My close and unforgettable encounters with wolves

The wolf came within 25 metres and stared at me as if looking through me, then trotted back into the bush, satisfied that I was neither tasty nor a threat

My close and unforgettable encounters with wolvesThe eastern grey wolf is a mysterious animal that evokes different emotions in us. How you react comes down to how much time you’ve spent with them or, more importantly, how much time you’ve taken to learn something about them. I’ve always revered them, having had several close encounters over the years. Each has left…

The nasty ways insects inflict damage on humans

Only the female mosquito seeks a blood meal. She needs to penetrate the skin of warm-blooded mammals to get her meals

The nasty ways insects inflict damage on humansAs a naturalist, I wonder about things – sometimes obvious things, sometimes odd things but always interesting things. Today’s thought surrounds interactions with insects, their kin and other critters that on occasion negatively interact with us. People often claim to have been bitten by an insect. “That mosquito just bit me!” But did it? Or…

Gypsy moths have invaded North America. What can we do?

Insects are already in serious decline throughout the world, so killing insects for the sake of killing them seems ill-advised

Gypsy moths have invaded North America. What can we do?This seems to be a good year for gypsy moths and a bad one for people who love trees. Have you never seen a gypsy moth? This might be the best time to find them. Look for a light to dark brown, medium-sized moth flying in a seemingly erratic way. These are the males. They’re…

Is your cat outside killing wildlife right now?

Cats have contributed to the extinction of 33 species worldwide

Is your cat outside killing wildlife right now?What a lovely sight! Look at Patches as she heads out for her morning jaunt in the fields near her home. How cute is she as she tiptoes through the dew-drenched grass, trying her best to keep her paws dry? Millions of cats do exactly this every day, and the outcome is always devastating for…

Your pet may not be safe in the great outdoors

As we encroach on wild places, wild animals will see our pets as a food source

Your pet may not be safe in the great outdoorsOur pets are such an important part of our lives – loyal and forgiving – but there’s danger out there, even in your garden! Lots of things are trying to eat, infect or nibble on pets. It’s not possible to list everything that might hurt your pet in this column, but here are a few…

The elegant and essential cones of coniferous trees

Many birds explore the nooks and crannies of these seed-bearing pods as they try to pry the seeds loose or find minute insects

The elegant and essential cones of coniferous treesAs we welcome spring, we see the remnants of pine and spruce cones previously covered by snow. Few of us think about how important these cones are to the floral and faunal communities – as food and to ensure the next generation of trees is born. Many species of coniferous trees produce cones – pines,…

How we can keep birds from crashing into windows and dying

Bird Safe Buildings Across Canada and other organizations are working hard to encourage building owners to take bird-saving measures

How we can keep birds from crashing into windows and dyingEver since European settlers occupied North America, our influences on avian populations have varied between positive and devastatingly negative. I would love to just write about the good stuff, but an important issue needs to be discussed: windows and how they can be deadly to birds. A new grassroots organization has been founded by a…

Why birds sing before winter weather breaks

Many species court and breed in the dead of winter

Why birds sing before winter weather breaksWe may sometimes feel as if we’re still locked in the dead of winter, but to birds, mammals, insects and even plants, things are changing. Faithful readers will recall how I recently explained that my trees were getting ‘fat,’ as the buds enlarge in anticipation of spring. But they’re not alone in their rush towards…

Differentiating truth from myth about snowflakes

Marvel at these seemingly simple structures that rely on all the forces of nature for their beauty

Differentiating truth from myth about snowflakesAs I grow older, I like the cold less and less. I still love winter, but I wish it was warmer – wait, isn’t that summer? My favourite part of winter is when it snows – I never cease to marvel at the tiny flakes drifting down to earth, covering everything in a white blanket.…

Are owls wise, all-seeing and good luck – or harbingers of calamity?

One superstition about owls had it that making a potion from the ash of owl eggs improved vision

Are owls wise, all-seeing and good luck – or harbingers of calamity?Folklore abounds with superstition related to owls. I thought it might be fun to share some superstitions I’ve gleaned about owls, since this is the best time of year to see them. These nocturnal creatures often appear in horror films since tufts of feathers on the top of some owls’ heads give them the appearance…
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