After 16 years of handling the majority of the 150 education programs we do each year, Otis the Owl finally has a little help. Olive the Owl has joined our team after being orphaned this spring. She is not imprinted on people but has been socialized in order to be comfortable in her new role. She is still in training but has now attended several programs, wowing her audiences. Olive is fun and curious and will play a big part in connecting people to nature.
Staff at the Centre recently had a pleasant surprise when checking on the condition of a Big Brown Bat in recovery. As the enclosure was opened and staff reached for the recovering female bat, it was noticed that she had a rather large baby wrapped around her chest! The baby is surprisingly big weighing in at 3 grams. The normal weight of an adult Big Brown Bat is 17 grams. That equates to a human giving birth to about a 30lb baby!
How did this happen? Well, bats are one of approximately 100 species in the world that have what is known as delayed implantation. The bat is bred in the fall but holds the embryo in a dormant state until conditions are good and baby can grow.
Mother and baby are doing well but the next challenge will be what to do with the baby if mother doesn’t fly again. We are consulting with leading bat specialists to develop a plan.
For the past two springs we have been called to help the Parkland School in Red Deer as the snake hibernaculum (the place where snakes gather to spend the winter) on their property has numerous garter snakes awakening and making their way across the school grounds. The school is located a short distance from the Kerry Wood Nature Centre so the snakes are transported to the wetland and forest surrounding the Centre to spend their summer. They would have made their way there anyway but taking them away from the activity of a school ground is safer for both animals and people.
This year, as Gwen was moving the snakes, she noticed one that had some spine issue which limited her mobility. It was decided to take it back for some care and recovery. One June 22 that recovering garter snake gave birth to 22 healthy, little garter snakes! Although the female still cannot be released, after consultation with Alberta’s snake expert, the little snakes were released at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre where the mom would have given birth if not injured.
70% of the world’s snakes lay eggs while the others give birth to live young. Live-birthing, or viviparous snakes, tend to live in colder climates. Those who lay eggs require warmer climates to help incubate.
At the end of April, and again the middle of June we had thieves break in to our building. The first time they got away with more than $10,000 worth of tools and supplies and even took the keys to all our vehicles. The second time they came in during daylight hours, while staff was still working onsite, but didn't steal nearly as much. A huge thanks goes out to the supporters who helped us during this frustrating time.
Red Fox move into towns and cities to take advantage of abundant food sources such as jackrabbits, ground squirrels, or other small mammals. They can be deterred from living under sheds or other structures with lights, coyote or wolf urine (purchased at outdoor supply stores), or a radio playing to give the illusion of people always being there.
Northern Flickers can be seen in Alberta with many even staying all winter to feed on fruit and seeds at backyard feeders. MRWC sees several each year in the hospital, often hit by vehicles due to their habit of feeding in ditches.
Flickers are a type of woodpecker that feed mainly on insects on the ground. Ants are a particular favorite. They are a larger, brown bird with a spotted belly and a black bib. They can be found in two varieties - red or yellow shafted, meaning the undersides of the wings will be yellow or red. In both varieties the male will have a "mustache" but it will be black in the yellow shafted and red in the red shafted. A flash of the large white rump as they fly off is a good field mark to identify the bird.
Flickers are cavity nesters and both male and female work together to excavate holes in dead trees and raise the young. The nests do not have any bedding as once the young are over 2 weeks old they simply cling to the side of the hole and wait for parents to put their heads in to feed. Average clutch is 5-8 eggs.
The population of Flickers is considered in steep decline and has decreased by over 49% since 1966. They are most vulnerable to free roaming cats, pesticides, and vehicles. You can help by eliminating these dangers and by putting up nest boxes if you have appropriate habitat with a mix of open fields and forest.
We received a report of two skunks on the riverbank in Red Deer - one stuck and the other dead. Staff was sent and the healthy one was able to get free and ran away while the ”dead” one was found to still be breathing. She was scooped up and faithfully administered heat and treatment. By the evening she was up and interested in food. The next day she had made a full recovery!
After years of not being a part of the parade in Red Deer, we were very happy to celebrate and join in on all the fun once again. We have used the same skit during the walk since we first took part 30 years ago, and it's still just as popular. A huge thanks to our summer interns for putting on a great show!
We are very excited to have a small reception room open to the public the first part of August!
With the recent change to our intern program, we now have seven fun and eager young volunteers working from May through August/September.