Tips and Information About Wildlife

Okotoks is located in a wildlife corridor and residents can expect to share the area with many animals such as voles, moles, gophers, skunks, deer, coyotes, foxes, and even the occasional moose, cougar or bear.

Urban Deer

The most common wildlife residents will encounter are deer. Although deer aren’t considered dangerous, they may see people and dogs as a threat and can act aggressively to protect themselves or their fawns.

General Tips About Wildlife

DO NOT:

  • feed any wild animal
  • approach any wild animal
  • distribute bird feed in parks or natural areas

DO:

  • slow down for wildlife

Relocating Wildlife

Many people feel that the best solution to dealing with problem wildlife is to relocate the animal(s). This is not usually a realistic solution for the following reasons:

  • urban animals may not have the skills to survive in the wild
  • many animals have territories and will create conflict with newcomers
  • diseases can be spread
  • the problem is being transferred to another jurisdiction

Contact Information 

  • 9-1-1 Call if you feel threatened by a wild animal at the time of the encounter.
  • Fish & Wildlife: 403-652-8330 - To report an injured animal or a bear or cougar sighting
  • Municipal Enforcement: 403-938-8913 - To report illegal feeding of deer or other wild animals on public property
  • Horticulture Hotline: 403-938-8031 - For more information on vole or deer-resistant landscaping
  • Parks: 403-938-8958 - For more information or general inquiries
Voles

Voles are small mouse-sized rodents with a shorter tail. Voles are outdoor year-round residents in Okotoks. They do not become a pest indoors, but rather will chew away at lawns and trees, especially in winter. Most lawn damage is cosmetic and quickly repairs itself once grass is actively growing, by about mid May. You may reduce damage from voles in the fall by adding tree guards, mowing grass short, and setting out bait stations. In the spring catch voles with mouse traps baited with peanut butter or apple slices. 

Moles

Formally referred to as northern pocket gophers, moles make mounds of soil across the landscape in spring and fall. Although considered beneficial in natural environments for decompaction and aerating of soil, some consider them a nuisance. To remove moles on private property, you can trap them yourself or hire a private pest control company. Parks responds to mole complaints on public lands on a case by case basis.

Gophers

More formally called Richardson's ground squirrel; gophers are a burrowing rodent commonly associated with agricultural lands. Parks controls gophers where holes pose hazards to sports field users and in or adjacent to other mowed turf areas. You may report gopher activity on public lands to Parks. To control gophers on your property, contact a private pest control company.

Rats

Although there have been no confirmed cases of the Norway rat in Okotoks to date, Parks receives many calls about sightings. Rats are often confused with muskrats. Rats have pink feet and pink tails, while muskrats have black feet and tails. Muskrats often wander far from water and are common in Okotoks. Contact Parks for an inspection of dead or detained animals only.

Skunks & Foxes

 

Skunks and foxes are common in Okotoks. Skunks are omnivores, eating both insects and plants. In an urban environment skunks can be quite opportunistic, getting into pet food, garbage, and compost. Foxes mainly consume small rodents, birds, eggs and rabbits. To deter skunks and foxes on your property, ensure holes under decks and outbuildings are blocked. To have skunks or foxes trapped, contact a pest control company. 

Deer

Feeding wildlife, especially deer, has become more common and problematic recently in some areas in Alberta. Okotoks has a significant population of deer in our area and could be subject to future problems if residents or visitors begin feeding them. Problems linked to feeding wildlife arise when animals pursue people and occasionally threaten public safety. To report illegal feeding of deer on public property, contact Municipal Enforcement.

Feeding deer could lead to:

  • Overcrowding and increased incidence of disease in animal populations can be linked to feeding. Ticks can be passed to humans in close contact with infected animals.
  • Butting or pawing of persons by over-anxious deer has occurred in other municipalities, resulting in human injury, particularly to small children.
  • High populations of deer may attract predators, like cougars, into populated areas.

Please be a responsible resident and practice the following tips:

DO NOT feed or approach any wild animal
DO NOT leave pet food outside (may attract skunks & coyotes)
DO NOT distribute bird feed in parks or natural areas

DO slow down for wildlife
DO use deer-resistant bird feeders

Cougars

Typically in Okotoks a few cougar sightings are reported each year. Cougar sightings should be taken seriously and reported to Fish and Wildlife.

Coyotes

While enjoying the many parks and natural areas in Okotoks, you may sight a coyote. Coyotes are common to this region and although their diets are mainly rodents and rabbits, they may attack pets. Coyote sightings need not to be reported, however, close encounters or coyote aggression should be reported to the local Fish and Wildlife district office.

Moose

Moose are wild animals and need to be given space and privacy. Stay safe by keeping an appropriate distance from them or just avoid the area. Use caution when walking dogs and keep them on a leash. Dogs chasing wildlife may result in human/wildlife conflict and/or injured wildlife.

Bears

Okotoks is a wildlife corridor and wildlife, including bears, may pass through along the Sheep River Valley.  Report bear sightings to Municipal Enforcement at 403-938-8913. For emergencies call 9-1-1.

If you encounter a bear

  • STOP! STAY CALM. Your calm behaviour can reassure the bear. Screams or sudden movements may trigger an attack.
  • NEVER RUN - running may cause the bear to pursue you.
  • Pick up small children and stay in a group.
  • Bears may approach or stand on their hind legs to get a better look at you or to pick up your scent. This is their way of identifying you and is not an aggressive response.
  • BE HUMAN. Speak to the bear calmly and firmly. This indicates that you are not a prey animal. Appear passive.

If the bear appears defensive

  • A defensive bear may be feeding or protecting young or you may simply have surprised it.
  • A defensive bear will appear stressed or agitated and may make noise.
  • Try to appear non-threatening.
  • Talk in a calm voice.
  • Whenever the bear is not advancing, slowly move away without turning your back to the bear. 

Source:  AlbertaParks.ca