Humans have adapted diverse forms of transportation over the years. We have travelled by boats, horses, bicycles, cars, airplanes, skateboards, ATVs, segways, and SO many more. Personally, I’m still waiting for the true Back to the Future-style hoverboards. Evidently, there is a plethora of human strategies for moving around.
Now for a moment, imagine that you do not have access to any of these strategies. Instead, picture that you have a specific physiological adaptation that influences how you get from place to place. Maybe you have specialized fins, or wings, or move around on 4 legs, or 100 legs, or slither around without legs. Once you have imagined yourself as another creature, now think about moving around. How do you find food? What barriers do you encounter? How do you avoid predators? Where do you sleep? How do you get from place to place?
During this little exercise, where were you picturing yourself? Most of the time, we imagine that wildlife lives exclusively in the wild. But our world is not separated into wilderness and not. Wildness is integrated with the non-natural almost everywhere on Earth.
Edmonton is no exception. Edmonton is home to many diverse creatures. Some of them you might see on a daily basis. Animals like magpies, pigeons, and squirrels are very well adapted to city life. But many other creatures have a more difficult life in the built environment. It is especially challenging for these critters to move around in cities. Many species require soil, water, trees, bushes, etc. for defence, food, sleep, and displacement. Fortunately, animals in Edmonton have large natural spaces to roam around right in the city. These regions are pathways for biodiversity known as wildlife corridors.
A wildlife corridor is a type of nature pathway for animal habitats. Like a highway, flightpath, bike trail, or hallway, these are the paths that critters use to move around, particularly in urban locales. These corridors are becoming increasingly important as cities continue to encroach on what was once considered natural terrain. Pockets of nature are absolutely essential for plants and animals to thrive in cities. Edmonton has one of the largest continuous urban wildlife corridors: the North Saskatchewan River Valley. Edmonton’s River Valley is home to some fascinating species. Animals like coyotes, porcupines, deer, and peregrine falcons live in the river valley, where the abundance of green space makes for easy travel.
When visiting the river valley, you are likely to stumble upon some of these creatures. There are some prime photo ops along this wildlife corridor. Watching and photographing animals is definitely encouraged, but there are some things that you should and shouldn’t do when in contact with animals.
Wild animals might seem really happy to gobble down treats, but in the long run it’s not good for them or us. Unfortunately many birds in urban areas that are fed by people eat too much and cannot fly long distances. This means that they would be unable to migrate for the winter, which is a threat to their lives. Many animals including squirrels, coyotes, and geese can become over-reliant on humans for food. When people feed wild animals, it can lead to aggressive behaviour, malnutrition, overpopulation, and an increase in fecal matter in the water and on land.
Give them some space
Getting too close to wildlife can stress them out and put you at risk. For their wellbeing and for yours, don’t approach wildlife. Animals can hurt people when they get too close, often acting in self-defence. While on the other hand, some animals become too accustomed to human interactions. Over time they lose their natural instincts when becoming too comfortable with human contact. They might lose vital instincts that keep them from predators, that help them to hunt, or that allow them to reproduce. Experts recommend staying 100 meters away from wildlife like cougars, coyotes, and wolves (about the length of a football field) and 30 meters away from other large wildlife like deer (approximately the width of a hockey rink). For smaller animals, avoid touching them and give them a wide space bubble so as to not stress them out. Animal selfies might sound like a good idea, but are detrimental to the long-term health of the wildlife. Selfies are great, animal pictures are great, just try not the mix the two!
While exploring wildlife corridors, make sure that you know where your dog is at all times and make sure to keep your dog on a leash. Coyote-dog interactions can become quite aggressive, and either animal can get injured in these encounters. To ensure that your pet and the wild animal remain free from harm, keep your dog on a leash and always make sure that you have an eye on them. It is also a good idea to keep tabs on your cats. Cats are responsible for an estimated 200 million bird fatalities in Canada. When they are off hunting, cats can do serious harm to local bird populations. Make sure to always keep track of your pets when they are off exploring the homes of our diverse wildlife.
Appreciate the wonders of nature
To get the most out of your nature explorations, make sure to take in all of the beauty that exists in our world. Spending time outdoors surrounded by plants and wildlife is proven to improve our physical and mental health. There are fantastic trails across Edmonton for biking, jogging, hiking, and birding, as well as excellent spots to get down to the water for paddling and swimming. Get outside whenever possible, whether it’s to visit the river valley, the rocky mountains, the boreal forest, the badlands, or the plains. The prairies are home to diverse plants, animals, and terrain that are just waiting to be explored. The only thing missing is you.
Featured image Jeff Wallace / Flickr
Deer photo Robert Walsh / Pixabay
Pigeon photo Rudy and Peter Skitterians / Pixabay
Cat photo rihaij / Pixabay