Regina Leader-Post

Animals lingering longer in Wascana Park this year


Gaggles of gee se have yet to fly south, as our mild winter has allowed the traditiona­lly migratory birds to stick around for a bit longer than usual.

In fact, all of Wascana Park’s inhabitant­s — geese, rabbits, squirrels and coyotes, yes, coyotes — have been affected by our warm winter.

Snow-white rabbits stood out among the brown flora of the park, easy pickings for the coyotes, and the squirrels are getting “plump” as Wascana Centre naturalist Sarah Turkeli put it.

“When we have a mild winter, that can stress the animals out,” said Turkeli.

She emphasized the coyotes aren’t out of the ordinary for the park. When the ice freezes over, coyotes can move in, but they’re nothing to worry about, as they mostly feed on rodents and keep to the islands.

But the animal that’s having the biggest effect, and will be the most affected, is the Canada goose.

“There will definitely bean impact on water quality, that’s for sure,” said Bjoern Wissel, a biologist at the University of Regina specializi­ng in aquatic life.

Essentiall­y, with the geese staying around the lake for a longer time, more goose poop has accumulate­d, Wissel explained in far more scientific terms. From this, more “nutrients” enter the lake, which could lead to algae blooms, fish kill, more smells coming from the lake and scum accumulati­on on the shores.

“A lot of that is indigestib­le plant material; it will contribute more sediment,” said Mark Brigham, a biology professor at the U of R, noting that years of such conditions could lead to the need to dredge the lake again.

Geese differenti­ally migrate, which means they only go as far south as they need to to find open water and food. Turkeli said they recently found out that many geese only go as far south as South Dakota.

Less migration means the geese don’t have to burn as much energy, which could mean the geese come back earlier, with more fat on them. The female geese during breeding season are known as income breeders, the breadwinne­rs so to speak, and lay eggs based on the energy levels they arrive with.

Which means the geese that winter here now only have to fly a fraction of the distance they would normally, and could be back to breed earlier and longer in the spring.

“They’ re big, tough, strong beasts ,” said Brigham, adding that though they can survive the cold temperatur­es, he expects to see fewer geese once the ice entirely freezes over.

Some geese do stay in the park all winter. “Because of humans mucking about with things, there are quite a few geese that never leave for the winter, which is not normal,” said Brigham. The warm weather is certainly nice, but it is somewhat alarming how warm it has been, he said.

With more geese in the city now, and potentiall­y even more in the spring, Brigham gave a modest proposal of what we could do. “Should we donate them to the food bank?” said Brigham. “I’m not saying we necessaril­y should, but it’s something to think about.”

 ?? DON HEALY/REGINA LEADER-POST ?? Canada geese take advantage of warm temperatur­es and open water at Wascana Lake on Monday.
DON HEALY/REGINA LEADER-POST Canada geese take advantage of warm temperatur­es and open water at Wascana Lake on Monday.

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