Something that always amazes us here in High Park is the extent of the wildlife living in this unique urban forest. It’s the biodiversity (the variety of plants and animals) you can find here that’s so important … it’s not just white squirrels! We often see ducks, swans, geese, hawks, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Night Herons, foxes, raccoons, rabbits, beavers, muskrats, groundhogs, chipmunks, mice, toads, frogs, turtles and snakes. Every now and then you can also see deer and coyotes.
Of course, more often than not, what you actually see is evidence of their presence, not the animals themselves. You should see the hole in the base of our green shed that the chipmunks have chewed! We’ve found snake skins, mouse nests and nuts stored in there too. It’s a very well used shed. If you head across the Garden and down the stairs to Grenadier Pond you’ll find an area where the local beaver colony has started collecting tree branches for their lodge.
One other thing you often find (we’ve officially made it to the gross part so I warn you now) is scat. Yes we’re talking animal poo. It may seem kinda icky but what it can tell us is really quite fascinating. Warning there are photos ahead … but I’ll bet you wouldn’t know what it is if I hadn’t already told you!
Finding this type of evidence helps us tell what types of animals are in the park and how healthy they are, even if we can’t see them. By the amount of fur and bones in the picture you can tell that this animal was eating well. By the way … these few pictures were taken just outside our office door. We really don’t have to go far to learn about the wildlife in our park!
You may have already guessed that this scat is from a larger animal. Judging by the size and shape we believe it’s from a coyote. It’s absolutely amazing that coyotes have adapted to live in a city as big as Toronto. They’re an extremely important animal to have around. They help balance the food chain/web here in the park. Of course there are some important rules to follow when it comes to wildlife in general and coyotes in particular if you happen to come across them in the City.
The most important rule: NEVER feed a coyote (or other wild animal, including ducks, geese, etc.) it’s against the law and can cause them to become much too familiar with humans. The other important rule is: if you come across a coyote (or fox, racoon, etc.) make sure you scare them off. Clap your hands, stamp your feet, yell shoo … it all works. Coyotes are shy creatures and we want them to stay that way. Encouraging them to run away when they see people is a good habit for both humans and coyotes. For more great information about coyotes in Toronto check out the City of Toronto’s Animal Services Wildlife in the City profile on Coyotes.
Now if you come across this little guy in the park:
Just try not to step on him! 😉