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


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.


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.


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.

Photos by Stephanie Weizenbach

Photos by Stephanie Weizenbach

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.


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.


Moose (Alces alces)

Moose are majestic giants who move quietly through the forest, rarely giving themselves away with a sound, but rather drawing your eye to their large shadowy figure. 

Photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS

Photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS

Why they Matter to Us

Moose

  • Are an important part of their ecosystem and influence the developing forest around them.
  • Are majestic attractions that draw visitors to Canada's parks and wildlands to view and study nature.
  • Have played a key role in the lives of First Nations People and provide large amounts of food for aboriginals and other hunters.

How You Can Help

  • Sponsor a Moose to help EALT conserve moose habitat.
  • Keep your distance when you spot a moose. Moose are most likely to trot away when alarmed, but have been known to charge humans, especially during mating season (September to October) or when they are with their young in the Spring.
  • Modify your barbed wire fence to meet wildlife friendly standards. This will ensure moose 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 moose using the following tips:
    • Use your high beams at night, when possible, to make the moose's eyes glow so you can see it 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.
    • Brake firmly if a moose runs out in front of the vehicle - avoid swerving.

How to Identify

Identify by Sight

Curious moose checking out our Glory Hills Wildlife Camera

Curious moose checking out our Glory Hills Wildlife Camera

  • Moose stand 6–7 feet at the shoulder and weigh up to 600 Kg.
  • They're the largest member of the deer family.
  • Both males and females have a shoulder hump and a loose fold of skin hanging from their throats, called a dewlap or bell.
  • Only males have large palm shaped antlers, which are shed every year in November or December. Keep an eye out and you may come across some one day!

Identify by Sign

 Moose leave several conspicuous signs that they were in the area

  • Large, elongated teardrop-shaped footprints (larger than a deer's print)
  • Large oval-shaped droppings (much larger than deer droppings)
  • A “browse line” about 4 – 8 feet from the ground where they have nibbled on shrubs and trees
  • “Beds” – flattened vegetation or depressions in the snow where they’ve stopped for a rest.

Identify by Sound

  • There are many different kinds of moose vocalizations. Some sound like horns or trumpets, while others sound like loud squealing. Usually they differ according to gender and purpose, like a female mating call vs. bugling, for example. 
    • Click here to listen to a wide variety of moose sounds.

Where to Find

In Alberta, moose are common in most eco-regions except prairie. They prefer muskeg, and shrubby meadows as well as treed habitat close to lakes, ponds, or streams where they can feed on aquatic plants, willows, and shrubs.

Photo by Dan Spangenburg

Photo by Dan Spangenburg

EALT Wildlife Camera - Glory Hills

EALT Wildlife Camera - Glory Hills

Social Life

  • Moose usually give birth to one calf, but twins are born up to 30% of the time.
  • Calves are able to swim soon after birth, so mom will sometimes swim to an island to give birth, where they are safe from predators.
  • Moose calves stay with their mom until she calves again the following spring. 

Food Chain

  • In the summer, a large moose eats 25 - 30 kg (55 - 66 lbs) each day, feeding on aquatic plants, willows, shrubs, twigs and leaves. 
  • In the winter, a large moose eats 15 - 20 kg (33 - 44 lbs) of twigs and shrubs each day. Moose restrict their food intake during the winter and limit their activity to save energy. As food becomes scarce closer to spring, they will eat bark from trees.
  • Moose are prey to bears, wolves, cougars, and calves are also prey for wolverines.

Fun Facts

  • Moose have terrible eye sight but make up for it with their heightened sense of hearing and smell.
  • Moose calves gain weight faster than any other large North American animal. In their first month, they gain half a kg a day, and later in the summer, gain 2 kg/day! 
  • A moose calf can outrun a human and can swim when its just a few days old! 
  • A bull's antlers can stretch as much as 1.8 m (6') from tip to tip, and together both may weigh up to 40 kg (88 lbs).


Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

Porcupines are gentle, misunderstood creatures who slowly, quietly wander our forests. When the lighting is right, a porcupine's yellow guard hairs give the illusion of a glow all around them. This slow moving animal's quills are their only defense. 

Photo by Stephanie Weizenbach

Photo by Stephanie Weizenbach

Why They Matter to Us

Porcupines

  • Keep forests healthy by eating mistletoe (a parasite of trees) and thinning out dense stands of saplings.
  • Historically, First Nations people used porcupine quills to decorate clothing and other objects. Porcupines were also an important source of food.

How You Can Help

  • Donate to help EALT protect important porcupine habitat. 
  • Volunteer to help EALT steward our natural areas and secure more areas to protect. 
  • Watch for porcupines on the road - they are slow moving and commonly get hit while crossing the road.
  • Leave porcupettes alone - baby porcupines are left on the ground in a hiding spot during the day, while mom naps in the trees. She comes by at night to feed her young. 

Myth Busters!

Porcupines cannot throw their quills. When danger threatens, the porcupine will hunch its back with all the quills standing up, and lash its tail threateningly when the predator or threat approaches. When the predator gets hit by the porcupine’s tail, the barbed quills stick in the predator’s skin and come out of the porcupine.


How to Identify

Identify by Sight

Porcupines have a dark brown face and undercoat with yellow-tipped guard hairs. These long guard hairs conceal the ~30,000 quills on their back and tail. The quills are approximately 1" to 2.5" long. They have short powerful legs, a thick tail, and long curved claws. Adult porcupines weigh around 22 lbs.

Identify by Sign

Look for bark stripped off of trees and willows, high off the ground. You can differentiate it from hare feeding by the height of the chew marks - if a hare couldn't reach that high, it was likely a porcupine. Also note, deer rubs leave behind stripped pieces still hanging on the tree, where as a porcupine eats the bark.


Where to Find

They are widespread in much of Canada, the United States and some parts of northern Mexico.
Their range includes habitats from northern forests to open tundra, rangelands, and deserts.
Because of their herbivorous habits, they're usually found in vegetated riparian habitats like mature forests along rivers.

Social Life

  • Porcupines are not very social and spend most of their time alone. However, they may share a den in the winter and sometimes forage for food in groups.
  • Porcupines of both sexes defend their territories. They rarely venture out of their territory, although have been known to do so for salt or apple excursions.
by Hardy Pletz

by Hardy Pletz

by Hardy Pletz

by Hardy Pletz

Food Chain

  • Porcupines climb trees to forage for food. In the summer they eat leaves of trees, shrubs, and forbs.
  • In the winter they eat inner tree bark (cambium), buds, twigs, and evergreen needles.
  • Sometimes they chew on leather, bones and shed antlers for salt, and to hone their incisors teeth, which can grow approximately 1.5 mm weekly.
  • Porcupine's main predators are fishers and cougars, and are also sometimes preyed upon by wolves, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, wolverines, and great horned owls.

Fun Facts

  • Porcupine quills are hollow, reducing their weight, and also making them buoyant swimmers!
  • Porcupine body temperature can drop 5 degrees C, when the ambient temperature falls near -18 degrees C, which is an adaptation to cold, and keeps them in the same position in trees for several days.
  • Porcupines can live for up to 18 years in the wild!


Fisher (Martes pennanti)

The fisher is possibly the swiftest and most agile member of the weasel family. These elusive creatures are primarily nocturnal but may be spotted during the day. Fishers are agile tree climbing carnivores but spend most of their time on the ground, and are one of the main predators to porcupines. 

Photo by Josh More

Photo by Josh More

Why they Matter to Us

Fishers

  • Are elusive creatures who peak our curiosity and are an extra special treat to spot in the wild.
  • Are a vital part of Alberta ecosystems – they help maintain biodiversity which helps stabilize the ecosystem.
  • Are one of the few species that prey on porcupines.
  • Their population was in serious decline due to pelt hunting until the 1940's. Their status is unknown today as they are rare in occurrence.

How You Can Help

Photo by Julie Dewilde

Photo by Julie Dewilde


How to Identify

The fisher has a medium to dark brown coat, sometimes with a cream chest patch of variable size and shape. They have a long body with short legs, a long, bushy tail and large ears. Fishers are 90 - 125 cm in length and the male is larger than the female. 


Where to Find

Fisher on our Wildlife Camera at Glory Hills

Fisher on our Wildlife Camera at Glory Hills

Fishers live in the forests of the boreal and Rocky Mountain natural regions. They are quite secretive and difficult to spot in their natural habitat. They rest in hollow logs, stumps, holes in the ground, and branch nests. In the winter, they use snow dens which have narrow tunnels leading to their burrow under the snow.

Although they are agile climbers, they generally travel on the forest floor. 

Our wildlife camera caught a glimpse of a fisher at Glory Hills.

Social Life

  • The fisher is a solitary animal that has an average home range of 25 square km.
  • Males generally have larger home ranges which overlap with female ranges but not usually overlapping with other males.
  • Fishers can hunt for themselves at just 4 months old, and generally disperse from their home a month thereafter.

Food Chain

  • This carnivore is a predator to many: porcupines, lynx, fox, fawns, squirrels, snowshoe hares, rodents, small birds, and many more. They also feed on carrion.
  • Young fishers are prey to hawks, foxes, lynx, and bobcats. Adults have almost no natural predators, but they compete for resources against other carnivores.

Fun Facts

Photo by Julie Dewilde

Photo by Julie Dewilde

  • Fishers are also known as Fisher cat, or Pennant’s cat, but it is not a cat, nor does it fish! Chipewyan First Nations have a much more accurate name for it Tha-cho, or big marten
  • Fishers can live up to 10 years in the wild.
  • Alberta is home to the smallest and largest members of the weasel family. The least weasel is the smallest at 2.5 ounces and the wolverine is the largest weighing 35 pounds.
  • Fishers have delayed implantation, meaning the embryo begins to develop but then stops growing and stays suspended until late winter, when it implants and development continues. This also occurs in Alberta bears.