Deer, squirrels and owls are the top winter animals on the grounds of Humber North campus, and now is a good time to watch them changing their habits, Arboretum coordinator Jimmy Vincent says.
“The whitetail deer and grey squirrel are the most active animals in the Arboretum in the winter time. And we have five species of the owls,” he said.
Vincent saw whitetail deer many times, but he still gets excited meeting them. The chances to see the animals increase now because there are fewer leaves and deer are actively looking for their mates. They scrape barks of trees with their antlers and pee on different spots to mark their area.
“They are making spots super smelly. That says ‘this is my area, and if you are coming to this area there’s going to be a fight,” explained Vincent.
In the meantime, grey squirrels are busy collecting nuts.
“If you go into the forest, you see that the real good nuts are pretty much gone now. Beech nuts they [squirrels] eat pretty quickly. They hide their food in a whole bunch of different areas in their food caches,” said the coordinator.
Besides storing food, the animals are building their winter nests. Some of the squirrels prefer to have a hole inside the tree, but most of them make dreys, nests made of twigs and small branches, which are much bigger.
“They [squirrels] build dreys in the summer as well, but those are really light dreys, like tents. The drey they build in the winter time is like a large cabin – a lot bigger and thicker. It can’t be blown out of the tree,” Vincent said.
Winter is a great time to watch birds, such as chickadees, white- and red-breasted nuthatches, downy, hairy and pileated woodpeckers. Chickadee feeding is a part of the Arboretum program.
Vincent said they will start to promote snowshoeing soon, which is also a good way to watch birds.
The Arboretum has five species of owls including the third smallest owl in North America, the Northern saw-whet owl.
Last year, the Arboretum was famous for its long-eared owl.
“We had an owl roosting right outside of our door, and we could actually see the owl from behind the glass, which is kind of cool because it wasn’t disturbing the owl. At the same time the kids had a really good view of it,” Vincent said.
The other three species of owls in the arboretum are the Eastern screech, the great horned and the barred owl.
Surprisingly, all Arboretum interpreters have their nature names.
“My nature name is Beaver,” said Vincent. “Kayla is Goose. Taurean is Grizzly.”
Taurean Linton, a public relations and event manager, said he asked kids to help him choose his nature name during one of excursions.
“They said I look like a grizzly,” said Linton.
His favourite animal in the Arboretum is the red-tailed hawk because it is a very smart bird. But the grizzly remains number one.
Business assistant Kayla Sasso likes the whitetail deer for its ability to surprise.
“I don’t see them often. They are very big animals, and they are sneaky and quiet, so you never see them right away. You have to pay attention and search for them,” Sasso said.