PETS & WILDLIFE
Many pet owners open their home to their pets because they love animals and want them to be a part of their lives, but not everyone realises the impact their pets can have on local wildlife, or the impact wildlife can have on their pets.
Though it may seem harmless to allow pets to roam free in natural areas, once the increased chance for disease transfer, greater risk of injury, and negative effects on wildlife are taken into account, it's clear that minimising the interactions between pets and wildlife is best for everyone.
Birds and your pet
Whether it's dogs chasing ducks or cats hunting robins, stressful pet interactions can seriously impact the well-being and even the survival of birds and their chicks. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the impact of pets on birds:
Avoid putting extra decorations or perches on birdhouses. Birds don't need them and they often just help cats or other predators get in.
Don't let your dog chase birds, especially in natural areas. It can impact the bird's nesting success and even has negative effects on their daily feeding and movement habits.
It is always safer to keep cats indoors. If they must be outside, consider cat-proofing your yard to prevent roaming. Search "cat proof fence" or "catio" online for some DIY ideas.
Putting bells on cat collars doesn't work- cats stalk too smoothly for it to make noise. Cat bibs and ruffs, pictured below, will gently impede the cat's hunting behaviours (bib) or make it more visible (ruff), but won't bother the cat.
Learn to love the leash
Leashing pets while out in nature doesn't just ensure their safety, it can also ensure yours. An unleashed dog exploring alone may encounter or bring back unwanted or dangerous wildlife like bears or cougars. Off-leash pets may also like to chase smaller animals, and while they often don't mean any harm, this is extremely stressful. Training a dog to walk on a loose leash can be frustrating but is very rewarding. If your dog is having trouble, try a no-pull or front clip harness.
Though it may surprise you, many cats can be trained to enjoy exploring on a leash too! It may take more time and patience to work up to entire walks with a cat, but it can actually greatly enrich its life. It is best to start leash training with young cats as older cats may be less able to adapt to the feeling of a harness and lead.
Don't let it loose!
Goldfish and may live just a few years in your home, but they can actually live for decades in the wild. If released into local waterways, these fish can destroy entire ecosystems. They are gluttonous bottom feeders and will eat anything they can fit in their mouths: frogs, salamanders, insects, smaller fish etc. The constant feeding uproots plants and ruins the structure of the pond making it harder for aquatic wildlife to survive. What's worse is that each pair of these fish may lay 10,000 eggs per year, which can quickly create population explosions like the one in the pond shown here.
Releasing pet turtles can also harm local wetlands. Red-eared Sliders released into the wild can out-compete the local Painted Turtles for food and nesting areas. Reduced food and nest availability makes it harder for our Painted Turtles to stay healthy and reproduce successfully in ponds where Red-eared Sliders are present.