The Alberta Institute of Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) near Madden has seen an increase in patients so far this year in comparison to 2017, which executive director Holly Duvall said could be a result of freezing temperatures.
Temperatures dropped to below -20 C last week and extreme cold warnings were issued for Airdrie Jan. 10.
“We have a porcupine in care right now and she was very weak and quite thin when she came in. She’s a juvenile so we think that potentially the recent cold snap did have an impact on her,” Duvall said, adding most patients AIWC sees in the winter are emaciated.
“They haven’t been able to get the resources that they need and the food to keep going over the winter. And the cold snap will just make that even harder on their systems and they start to shut down.”
Duvall said AIWC tends to see more mallards come in when temperatures drop. She said some species do well in the winter, like beavers, while others migrate south and some hibernate.
“We just recommend that people be aware. So if they do see an animal and they think the animal is injured for any reason, then to give us a call on our wildlife hotline, which is 403-946-2361,” she said.
AIWC officials can discuss the condition of the animal with those who call the wildlife hotline and determine if it is indeed injured.
Duvall also advises residents not to feed wildlife, especially deer.
“These animals are built for being out in the wild, too. So they do have food sources available to them, hopefully most of the time, and they can rely on those,” she said.
Edna Jackson, owner of Tails to Tell Animal Rescue Shelter in Crossfield, said she advises residents to create some sort of warm shelter for feral cats if they see them around their property during cold snaps.
She said some of the volunteers at the shelter have built outdoor houses for feral cats on their farms or acreages.
“They’ll have some feral kittens on their acreage or on their property and they’ll just make up some houses for the little gaffers,” she said. “Usually they’ll find some lumber or something around their properties…. Even if they don’t have the lumber and stuff like that, if you can get some bales of hay, you can make a house out of bales of hay, which is actually even warmer than wood.”
Feral cats can get frostbite on their ears and lose their tails in freezing temperatures. Jackson said a cat recently came into the shelter’s care with a frost bitten tail, which had to be amputated.