As with most cities, it is common to see wildlife in Saskatoon. The City of Saskatoon offers wildlife services primarily related to trapped, injured and diseased animals.
What kind of wildlife might I see?
There are a number of animals that can be seen in Saskatoon including coyotes, foxes, moose, deer, rabbits, porcupines, beavers, muskrats and many others. The City of Saskatoon, Parks Division offers services for wildlife in Saskatoon. If you have questions or are requesting about wildlife in Saskatoon or the City of Saskatoon services call 306-975-3300. It is important to never approach or feed wildlife.
Who do I contact?
Please call City of Saskatoon, Parks Division at 306-975-3300 during regular office hours. If there is an emergercy after hours, please call public works at 306-975-2476. For concerns about larger animals (e.g. moose or deer) contact the Ministry of Environment at 306-933-6240.
Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are native to North America. They have thick black fur often with white on the back. Adult skunks are approximately the size of cat, 50-70 cm in length and weigh 1.1-6.8 kg.
Skunk Behaviour and Habitat
Skunks are most active from dusk to dawn, but can be seen during the day particularly in the fall and winter. In urban areas, skunks den under sheds, decks and porches. Skunks release an oil that produces a pungent odour. Before spraying, they give warnings such as stamping their feet, vocalizing and raising their tail. Skunks eat a variety of food including pet food, insects, eggs, small rodents, plants and bird seed.
Skunks are common in urban areas, including Saskatoon. To prevent skunks from entering your property consider these tips:
- Ensure garbage, compost, birdseed and pet food are not accessible.
- Prevent access underneath sheds or other structures that can provide shelter.
- Remove wood and other construction material that can create habitat for insects, an important food source for skunks, and provide shelter for skunks.
- Fix open gates and broken fences to prevent easy access to the property.
Skunks and Disease
Skunks can carry and transmit rabies. Rabies is primarily transmitted through bites from an infected animal. People are not likely to be bitten by a skunk, but pets can contract rabies from skunks. It is important that your pets receive vaccinations, as recommended by your veterinarian.
Coyotes (Canis latrans) are members of the dog family, native to North America. They resemble a medium-sized dog, with adults weighing 10-18 kilograms (20-40 pounds). Long winter fur often makes these animals appear larger. Coyotes are up to 1.5 meters long including the tail, and stand about 60 cm at the shoulder. Males are typically larger than females. Coyotes vary in colouration but their fur is usually reddish-brown to gray. Coyotes tend to walk in a straight line and will often form well packed trails within their territory. Coyote tracks differ from dogs in that the print is much narrower.
Coyote Life Cycle
(from Coexisting with Coyotes brochure, Project Coyote)
- December to February - Breeding activity
- February to April - Den site selection
- April to May - Birthing
- May to July - Raising pups
- July to October - Expanding home range
- October to December - Dispersal of pups
Range and habits
Coyotes can be found throughout much of North America. Coyotes are being seen with increased frequency in many urban centres including Saskatoon. They tend to be found in open spaces like parks and school grounds but can also be seen in residential neighbourhoods especially in the winter months.
Throughout much of the year coyotes are in the city, but they are rarely seen as they are primarily nocturnal and often stay in territories which typically include larger open spaces such as naturalized parks. In the winter coyotes have different habits, which can include activity throughout the day and increased frequency in residential areas. This is especially true of young coyotes which do not have established territories and are seeking food and shelter. Coyotes will seek shelter under decks and other structures and will often feed on fruit, bird feed (especially containing lard or suet), and pet food.
Coyotes and disease
Rabies is rare in Saskatchewan and rare in coyotes. In Saskatchewan the most common carriers of rabies are bats and skunks. Coyotes are not common carriers and are rarely involved in the transmission of the disease to humans or pets. Coyotes can be carriers of canine distemper and Echinococcus multilocularis, a tapeworm that can be found in the digestive tract of coyotes. It is important to remember to vaccinate pets and provide de-worming medication on a regular basis.
Hazing or repeatedly directing negative stimuli towards coyotes is an important tool which can modify coyote behaviour. This practice helps to reinforce a coyote’s natural fear of people and helps ensure they maintain that fear. Directly or indirectly feeding coyotes has the opposite effect and will decrease a coyote’s fear of people. In instances where coyotes have bitten someone, coyotes are often being fed by people.
Coyotes and pets
Coyotes will occasionally act aggressively towards dogs and cats. Aggression towards dogs is more likely to occur when coyotes have pups in their den. If a negative encounter (displaying barred teeth, charging towards a dog) occurs, act aggressively towards the coyote and scare the animal away. Remove the dog as soon as possible. Although rare, coyotes can feed on smaller pets such as cats and small dogs. It is important to keep pets supervised when outside and especially in natural areas such as the off-leash dog parks.
If you encounter a coyote:
- Never approach
- Never attempt to feed
- Do not run
- Maintain eye contact
- Make loud noises
- Stamp your feet
- Clap your hands
- Provide the animal with escape routes
What to do when coyotes are in your yard:
- Secure the yard with fencing or ensure gates remain closed
- Remove food sources including fruit, pet food, bird feeders with suet or lard
- Scare the animal each time you see it in the yard to discourage it from returning
- Secures decks, gazebos and other structures that a coyote may use as shelter
- Place or move objects, novel objects make coyotes nervous and they may avoid your yard
- Install motion activated lights to scare coyotes
The most common species of bat in Saskatoon is the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). This species will often roost in homes and old buildings. All bats in Saskatoon feed on insects and it is common to see them foraging at night. Bats eat large quantities of night flying insects including moths, beetles and flies (including mosquitoes). If bats are disturbed from a roosting site or during the spring and fall migration, it is possible to see them during the day. If you see a bat during the day leave it alone as it will likely leave during the evening.
Reproduction and life cycle
Bats hibernate from November to May. The females form maternity or brood colonies. This is where the pups are born. The brood colonies can be found in barns, houses, trees and crevices. The colony size can vary from less than ten to several hundred individuals. Males will roost singly or in small groups. Young bats can fly at approximately 6 weeks. Mating occurs in the fall.
A bite from any animal can be dangerous and if you are bitten you should consult a physician. Bats can carry rabies and potentially transmit rabies to people or pets. Rabies is a serious neurological disease that is often fatal. If you observe a bat lying on the ground do not touch it, as it may be sick or injured. These can be reported to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan 306-242-7177 or the City of Saskatoon, Parks Division 306-975-3300. It is important to have your pets vaccinated against rabies.
What you can do?
Bats are protected under the Saskatchewan Wildlife Act and cannot be killed. If you find that you have bats in your home, exclusion is the best option. This can involve installing one way doors so that as bats leave they cannot re-enter. This should not be done in July and August when the pups cannot leave the roost. Pest control companies can assist with the installation of a one way door. Installing a bat house in combination with exclusion methods increases the likelihood that bats will change their roost location.