…as in…wild animals!
For readers “not from around here,” I thought I would sum up all the animals you might see in Nova Scotia, common or rare. The number is limited, so there’s no need to leave any out!
I don’t live by the ocean (it’s a 20 minute drive away) and I don’t do any boating, so I don’t see big sea creatures. We have 4 kinds of common whales – humpback, finback, pilot and minke. I went whale watching once and got fogged out (a common occurrence), but someday I’ll try again. In offshore waters, we have 9 kinds of sharks, 4 kinds of dolphins and the harbour porpoise. None go anywhere near swimmers.
I have seen lots of harbour seals sunning themselves, but grey seals tend to congregate in more remote areas like Sable Island, which also has an unusual population of feral horses.
Our biggest land animals are moose, white-tailed deer and black bears. I have only seen moose in wildlife parks, fortunately, because they often collide with cars and cause fatalities. They have funny faces, a bit like camels! We only have one kind of deer, plentiful and beloved of hunters. And only one kind of bear, sometimes drawn to camp sites and garbage heaps for food, and always best avoided. I found a side-on picture of a bear to show that its face has a similar shape to a badger’s (we don’t have American badgers in this area).
There are 3 impressive wild cats throughout Canada, very stealthy and hard to spot: the bobcat, lynx and cougar (mountain lion). I believe I saw a lynx once, at night, but I keep being told how unlikely that would be. There are no proven sightings on the mainland, only in Cape Breton, but I don’t know what else it could have been!
Nova Scotia has no wolves but we do have two dog relatives, coyotes and red foxes.
Here are everyone’s favourite city dwellers, raccoons and skunks. My kid Link always sees raccoons scavenging for garbage in Toronto at night. They’re common here too – one day Rom and I woke to find one sitting on the back doorstep, and another time I heard the chilling shrieks of a raccoon fight. Outrageously cute but potentially vicious! I think skunks are cute, too, especially the young ones. But both raccoons and skunks can have rabies.
Porcupines and skunks are both feared because outdoor dogs tend to interact with them. Being sprayed by a skunk is wretched (piercing sulphurous smell which is oily and long-lasting) and having a porcupine tail swiped across your snout is even worse and results in much pain and a big vet bill. And no, a porcupine can’t throw its quills – they require direct contact.
Incidentally, on a road trip, porcupines and raccoons are the usual roadkill 😦
Onwards to everyone’s favourites unless you are stingy with your birdfeeders – squirrels and chipmunks. We have the small red squirrels which don’t much resemble the UK version. The larger and invasive grey/black squirrels have not arrived yet to take over the territory. When I was a kid, there were a few Northern flying squirrels around, but they are less common now. Chipmunks hang out in one of the parks near here – they don’t coexist well with squirrels, being much smaller and easier to drive away!
I was surprised to learn that the bunnies we see here are all snowshoe hares, not rabbits. They turn white when the days get short, regardless of snow.
The bat population here has been decimated by white-nose disease; I can only hope they’ll make a comeback. The rest of our small rodent population consists of the usual mice, deer mice, rats, moles, voles and shrews. We have groundhogs (woodchucks) but only in farmland areas. We don’t have any other marmots, and we don’t have gophers, Prairie dogs, opossums or hedgehogs!
The last of our mammals are the water rodents and their cousins, beginning with the all-Canadian beaver. They are seen in most lakes and ponds, re-routing waterways and toppling trees. The muskrat is smaller and has a rattier tail. And we have river otters, which are not rodents but mustelids.
In the same family, we have weasels, mink, and the less common martens and fishers.
I won’t let you get away without seeing our slippery, warty and crawly things!
In the summer, I see these turtles basking in the sun on flat rocks beside a pond. We also have snapping, Blanding and wood turtles.
In the Spring (not yet!), I can hear hundreds of Spring Peeper tree frogs chirping in the swamp. We have 6 other kinds of frogs, and one inoffensive kind of toad. I will never forget one rain-soaked early summer night in my teens when so many young frogs pelted about that it really seemed to be raining frogs!
Our other lovely amphibians are salamanders, including one newt species. We don’t have any lizards.
And I will leave you with just one of our 5 harmless snakes.
None of these photos are mine. That would have taken me a lifetime!
Birds deserve their own post – I cannot guarantee posts on insects or fish!
What are the everyday animals near you?