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COVID-19 lockdowns could be boon for wildlife

COVID-19 lockdown might stink for humans but it’s been pretty good for animals.

The longer we have to stay mostly indoors, the more freedom and open spaces are available for animals to cavort in or search for food sources. Around the world that has resulted in scenes where monkeys run wild (Thailand), deer roam around in big cities, squirrels sunbathe (in California), alligators chill by themselves on beaches (South Carolina) and so on.

In Japan and elsewhere, herds of deer have left tourist areas and have been seen on streets, and in subway stations, looking for food. In San Francisco, coyotes have hit the town, surprising humans.

Closer to home, Toronto Wildlife Centre says calls for their services aren’t way up but that could change.

Keeping in mind that the Toronto Wildlife Centre answers calls for sick, injured, orphaned or in distress wild animals in need of rescuing — not just animal visitors popping up in unusual places — the city is probably going to see a lot more of that because of the time of the year.

“Absolutely. This is going into the craziest two months of the year,” Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of Toronto Wildlife Centre, told the Sun.

She said May and June account for 40% of TWC’s calls annually, and that only includes the volume of calls they can handle in those two months (staff handle approximately 30,000 calls a year). There are more animals, because some are coming out of hibernation from the winter, and many others have just recently been born.

All of this, including the fact that humans aren’t out and about involuntarily threatening animals, could have impacts beyond this current year.

“This is the season of birth, this is the season of the dispersal of the younger animals that were born last year,” Brian McLaren, an associate professor in wildlife at Lakehead University, told The Canadian Press earlier this week. “This could be a setup that’s ideal for next year to be a stronger population.”

Karvonen theorized that “people are already seeing animals more often in unusual places,” such as schoolyards, where there are currently no screaming children to scare them away. But they might be more nervous in a yard, with humans now home more often.

If animals such as coyotes or raccoons are encroaching into yards and decks in search of suitable denning areas, Karvonen says lights and noises that make them feel unsafe can help them decide to move on to other locations.

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