects or even inter-tidal invertebrates if the bird is near the coast.

  • Northern Saw-whet Owls are prey for other larger birds of prey including Great Horned Owls and Peregrine Falcons.

 Photo By Doris May

Photo By Doris May

Fun Facts

  • Although there is no consensus as to why this owl species was given its name, it is theorized that one of its calls sounds like sharpening a saw on a whetting stone.

  • The migrating owls even cross large bodies of water. One owl flying over the Atlantic Ocean landed on a ship 70 miles from land.

  • The oldest wild bird on record was at least 9 years and 5 months old.

  • After the youngest chick in the nest is 18 days old, the female will leave the nest, and it’s young to the male to finish raising. Without the female to clean the nest, it is full of feces, pellets and rotten meat 10 to 14 days later when the young leave the nest.

  • These owls are hard to spot. The best way to find one as a bird watcher is to look for flocks of songbirds diving around a single point. A predator is definitely there!

 

Help conserve homes for Northern Saw-Whet Owls by donating to EALT today!


Sources

BirdLife International 2016. Aegolius acadicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22689366A93228694.  Downloaded on 25 October 2018.

Northern Saw-whet Owl information page from All About Birds.

Northern Saw-whet Owl information page from What Bird.

Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Saskatoon bushes are a shrub with tasty edible berries that is common in the Edmonton region. In the past, Indigenous people used the berry to make pemmican, which is preserved dried meat, and in today’s world, the berry is used to make many delicious foods including pies and jams.

 Photo by Patrick Kyle

Photo by Patrick Kyle

 Photo by Andrew Malone

Photo by Andrew Malone

Why They Matter to Us

  • Saskatoon shrubs have a long history of human usage both in the past and present. The berries are edible and provide important nutrients including Vitamin C and iron.

  • The presence of Saskatoon shrubs indicates that the area receives a significant amount of moisture as the plant will not grow in areas with less than 350 mm of annual precipitation.

  • As Saskatoon bushes typically grow in thickets, this shrub provides good wildlife habitat, preventing exposure of mammals and nesting birds to predators or bad weather.

  • Saskatoon berries are an important food in fall and winter for any wildlife, including especially birds.

How You Can Help

  • Avoid using pesticides as they can harm the bees that pollinate Saskatoon flowers. Saskatoon shrubs can self-fertilize but if bees pollinate the flowers, more berries are produced.

  • Plant Saskatoon shrubs in your garden instead of other non-native shrubs.

  • Support protected areas in the Edmonton area such as those conserved by EALT!

 Photo by Patsy Cotterill

Photo by Patsy Cotterill

How to Identify

Saskatoon bushes are a shrub, meaning they have woody growth, with young stems being red-brown and older stems being gray. Their alternately-arranged oval leaves are distinctive with toothed ends and smooth sides.

Flowers bloom in clusters of snowy white with each head containing 5 petals. They produce small purple/blue clusters of berries that taste similar to blueberries.

Where to find

Saskatoon shrubs can be found almost anywhere across Canada, from British Columbia to Ontario. and north in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It prefers areas with high levels of organic matter and well-drained soils

 Photo by Doris May

Photo by Doris May

Food Chain

  • The Saskatoon is a primary producer utilizing photosynthesis to create food. It requires sunlight and nutrient and water-rich soil.

  • All above-ground parts of the Saskatoon are food for wildlife. Branch tips and leaves serve as winter and summer foods for moose, elk and deer. The flower buds are fed on by sharp-tailed grouse in the spring and winter. Birds, bears, chipmunks, squirrels and other animals all feed on the berries and help spread the seeds through their scat.

Fun Facts

  • This shrub’s name comes from its Cree name “mis-ask-quah-toomina” which was shortened to “Saskatoon” by early settlers.

  • This shrub goes by many common names including serviceberry, Indian pear and juneberry.

  • After a fire, the Saskatoon shrub may lose its branches, leaves and flowers but the roots will typically survive if the soil is moist. It has been observed there is even more Saskatoon growth after a fire.

  • Indigenous usage of the Saskatoon included food, arrow shafts and medicine for liver trouble and intestinal issues.


Sources

  • Nature’s Nourishment. 20 Recipes Featuring wild native plants found in the Edmonton Region, from the Edmonton and Area Land Trust

  • Saskatoon webpage from Alberta Plant Watch


Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging Nettle is a fitting name for this plant, because it has formic acid in its leaf hairs. However, this plant was used for many medical uses, including abdominal issues, and is still eaten today! You can safely touch this plant if your skin is covered.

 Photo: H. Zell

Photo: H. Zell

Why They Matter to Us

  • Has long been utilized by Indigenous people to treat various medical conditions

  • Is full of vitamins important to human health

  • Has a strong association with human habitation and disturbance

  • Can indicate if the ground is frequently wet because the Stinging Nettle thrives in moist soil

Indigenous Uses for Stinging Nettle

  • Indigenous people used fresh leaves to treat acne, eczema, diarrhea, intestinal worms, and urinary tract infections

  • Nettles were boiled into a tea and drank as a childbirth aid by increasing milk production, hastening labor and relaxing the muscles

  • Stinging nettle leaves were used as a food and nutrient source including chlorophyll, carotene and Vitamin C

  • The plant’s long fibers were transformed into cord and fishing line

 Photo: Patrick Kyle

Photo: Patrick Kyle

How to Identify

  • Stinging nettles can be up to 3 m tall with opposite leaves that are jagged-toothed in shapes ranging from spear-like to oval.

  • Stinging nettle flowers are tiny, numerous green-ish and grow in drooping clusters on the plant.

Where to find

Stinging nettle is found throughout Canada except Nunavut. They prefer areas with moist, rich soils such as riparian areas and moist woodlands.

Food Chain

  • Stinging nettles are primary producers which means they create their own food. To create their own food with photosynthesis, they required mineral-rich soils, water and sunlight.

  • Due to the stinging nettle’s natural protection, this plant is avoided by most animals, except the larvae of various butterflies and moths.

Fun Facts

  • In Europe, the chlorophyll from this plant is used commercially as a food-safe green coloring agent (E140)

  • Stinging nettle leaves, which have a peppery zing or spinach like taste, are perfectly edible, BUT blanch the leaves thoroughly for safe eating first!

  • When the hairs on nettle leaves are broken, formic acid is released, causing a stinging on the skin.

  • Formic acid is used by humans for preserving livestock feed , household cleaning products and to protect pipes against corrosion


Sources


Aspen Poplar (Populus tremuloides)

Also known as Trembling Aspen or Quaking Aspen

This tree is essential to the Aspen Parkland, the ecoregion where Edmonton is found. Tall, straight, with powdery white bark, you can hardly miss this lovely tree. The trembling aspen gets its name from the unusual flat petiole, or leaf stems, which cause the leaves to flutter, or “quake” in the slightest breeze.

 Photo by Roxy Hastings

Photo by Roxy Hastings

Why they Matter to Us

  • Trembling Aspen have a long history of human use. They are an important source of lumber, presently and historically.

  • These trees are representative of the Aspen Parkland Ecoregion, where Edmonton is located.

  • Trembling Aspen provide food for porcupines, beavers, deer, moose, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, and black bears. They also provide homes for birds including songbirds, woodpeckers, and owls.

  • Trembling Aspen regenerate quickly in response to fire or other damage.

How You Can Help

 Snag providing habitat for many creatures

Snag providing habitat for many creatures

  • Leave dead or dying trees standing (rather than knocking them down) in natural areas and green spaces. They provide food and valuable habitat for woodpeckers, songbirds, insects, and mammals.

  • Plant trees. Whether you are in a natural area (with permission) or your backyard.

  • Support protected areas such as those conserved by EALT!

  • Be careful not to start fires. Put out your campfire throughily, and don’t throw cigarette butts on the ground.

  • Don’t hunt carnivores such as wolves. There is a chain of impacts on an ecosystem when top predators are removed. When there are few or no wolves, deer become extremely plentiful, and they can eat all the young aspen shoots, preventing regeneration.


How to Identify

To identify the Aspen Poplar tree, look for these distinguishing features:

 Male Pileated Woodpecker by Doris May

Male Pileated Woodpecker by Doris May

  • Aspen trees have white, powdery bark. Aspen is similar to balsam polar, with bark that is often slightly more grey and usually more wrinkled and rough, especially at the base.

  • Aspen tree are most often tall and straight.

  • Aspen leaves are petite and heart shaped.


Where to Find

Aspen is found across North America. It can be found in slightly drier areas (upland) than other tree species, but still needs some moisture. Examples of places you could find Aspen include pasture, uplands, and rolling hills.

aspen - PC - EALT (3).JPG

Food Chain

  • Aspen are primary producers and create food through photosynthesis. They require soil full of minerals, water, and sunlight.

  • Aspen photosynthesize even with their bark. This means that they can provide valuable winter food for porcupine, moose, black bear, beaver, ruffed grouse and rodents. These animals may eat the bark and/or leaves of aspen trees.

  • Aspen also provide food for a wide variety of insects and fungi. Insect larvae and adults may eat the leaves or rotting wood, and fungi may decompose the tree as well. This in turn provides food for other forest creatures, and the rotting tree will eventually provide nutrients to other trees in the forest.

Fun Facts

  • What is a tree? Some scientists think that an aspen grove connected by a root system may be a single organism. Aspen are known for “suckering” or producing new trees from their root system if adult trees are damaged. The roots stay connected, and all trees that are connected, known as a "clone" will grow leaves or lose their leaves all at the same time. If aspen responds in this way, can each tree still be considered a separate organism?

  • The oldest known aspen clone has lived more than 80,000 years on Utah’s Fishlake National Forest.  This clone has lived for 13 times as long as civilization as we know it today!

  • Aspen wood has many uses such as matches (not very flammable), saunas (doesn’t splinter much), and lumber.

  • In the past, aspen has been used as a painkiller. It contains salicylates, which are similar to aspirin. today salicylates are also used to treat acne, warts, dandruff, and ringworm, because the acid form can remove the outer layer of human skin. It can even be used also as a food preservative and as an antiseptic! Like any chemical, it can be harmful in too high a dose.

 



Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)

The Least Flycatcher is a small songbird species known for its hawking behaviour; darting out from a branch to catch insects on the fly. You may not have seen a Least Flycatcher, but you likely have heard one and didn’t know it! This species is widespread in the Edmonton area, for now.

 Least Flycatcher fledglings by Betty Fisher

Least Flycatcher fledglings by Betty Fisher

Why they Matter to Us

  • Least Flycatchers eat insects! They eat a variety of insects including midges, ants, flies, butterflies, beetles and even some mosquitoes.

  • They are sensitive to forest disturbance. This means they can be used as in indicator of environmental damage; if they aren't doing well, something is wrong in their environment.

  • In Canada and around the world, insectivorous birds like the Least Flycatcher are in steep decline. From 1970 to 2012, insectivorous bird populations in Canada declined an average of 70%. This is due to pesticide use, reductions in insect numbers, habitat loss, and climate change.

  • The Least Flycatcher is doing fairly well in the Edmonton area, but not as well in other parts of its range. 

How You Can Help

 Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

  • Avoid using pesticides in your garden, and especially near water bodies.

  • Support protected areas in the Edmonton region (such as EALT!). You can donate or volunteer your time to help with conservation efforts.

  • Reduce your carbon footprint to reduce impacts of climate change on Least Flycatcher habitat.


How to Identify

Identify by Sight

To identify the Least Flycatcher, look for these distinguishing features:

 Photo by Gerald Romanchuk.

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk.

  • Small size. The Least Flycatcher varies from 12-14 cm in length, has a wingspan of 20cm, and weighs around only 10g!

  • Olive gray body with a pale underside.

  • Yellowish to white wing bars.

  • Bold white eye ring.

  • Males are slightly bigger than females but the difference would not be noticeable in the wild.

To identify the Least Flycatcher as it flies by, look for these clues:

  • Undulating flight pattern.

  • Hawking behaviour: perching on a branch and darting out to catch insects before returning to perch again.

Identify by Sound

The Least Flycatcher, along with several others in the Empidonax genus, are virtually identical by color. The best way to tell apart these species is by song. You can hear the “Chebek! Chebek!” of the Least Flycatcher echoing through almost any forest in the Edmonton area. They may also make a shrill scream to indicate stress or danger.

  • Click here to listen to the many sounds of a Least Flycatcher.


Where to Find

Least Flycatchers can be found in forests across North America, from Mexico to the boreal forest. They prefer mid successional to mature deciduous forests with some shrubs and some open space in the understory. You could find them in almost any forested area in the Edmonton region.

In the winter, the Least Flycatcher migrates to Central America, so you will only find them in the Edmonton area from May until September.

Social Life

 Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

  • They are a migratory species and regularly spend winters in Central America

  • Males attract a female to a potential territory by singing

  • The female builds a nest over the course of 5-7 days

  • Babies are born altricial; helpless with eyes closed

  • They nest in clusters of up to 30 territories. This could provide safety for inner territories as well as extra mating opportunities for all.

Food Chain

  • They eat insects of all sorts, including: midges, ants, flies, butterflies, beetles, and mosquitos.

  • Their eggs can be predated by other birds such as red-winged blackbird, gray catbird, grackle, crows and magpies, and small mammals including red squirrel

  • Small owls like Saw-whet or Pygmy could eat adult Least Flycatchers

Fun Facts

  • It takes the Least Flycatcher 58 days to finish all aspects of breeding, including finding a mate, building a nest, laying eggs, and raising nestlings to independence

  • The oldest known flycatcher was 8 years old when caught during banding in Virginia!

 

Help conserve homes for Least Flycatchers by donating to EALT today! 


Sources


Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

The Tree Swallow is a common sight in central Alberta. This distinctive blue and white Swallow gracefully chases insects above rural agricultural fields. They spend almost all of their time flying and catching insects. Despite how common they are, they are in decline.

 Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Why they Matter to Us

  • Tree Swallows eat mosquitoes and other flying insects.

  • They frequently use nest boxes so we can watch them grow and learn about them.

  • Tree Swallows are in steep decline (49% from 1966 to 2014.) Like other insectivores, this is due to pesticide use, habitat loss, and climate change. 

  • Due to their visibility, Tree Swallows act as an indicator of environmental harm.

How You Can Help

 Tree Swallow at Nest Box

Tree Swallow at Nest Box

  • Don’t use pesticides in your garden or farm, particularly neonicotinoid pesticides. These wash into natural waterways and reduce insect numbers so the Tree Swallows don’t have as much food to eat.

  • Put up a nest box. Tree Swallows like open areas such as agricultural fields.

  • Support protected areas in the Edmonton region (such as EALT!). You can donate or volunteer your time to help with conservation efforts.

  • Reduce your carbon footprint to reduce impacts of climate change.


How to Identify

Identify by Sight

 To identify the Tree Swallow, look for these distinguishing features:

 Tree Swallow by Gerald Romanchuk

Tree Swallow by Gerald Romanchuk

  • Vivid blue back, head, and wings, though these may appear grey in young birds.

  • White underside.

  • Very small and flat bill.

  • Very long wings compared to the rest of their bodies.

  • Small size: Tree Swallows are 12-15 cm in length, up to a whopping 25g in weight, and a wingspan of 30-35 cm.

Identify in Flight

To identify the Tree Swallow as it flies by, look for these clues:

  • Extreme grace and agility while flying. Will dive and perform other acrobatic maneuvers to catch insects.

  • Long wings.

  • White underside and vivid blue upperparts.

Identify by Sound

Tree Swallows have a chattering song that they frequently make while flying and while stationary. Because they often gather in large numbers, they can make quite the racket!

  • Click here to listen to the many sounds of a Tree Swallow.


Where to Find

DSC_0017.JPG

You can find Tree Swallows in all parts of North America except the high Arctic. They breed from the tundra to the central United States, and they winter throughout most of Central America.

Despite their name, Tree Swallows prefer open areas like agricultural fields or wetlands. They get their name from their tendency to nest in tree cavities. This protects their young from predation. They like to be near wet or open areas because wetlands produce much of their preferred food.

Social Life

 by Gerald Romanchuk

by Gerald Romanchuk

  • The female builds the nest.

  • They may have up to 7 young, and they may nest twice in one season.

  • They are very social and like to breed in large groups.

  • Sometimes they take the same mate year after year.

  • They are migratory. They breed in Canada, spend a couple of months resting up in the central USA, then fly to Central America for the winter.

Food Chain

  • They primarily eat insects that they must catch by flying. This includes a wide variety of insects including: dragonflies, damselflies, flies, mayflies, ants, wasps, beetles, stoneflies, butterflies, and moths.

  • In the nest, their eggs and young may be predated by raccoons, black bears, chipmunks, mink, weasels, deer mice, feral cats, American Kestrels, Common Grackles, American Crows, and Northern Flickers. 

  • Outside the nest, adult Tree Swallows can be predated on by other bird species, including: Sharp-shinned Hawks, Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, and Black-billed Magpies.

Fun Facts

  • The oldest known Tree Swallow was 12 yrs when caught during banding in Ontario.

  • Tree Swallows use nest boxes. As forests and dead trees are cut down, these birds lose habitat. You  can put up a nest box to counter this.

  • Tree Swallows are some of the most graceful birds in the air, relying on incredible acrobatics to catch insects while flying.

 

Help conserve homes for Tree Swallows by donating to EALT today! 


Sources

 


Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus)

Little brown bats are gentle and shy nocturnal, flying mammals. You may have glimpsed one flying by at night as they find their way through the dark, sending out ultrasonic pulses of sound and listening for the returning echoes to locate obstacles.

 Little Brown Bat by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

Little Brown Bat by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

Why they Matter to Us

  • Little brown bats are federally listed as Endangered.

  • A little brown bat will consume 600 to 1,000 mosquitoes, or mosquito-sized bugs, per hour, and eat more than half of their own body weight in insects each night!

  • A feasting colony of bats helps manage insect populations. Bats eat insects that are considered pests who transmit disease, destroy farmers' crops and impact forest stands.

  • Bats are perceived as evil creatures who turn into vampires and are a dark, spooky figure featured on many Halloween decorations.

  • Bats provide scientists with a model to study echolocation.

How You Can Help

 Alberta Culture and Tourism volunteer day.

Alberta Culture and Tourism volunteer day.

  • Donate to EALT's Batty for Bat Houses campaign to protect and restore important bat habitat.

    • EALT has installed bat boxes at Glory Hills and Pipestone Creek and is installing several more in the summer of 2017.

  • Volunteer with EALT to steward local natural areas, install bat boxes, and monitor bat boxes.

  • Build your own bat house!

  • Sometimes bats roost in our buildings. If you happen along bat pups please remember they cannot fly and they still rely on their mothers. Bats reproduce very slowly for their size, and populations are slow to recover once lost. Click here for info on managing bats in buildings.

    • Don't install a bat box on your house, or other building where bats are not welcome roommates!


How to Identify

You’ve probably seen a little brown bat zip past while you were sitting around an evening campfire. Did you know their wingspan can be as wide as 20 cm? 

Identify by Sight

  • As the name suggests, the little brown bat is covered in brown fur, which is darker on their back and lighter on the front side.

  • Their wings are hairless and have a thin skin membrane stretched between the bat's extra long finger bones.

  • Adults generally weigh approximately 8.5 grams, and the females tend to be slightly larger than males.

 Little Brown Bats by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

Little Brown Bats by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

Identify by Sound

A maternity colony reveals its location during the day by the loud squeaking of the juveniles and scratching noises as the bats readjust position within the roost. Click here to listen to the sounds of a colony behind a barn wall.

As they fly, little brown bats emit clicking echolocation sounds. A bat detector can pick up these sounds to identify nearby bats.


Where to Find

The little brown bat is abundant all across Canada.  In the summer, they roost in colonies in buildings such as barns, sheds, houses, schools, and office towers. When not in cities, the little brown bats will roost in trees. Over the winter months, the bats roost in caves or mines.

They occupy three to four types of roosts: day, night, nursery, and hibernation roosts. Day and night roosts are chosen based on stable ambient temperatures. Nursery roosts are warmer and are only occupied by females and their offspring. Hibernation roosts are often places with high humidity and temperatures above freezing. Some bats do leave Alberta in the winter, like some people! 

Social Life

 Little Brown Bats by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

Little Brown Bats by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

Large numbers of little brown bats come together in mountain caves in the fall. This swarming activity creates a rapid turnover of individuals at each cave, creating ideal conditions for breeding. Hibernating females store sperm, and fertilization occurs in the spring.

After a gestation period of 50 - 60 days, the female gives birth to one pup. Mothers and their pups live together in a nursery colony. Mothers can identify their pups from their odor and squeaky calls.

Food Chain

The little brown bat is an opportunistic and efficient insect predator. They typically feed on swarms of insects to save their time and energy, catching them both in the air or gleaning them from flat surfaces like still water. Active bats can eat half their body weight in one night; talk about a full belly!

As a result of their nocturnal patterns, bats are kept safe from many predators. When they do venture out during the day, their biggest predators are great horned owls and magpies. Other opportunistic predators include cats, due to the close proximity of bat roosts to human establishments.  

 Little Brown Bat with White-nose Syndrome by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

Little Brown Bat with White-nose Syndrome by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

White-nose Syndrome

White-nose Syndrome has seriously harmed bat populations in parts of Canada. White-nose syndrome is a fungus that grows on the nose and mouth of the bat and other areas of the body during hibernation. The fungus irritates the bat and wakes it up; in search of food, the bat either dies of starvation or exposure to the cold elements.

 

 

 


Fun Facts

Fun Facts Bat.png
  • Little brown bats can live up to 6 to 7 years of age

  • Alberta is home to 9 species of bats

  • The majority of bats found in winter roosts are males and the location of most females during the winter is unknown

  • Females return to the same nursery roost year after year

  • Bats hang upside down because it is more energy efficient to begin flying by letting gravity help them, rather than fighting gravity to lift off

  • There are over 1,000 species of bats in the world. They are the 2nd most abundant type of mammal, behind rodents

 

Help conserve homes for Little Brown Bats in Alberta by donating to EALT today! 



Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)

The Canada lynx is one of three Canadian members of the cat family (Felidae) including the bobcat and cougar. They are elusive nighttime hunters that are rarely seen in the wild. 

 Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Why they Matter to Us

  • Lynx are an important predator, linked closely with snowshoe hare populations.
  • Due to their elusive nature, observing a lynx in its natural habitat is a rare treat and usually a fleeting, memorable moment.
  • The Edmonton Oilers' mascot, Hunter, is a Canada lynx!
  • At the start of the 1900s the Canada lynx population declined severely due to the fur trade until about the mid-1950s when long-haired furs went out of fashion. 
    • Canada lynx are still trapped today within regulations.

How You Can Help

  • Donate to EALT to protect crucial lynx and snowshoe hare habitat.
    • Canada lynx tracks have been observed at Glory Hills, along with several snowshoe hare signs and sightings.
  • Volunteer to help steward our natural areas and secure more forested areas to protect.

How to Identify

If you are ever in the forest and see a very large house cat roaming around, you are most likely in the presence of a Canada lynx. 

Identify by Sight

 Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

  • The Canada lynx is half the length of a cougar and weighs between 8 - 14 kg (18 - 31 lbs). They have long legs, making them about 60 cm tall.
  • Most notably, the Canada lynx has black tufts on their ears and a short, black-tipped tail.
  • The lynx's fur is long, dense and gray in the winter, and short, thin and reddish-brown in the summer.

Identify by Sound

The Canada lynx makes sounds similar to that of a really loud house cat.


Where to Find

The Canada lynx can be found in the boreal forest all across Canada. In Alberta, they are most common in mixedwood, montane and foothills. Lynx den in rock cavities hidden by dense forest with a thick undercover of shrubs and deadfall. 

Social Life

The Canada lynx is a territorial animal. Male lynxes generally live alone except during mating season when they will seek out a female. Lynxes mate in March and give birth to a litter of 3 - 4 kittens in May under a brush pile or uprooted tree. The kittens nurse and are brought food at the den. At 3 to 4 months old, the kittens join their mother in the hunt. 

 Lynx commonly sit and wait for food to hop on by. Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Lynx commonly sit and wait for food to hop on by. Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

 Another great photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Another great photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Food Chain

 Snowshoe hare by Gerald Romanchuk

Snowshoe hare by Gerald Romanchuk

The Canada lynx relies heavily on the snowshoe hare for its main food source. So much so that its population cycle roughly follows that of the snowshoe hare. When its main food source is scarce, the lynx will travel far to find alternative food sources, including birds, rodents, carrion, deer fawns, and lambs of mountain sheep.

The Canada lynx is a fast short distance runner, relying on their stealth to sneak up on and stalk prey. They often hunt at night as they have big eyes and superior hearing to find their prey.

Cougars, wolves, coyotes, and humans are predators to the Canada lynx. 

Fun Facts

 Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

  • Canada lynx can live to 15 - 20 years of age.
  • Their large fur-covered feet act like snowshoes allowing them to easily travel on snow. 
  • Just like a house cat, the lynx has retractable claws, used when catching prey. 
  • Lynx are excellent climbers, yet rare to see in a tree.

 

Help conserve homes for Canada Lynx by donating to EALT today! 



White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

White-tailed deer are an iconic species in the Alberta countryside. They are shy and usually bolt when spotted, waving their characteristic white flag as they retreat and disappear into the trees.

 Photo by Stephanie Weizenbach

Photo by Stephanie Weizenbach

Why they Matter to Us

  • Deer are an integral part of a healthy Albertan ecosystem, feeding on plants and serving as prey for many species.
  • White-tails are generally non-confrontational and a delight to glimpse in their natural habitat.
  • Early settlers and Native Americans used White-tailed deer hides to make buckskin leather.
    • They are still hunted today within regulations and used as meat and leather.
  • Shed antlers are commonly used as decorative pieces or as dog chews.

How You Can Help

  • Sponsor a White-tailed Deer to help EALT protect important deer habitat.
    • All of EALT's conserved lands are home to White-tailed deer.
  • Modify your barbed wire fence to meet wildlife friendly standards. This will ensure deer of all ages and condition can easily cross your fence.
    • You can also volunteer to help EALT remove hazardous barbed wire from our natural areas to improve wildlife habitat.
  • Reduce the chance of a vehicle collision with deer using the following tips:
    • Use your high beams at night, when possible, to make the deer's eyes glow so you can see the deer well in advance.
    • Scan the road and ditches ahead for animals, especially when travelling at dawn or dusk.
    • Slow down around curves, and at the crest of a hill. Reduce your speed at night when driving on unfamiliar roads, or roads lined with trees.
    • If you see a deer crossing the road ahead of you, look for more deer following behind it - they often travel in groups.
    • Brake firmly if a deer runs out in front of the vehicle - avoid swerving.
  • Help keep fawns safe when they are first born, in early June:
    • Does hide their fawn in tall grass or shrubs when they are first born, to keep them safe from predators. The doe returns every few hours to feed and move the fawn. If you see a fawn laying in the grass, leave it alone, and keep your pets away from it - mom will be by shortly.

How to identify

 Photo by Dawn Huczek

Photo by Dawn Huczek

Identify by Sight

  • White-tailed deer get their name from their tail which has a white underside. When alarmed, they hold their tail upright - exposing the white - as they bound away.
  • Their body is reddish-brown in the summer, changing to greyish-brown in the winter.
  • Bucks have unbranched antlers with tines extending from single beams.
  • Unlike mule deer, white-tails have no rump patch

Identify by Sign

  • Bucks rub their antlers on trees for a number of reasons: rubbing off velvet, marking territory during rut, and shedding their antlers. Look for stripped bark still hanging off the tree.
  • Deer droppings are larger than rabbit feces and smaller than moose droppings.
  • Hoof prints are 7 - 9 cm long by 4.5 - 6.5 cm wide and look like two elongated tear drop shapes. 
  • Deer are notorious for foraging continuously along the same pathway, so deer trails are well worn and easy to spot.
  • Deer beds can be found by noting flattened ovals in the snow or tall grasses.

Where to Find

White-tailed deer are one of the most widely distributed and numerous of all North America’s large animals. They are found in the prairie, parkland and southern boreal zones in Alberta and their range is expanding westward into the foothills, mountains and northward further into the boreal zone. Typical habitat includes aspen groves, and grasslands and fields near scattered patches of trees. 

 White-tailed fawn by Gerald Romanchuk

White-tailed fawn by Gerald Romanchuk

 Fawn safely hiding at Golden Ranches

Fawn safely hiding at Golden Ranches

Social Life

 White-tailed Buck by Gerald Romanchuk

White-tailed Buck by Gerald Romanchuk

  • In Alberta, the rut, or mating season, occurs in November. Males spar with rivals, battling each other with their antlers.
  • White-tailed deer are generally solitary in the summer and live in varying sizes of herds in the winter.

Food Chain

  • Abundant food makes almost any forested or bushy area suitable during the summer, while deer feed on leaves, branches, forbs, berries, and even lichens and fungi.
  • Surviving in the winter may be particularly difficult if there are too many deer competing for food or if the snow is too deep.
  • Deer (particularly fawns) are prey to many predators including: coyotes, wolves, cougars, etc.

Fun Facts

  • Bucks shed their antlers after the rut (approximately late February to March) and begin to regrow their antlers in the spring.
  • Fawns are born with white spots to help them camouflage. The spots emulate scattered light through a treed forest (sun/shade patterns created by leaf cover). 
  • Deer have scent glands between the two parts of their hooves, and on their legs. These scent glands are used to communicate with other deer.

 

Help conserve homes for White-tailed Deer by donating to EALT today! 



Coyote (Canis latrans)

The coyote is a medium-sized wild canine, a relative of both the wolf and your family dog, though a coyote has several distinct features and traits. Coyotes are also extremely resourceful animals that have learned to survive and thrive in large cities, while other animals struggle with shrinking habitats. It is not uncommon to spot an urban coyote in the city or by the highway, looking for food.

 Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk

Why They Matter to Us

  • Coyotes are clever, resourceful animals who spark curiosity and awe in many people. However, their clever, resourceful manner can also lead to human-coyote conflict.
  • A key link in the chain
    • Since the decline of the gray wolf, coyotes have played an important role as a top predator in Alberta.
    • Top predators such as the coyote keep the population of small mammals, such as jackrabbits, in check.
    • Without a top predator, a chain reaction occurs where herbivores exhaust their food supply, which leads to less seed production, a loss of biodiversity, reduced habitat for other birds and mammals, and increased soil erosion.
  • As scavengers, they help clear away hazardous animal waste.

How You Can Help

  • Donate to help EALT conserve natural spaces for coyotes to reside.
    • Our natural areas contain excellent habitat for coyotes and their prey. Coyotes, or signs of coyotes, have been observed at all of our natural areas. A female coyote has made her den and raised young at our Glory Hills property.
  • Help prevent coyote habituation. In order to co-exist with coyotes, there are various ways you can avoid human-coyote conflict:
    • When you encounter a coyote act aggressively – shout in a deep voice, wave your arms, throw non-edible objects towards the coyote, and make yourself look big.
    • Never run away from a coyote: like with most dogs, this behaviour makes them want to chase after you.
    • Secure anything that attracts coyotes to your property (garbage, compost, birdseed, pet food, fallen fruit).
    • Keep cats and small dogs indoors or supervised, and keep them on-leash in park areas.
    • Never feed a coyote either in person or by leaving food for it.

How to Identify

Identify by Sight

It is easy to mistake a coyote for a wolf, and vice versa. However, there are several notable differences: coyotes are generally smaller and lighter in build than wolves, with larger ears and smaller feet in comparison to their body size. The red markings on their snouts and ears also make coyotes stand out, and coyote noses tend to be long and pointed.

 Fox: Gerald Romanchuk, Coyote: Public Domain, Wolf: Stephanie Weizenbach, Source for Measurements: Animal Tracks of Alberta 

Fox: Gerald Romanchuk, Coyote: Public Domain, Wolf: Stephanie Weizenbach, Source for Measurements: Animal Tracks of Alberta 

Identify by Sound

Coyotes communicate with each other through a variety of calls, including howls, yips, yelps, and barks. They call most often at dusk or at night, but may call during the day. Coyotes will call most often in the spring and the fall, especially during mating season.

  • Listen to coyote calls here.

Where to Find

In general, coyotes live throughout Canada and the US, ending up as far north as Yukon, but also able to live as far south as the deserts of Arizona. In Canada, they mostly live in south, central, and western Canada. Residents of Edmonton commonly spot coyotes near the river valley and outer edges of the City.

Possible coyote habitat includes forests, grasslands, deserts, swamps, mountains, and also agriculture, suburban, and urban areas.

 Coyote passing by our wildlife camera at Glory Hills

Coyote passing by our wildlife camera at Glory Hills

 Coyote blending in at Golden Ranches

Coyote blending in at Golden Ranches

Social Life

  • Coyotes live in packs, mated pairs, or alone. Unlike a wolf pack, a coyote pack usually has up to six members, all of the same gender, and they may not stay together very long. A mated pair can stay together over several years, but not necessarily for life.
  • Mated pairs raise litters in a den.

Food Chain

  • Coyotes are omnivores and will eat anything they can find. They eat hares, mice, squirrels, frogs, and carrion (dead meat). They also eat vegetation and wild berries when they are plentiful.
  • Humans are the primary danger to coyotes, though coyotes are also preyed upon by wolves, cougars and bears.

Fun Facts

  • The name “coyote” comes from Mexican Spanish, ultimately derived from the Aztec word cóyotl, meaning “trickster.”
  • In the mythology of several indigenous North and Central American cultures, the coyote is indeed regarded as a trickster figure.
  • Its scientific name, Canis latrans, is Latin for “barking dog.”
  • A coyote can locate a prey hiding under the snow using its ears.

 

Help conserve homes for Coyotes by donating to EALT today! 



Beaver (Castor canadensis)

Beavers are keystone species literally and symbolically in Canada - these engineers have a larger-than-life impact on their surroundings and have even claimed their fame as our national emblem. Beavers are an integral part of Canada's history and future.

Why they Matter to Us

  • Beavers are a keystone species, meaning they have a strong impact on their surroundings which is disproportionate to their abundance. 
    • Beaver dams slow water, reduce erosion, and create wetland habitat beneficial for many species at all levels of the food chain.
    • Ponds built by beavers store water, helping to prevent flooding downstream. These ponds also filter water in the pond, releasing cleaner water downstream.
    • Beavers cut down aspen trees, promoting suckering - sucker shoots off of the roots of the 'mother' tree grow multiple new trees - rejuvenating the forest.
  • Beavers are historically important and are Canada's national emblem; they are pictured on the 5 cent coin.
    • Beaver pelts were very important in fur trading in the 19th century to make felt top hats. Thousands of pelts were shipped to Europe per year, endangering beaver populations across  Canada.
    • The Hudson’s Bay Company pictured a beaver on the shield of its coat of arms. A coin was made to equal the value of one male beaver pelt, and was known as a ‘buck’.

How You Can Help

  • Donate to help EALT protect important beaver habitat.
  • Volunteer to help EALT steward our natural areas and secure more areas to protect.  
  • Live in harmony with beavers. If a beaver family lives in your area, you can take steps to protect your favourite trees, without doing harm to the beavers. Simply wrap the trees with  hardware cloth or galvanized metal fencing, to a height of at least one meter.

How to Identify

Identify by Sight

Beavers are North America's largest rodent. Their waterproof fur is reddish brown or blackish brown and consists of two layers: finer underhairs and protective guard hairs. They have round ears and long orange front teeth which grow throughout their lifetime. Their flat scaly tail is used for swimming, standing, balancing and warning. They have long front toes for building structures and webbed hind feet for swimming. 

Identify by Sign

  • Major structures include beaver dams and lodges.
  • Other key signs include cut trees, slides from woodland slopes into a water body, drag paths leading into the water, and beaver trenches.

Where to find

Beavers live in all natural regions of Alberta except the alpine subregion. You can find beavers anywhere there are two key ingredients: trees and water. Beavers damn small streams to create a pond to sustain the family and build lodges out of sticks and mud to live in. Some beavers also burrow in river banks. 

 by Dorothy Monteith

by Dorothy Monteith

 by Doris May

by Doris May

Social Life

  • Beavers live in family groups which consist of two adults, the young (kits) from the previous year plus any new kits that are born.
  • Families live in a dome shaped lodge with underwater entrances, and an inside chamber which can measure 2.4 m wide and 1 m high. 
  • Kits help with construction in their second summer and before that winter, usually leave the colony to start a colony of their own.
  • A family moves dams once their food source has been exhausted.

Food Chain

  • Beavers eat the bark from trees, willows, and shrubs, and in the summer also feed on aquatic plants such as cattails and water-lilies.
  • Beavers create a cache of food close to their lodge, which is accessible all winter. 
  • Beavers generally have a long life span but can be prey to humans, wolves, and coyotes.

Fun Facts

  • Beavers normally live up to 10 years.
  • Among other aquatic adaptations, beavers have a set of transparent eyelids that work like underwater goggles!
  • Beavers have large, bright orange front teeth which grow throughout their lifetime - an adaptation to help them cut and chew hardwoods such as aspen and poplar.
  • Beaver lodge vents sometimes attract waterfowl such as geese or ducks as a warm place to nest and incubate their eggs.
  • Many beaver lodges have a 'mother-in-law suite' where a muskrat lives and helps patch up that area of the lodge.
  • Beavers are not actually responsible for the stomach ailment, "beaver fever." Beaver fever is giardiasis (caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia). Giardiasis is transmitted by drinking contaminated water. The most common carriers of the parasite are livestock, pets, and even people.

 

Help conserve homes for Beavers by donating to EALT today!