Wildlife FAQs

The solutions to some common wildlife problems

Did a person or pet come into contact with a bat? Did anyone wake up to find a bat in their bedroom or sleeping area?

If yes, contact the City of Ottawa’s Public Health Branch immediately by calling 3-1-1 (or 613-580-2400). Bat bites are not always noticeable.

Bats often roost in houses (usually attics), sometimes for years, without being noticed by humans. Occasionally, an individual bat is found inside a house, flying around and landing on curtains or furniture.

The rule with any bat encounter is to remain calm and keep pets and children away. Keep as near to a wall as possible when moving around the room. From a distance observe the bat for any signs of sickness. (“Sick” usually involves the animal staying in one place, out in the open, not moving for long periods of time, lethargic, and possibly has crusty eyes.) If the bat appears sick, contact the City of Ottawa’s Public Health Branch via the City’s Call Centre at 3-1-1.

If a bat has flown into your house through an open door or window and there has been no direct contact between the bat and humans in the house, simply close all doors leading further inside the house and open the door or window that directly leads to the outside and the bat should fly out. The OHS does not recommend that members of the public attempt to capture and confine bats. For more information on how to safely remove a bat from a house, contact the City of Ottawa’s Public Health Branch via the City’s Call Centre at 3-1-1.

After a bat has been found (and safely removed), it’s important to find out how he entered the house. If open doors and windows can be ruled out, then it’s likely the bat has been roosting within the outer walls of the house and has found a route to the living space. Common entry points include gaps around air conditioners, chimneys, and openings in interior walls that lead to attics or cellars. Inspect thoroughly, as bats can fit through openings as small as half an inch.

The key to excluding a bat colony from a building is to find any and all openings that the animals are using. A “bat watch” at dusk can help you find the entrances. Watch closely from before sunset until about 30 minutes after sunset. The best strategy is to let the bats leave on their own, then deny them reentry. However, bats should only be evicted when it is known that there are no young present. With that thought in mind, it is best not to solve bat colony problems from May through August. Waiting until they have left for winter hibernation also allows the exclusion to be done carefully and deliberately.

Exclusion is the only permanent and humane solution for a bat problem. For diagrams and step-by-step directions for exclusion methods, as well as general information about bats, you can visit www.batcon.org.

Source: The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and Wikipedia.

For more information on bats, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 221, or send us an email.

More info on bat conflicts

Back to top

Questions about mice?

Read more about mice

Back to top

What do I need to know about raccoons?

One of the most adaptable species of wildlife, raccoons are found throughout temperate North America and range as far south as South America. When conditions are favourable, they can live up to 10 to 13 years. They will produce one litter per year with an average of four or five kits.

Raccoons are opportunistic feeders and being truly omnivorous, will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, insects, eggs, small birds and mammals. They are usually nocturnal although may occasionally be active in the daytime.

As raccoons are usually active at night, by day they retire to dens or resting sites. Dens are made above ground in tree cavities, chimneys and attics, as well as underground in old woodchuck burrows, storm sewers or crawl spaces under buildings. When they feel secure enough, raccoons may simply lie on open ground, in suburban yards, or on decks!

Raccoons’ ability to adapt to different habitats, combined with intelligence and curiosity, have allowed them to become proficient city dwellers. This often brings them into conflict with homeowners as the animals seek food and shelter.

Source: The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Humane Society of the United States.

For more information on raccoons, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Info on Raccoon Conflicts

Back to top

What do I need to know about skunks?

These unmistakable black and white animals are found in most urban environments in Canada. Of the four species in North America, the striped skunk and the spotted skunk are found in Canada. The most prevalent species, the striped skunk, is about the size of a cat with white stripes down its back meeting on the head. The spotted skunk is about half the size of the striped skunk and has white spots instead of stripes. Skunks have small heads and eyes, pointed snouts and short legs that make their movements slow and rather cumbersome.

Skunks are burrowing animals that choose to make their dens under porches, decks, sheds, in wood or rock piles and are capable of digging a den a foot underground. They are nocturnal omnivores, feeding on plants, insects, small mammals, bird eggs and fallen fruits. They do not hibernate and several females may den together over the winter.

Skunks are rarely aggressive unless cornered or defending their young. If approached or threatened and unable to flee, a skunk will usually fluff its fur, lift its tail, stamp the ground with its front feet, and growl. If these actions are not effective in discouraging the intruder, it will lift its tail up over its head and spray. The chemical skunks spray is a sulphur compound that is ejected from two small openings near the rectum. The glands that produce the chemical hold enough for five or six full-powered sprays that can be accurate to more than four metres. Skunks seldom spray without warning or cause.

Skunks have adapted to urban habitats and have become proficient city dwellers. This often brings them into conflict with homeowners as the animals seek food and shelter.

For more information on skunks, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Source: The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and Wikipedia.

More info on skunk problems

Back to top

Help! My dog was sprayed by a skunk!

Skunk spray is composed mainly of low molecular weight thiol compounds, namely (E)-2-butene-1-thiol, 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, and 2-quinolinemethanethiol, as well as acetate thioesters of each of these. These compounds are detectable at concentrations of about 2 parts per million.

Removing the scent from objects or creatures can be difficult. Some home remedies suggest using tomato juice or vinegar. A more complex and effective remedy includes application of a mixture containing hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap. The thiols, which are responsible for the odor, are not water soluble, even with soap, but the baking soda catalyzes the oxidative ability of the peroxide, which oxidizes the thiols into highly water-soluble sulfonates. In an episode of the television program MythBusters, the hydrogen peroxide mix was found to be the most effective smell removal agent.

The recipe:

  • one quart 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap

Note: you can halve these ingredients as it only lasts for 24 hours once mixed.

Mix and apply to the dog using a cloth or spray bottle, leave on for about 5 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Remember this contains peroxide, so spot test fabrics first! It may also cause a slight lightening of your dog’s fur.

For more information on skunks, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Source: The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and Wikipedia.

Back to top

What do I need to know about squirrels?

Squirrels are members of the rodent family. The eastern gray squirrel is the most common tree squirrel. It is usually gray or brownish-gray with a white or lighter grey belly, or completely black. The red squirrel, also a tree squirrel, is smaller and has reddish brown fur with white underparts. Both are active during daylight hours and are primarily herbivores, feeding on roots, stems, bark, shoots, leaves, fruits, nuts, seeds, fungi, flower bulbs, and occasionally insects. Because they have rootless teeth that keep growing, they must gnaw continuously to wear them down. Otherwise they would be unable to close their mouths, and their teeth would continue to grow and eventually prevent them from feeding.

Gray or red squirrels generally build their nests high up in trees, in hollow trunks or forks between thick branches, using moss, twigs, and dry leaves. Sometimes squirrels will live in colonies with several nests shared amongst them. Although they do not hibernate, they will spend long hours in their nests during winter. Red squirrels will stay in their nests for days since they have food stored, whereas grays will go out of their nests every day.

Source: The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

For more information on squirrels, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Info on squirrel conflicts

Back to top

What do I need to know about rabbits?

Eastern cottontail rabbits are a native species to Canada and are one of the few wild animals that are known to “play” with other members of their species. Rabbits are also incredibly fast, and are able to reach speeds of 60 to 75 kilometers per hour. This speed is a necessity for eastern cottontails since they have numerous predators and few natural defense mechanisms.

The breeding season for eastern cottontails begins in February and may not end until September. The mother lines the nest with grass and her fur to keep the young warm and covered. She only returns to the nest one to two times a day to feed her young, usually first thing in the morning or during the night. The mother tries to stay away from the nest as much as possible so she does not attract predators to her vulnerable young. The young become independent very quickly compared to other mammals, and within four to five weeks they have matured and have left the nest.

Source: The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

For more information on rabbits, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Info on wildlife conflicts

Back to top

What do I need to know about groundhogs?

Groundhogs, a member of the squirrel family, are famous because of Groundhog Day in February, when they are said to predict how much longer winter will last.

Groundhogs are natural inhabitants of forested areas, but they have adapted and prospered in close proximity to human activity. Groundhogs are common residents near agricultural pastures, croplands, backyards and wooded areas such as urban parks. They live in complex burrows with separate spaces for their different needs, and multiple entrance and exit holes.

Primarily herbivores, groundhogs eat grasses, leaves, berries, dandelions and clovers. Groundhogs will also munch on garden vegetables and fruit when the opportunity arises.

Source: The Ontario SPCA.

For more information on groundhogs, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Info on wildlife conflicts

Back to top

What do I need to know about porcupines?

As many a dog owner living in porcupine country has discovered, ignoring any of the porcupine’s ample warning signs can have agonizing consequences for an overly inquisitive or aggressive pet. The end of each porcupine quill is made up microscopic, backward projecting barbs that serve to work the quills ever deeper into the flesh. This painful process is further aided by the greasy coating on each quill. Once imbedded, quills cannot easily be pulled out.

Serious injuries, even fatalities, can occur to both wild and domesticated animals who have come in contact with a porcupine, particularly if the eyes, mouth, or throat are afflicted. If your pet has been “quilled,” seek immediate treatment by a veterinarian. This will ensure that the quills are removed completely and correctly, with as little discomfort as possible, and that antibiotics may be prescribed if necessary. “Quilled” humans should consult a physician for the same reasons.

Because the plant materials eaten by porcupines have a low sodium content, porcupines may hunt far and wide to satisfy their dietary need for salt, particularly in the springtime. This natural urge often brings them into conflict with people. Due to the salt found in sweat, almost any object that has been handled by humans may be fair game for porcupine consumption—including clothing, wooden tool handles, and furniture. The wooden parts of structures that are gnawed are usually bonded plywood that contains a layer of glue that attracts porcupines. Car tires and hoses may also be chewed because of their mineral content or coating of road salt. Unfortunately, many porcupines meet their end in roads, to which they are naturally attracted due to winter salt use.

Porcupines occasionally damage structures and items used in outdoor work or recreation, and are sometimes responsible for damage to trees. Where individual trees need to be protected, a metal band about 24–30 inches in height can be placed around the trunk of a tree about three feet off the ground. This will prevent the tree from being climbed and is likely to be very effective. However, don’t leave the bands on trees for any longer than necessary. Insects may accumulate, lay eggs, or overwinter beneath them, and the trunks of sensitive trees may scald if bands are removed after a long period and sun falls on the exposed bark.

Source: The Humane Society of the United States.

For more information on porcupines, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Info on wildlife conflicts

Back to top

What do I need to know about foxes?

Foxes are close relatives of coyotes, wolves, and domestic dogs, but they are often called the “catlike canines.” Red foxes avoid coyotes, but may coexist in the same area, competing with them for food sources and often using shore and stream habitat between coyote territories. Foxes are mainly nocturnal, but it’s not unusual to see them hunting at dawn or dusk, or even during the day.

People are sometimes surprised to learn that foxes live in their neighborhoods, but there’s almost never any cause for concern. Foxes are not dangerous to humans, except when rabid, and fox rabies are rare in most places.

Outdoor pets such as rabbits and poultry should be protected from foxes, however, by the use of secure, sturdy hutches and pens. Because foxes will dig under fences, it’s important to bury an 8-inch, L-shaped footer at least a foot deep along the outer perimeter.

People are frequently concerned about their pets being outdoors when foxes are around. We do not recommend that cats be allowed to roam freely, and suggest that the best way to avoid conflicts between foxes and cats is to keep cats indoors. By and large, foxes seem to pay little heed to adult cats, recognizing that they are dealing with an animal almost their own size. Kittens and small cats, however, could be easy prey for a fox; therefore, contact between the two should be avoided.

Source: The Humane Society of the United States.

For more information on foxes, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Info on wildlife conflicts

Back to top

What should I know about other wildlife in Ottawa?

Coyotes

There are occasionally issues in Ottawa areas with coyotes. If you spot a coyote, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources at 613-258-8204 for information and tracking purposes.

If the coyote is an immediate threat to public safety, contact the Ottawa Police Services at 613-260-6211.

Bears

The Ministry of Natural Resources has a Bear Wise program. Report bear problems by phoning 1-866-514-2327.

If the bear is an immediate threat to public safety, contact the Ottawa Police Services at 613-260-6211.

Deer & Moose

If the animal is an immediate threat to public safety, is injured, or is trapped and cannot escape, contact the Ottawa Police Services at 613-260-6211.

If the animal poses no threat to public safety, do not disturb the animal and leave the area.

Read what to do if you find a juvenile or baby deer or moose.

Beavers

It is the property owner’s responsibility to deal with the beaver problem humanely and legally. Contact the Department of Fisheries and Ocean about legal requirements at 613-925-2865.

For issues with beavers on Crown Land, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources at 613-258-8204.

Wild Turkeys

Wild turkeys are moving into the Ottawa area. They are generally not aggressive, but residents are reminded that all wild animals are unpredictable by nature. It is strongly advised to exercise caution and good judgment when encountering any wildlife.

For more information on wildlife, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Info on wildlife conflicts

Back to top

Sick or injured animals

What to do if you find an injured or sick animal?

If you find an injured or sick animal, please call our emergency line: 613-725-1532.

For large wildlife, such as deer, moose and bear, please call Ottawa Police Services at 613-236-1222.

As urban development encroaches on previously untamed areas, more human-wildlife conflicts result. These animals have largely managed to adapt well to our presence. Humans, on the other hand, are still mastering this living arrangement. It is important for people to understand the need for effective, lasting, and humane solutions to occasional conflicts with wildlife.

If you can’t find the answer to your wildlife question and it’s not an emergency, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 262, or send us an email.

Back to top