Spotting wildlife in the city

Coyote pups (Photo by Jason Bantle)

Coyote pups (Photo by Jason Bantle)

October 4, 2018 | by Jackie Bastianon

The province of Alberta is teeming with wildlife, and you don't necessarily need to go to a Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) property in order to spot some.

Some Alberta towns have reputations as being great places to see the local fauna, and mountain towns such as Banff and Jasper are excellent places to spot wild species. But don’t worry, if a trip to the mountains isn’t in your future, you can still see some animals around Calgary or Edmonton.

There are few places in the world that are home to more species than Alberta. In this province, nearly 600 species have been recorded, including 10 amphibians, 93 mammals, 65 fish and over 400 birds!

Here are five animals that you may see around your Alberta city if you’re lucky.

1. Coyote

These animals are the top predators within city limits. They are often described as a cross between a fox and a German shepherd and weigh between nine and 14 kilograms. They have long narrow noses, large ears and bushy tails that stay low when running. They provide pest control services around the city since they feast primarily on rodents, such as mice, rats and rabbits.

2. Magpie

Black-billed magpie (Photo by Susan Elliot CC-BY-NC)

Black-billed magpie (Photo by Susan Elliot CC-BY-NC)

These birds are quite unique looking, with their black bodies, long tail feathers and bright blue colour on their sides. Edmonton is Canada's magpie capital, so these birds are everywhere you turn. There are many other birds that can be spotted around this city. It's estimated that 140 of the 288 migratory birds that breed in North America pass through Edmonton during the year, though not all of them are as common as the magpie.

3. White-tailed jackrabbit

White-tailed jackrabbit (Photo by Conriz CC-BY-NC)

White-tailed jackrabbit (Photo by Conriz CC-BY-NC)

Whether you’re walking through the neighbourhood or just looking out the window, chances are you’ll spot at least one of these rabbits. They enjoying spending time in yards around residential neighbourhoods, eating green vegetation, such as grasses, alfalfa and grains. These animals are quite accustomed to people and the city, and they are also masters of camouflage. Without meaning to, you might be standing very close to one of these critters and not even know it!

4. Striped skunk

Striped skunk (Photo by K. Theule/USFWS)

Striped skunk (Photo by K. Theule/USFWS)

Skunks are quite common in Alberta and though they mainly stick to more wooded areas, they do occasionally make their way into the city. The striped skunk is easily identifiable by the long white stripe running along its black fur, from its head to its tail. It's best to observe these animals from a distance and give them some space, because if startled they can spray a very strong odour!

5. Great horned owl

Great horned owl (Photo by Bill Hubick)

Great horned owl (Photo by Bill Hubick)

Owls are nocturnal creatures, meaning they sleep during the day and are active at night. The great horned owl is extremely adaptable, making it able to co-exist within cities across North America. It is also a predator and survives on a diet of rabbit, rat, mice and vole. The great horned owl can easily conceal itself within the safe cover of trees, so you might hear one before you see one — its call is a low pitched "who-hoo-hoo-oo."

Many of these species can be found on NCC properties throughout Alberta, but if you’re lucky you might find them wandering around your city limits.

The animals listed above are just a few of the many species that exist throughout the province. Others include porcupine, badger, chickadee, American white pelican, Canadian toad, shrew and peregrine falcon. Instead of driving to where you need to go this week, why not try walking or biking instead, and take the time to look at what's around you. Who knows what you might see.

 The Conservation Internship Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Summer Work Experience program.


Jackie Bastianon, NCC's 2018 summer communications intern for the Alberta region. (Photo by NCC)

About the Author

Jackie Bastianon was the 2018 communications intern for the Nature Conservancy of Canada in the Alberta Region.

Read more about Jackie Bastianon.

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