Animals cooperate in cold weather to stay alive.

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Cooperation keeps competing species alive during rare prolonged cold snap in North Vancouver

Dealing with extreme weather conditions has been extremely difficult for humans, but what about wildlife?

Our family has observed changes in both the forests and in the behavior, foraging and wintering habits of black bears, feral cats, coyotes, raccoons, raptors, rodents and birds. . The “Bear in the Zone” signs appear so frequently that they go unnoticed.

The barking dogs alert us when an increasingly accustomed bobcat comes to our neighborhood. The cacophony begins faintly, in the distance, at the end of the bondage behind our house, and ends noisily just above the fence. The dogs end up getting tired, not having noticed that the bobcat had long since passed through the evergreen canopy back into the forest.

I feel very privileged to live near wild animals and have no illusions about the place of wildlife and the critical debt humans have not only to protect forest ecosystems, but also to maintain clear boundaries that ensure the safety of humans and animals.

Here at home, we’ve learned how to harvest the fruits, berries, corn, and the like just before they’re ripe – before the bigger mammals get wind of an invitation to dinner. If time and financial resources allow, we are replacing old-fashioned ornamental plantings with native shrubs, trees and perennials that provide birds with year-round shelter and nesting material, as well as a supply. appropriate seasonality of high energy seeds, berries, pollen and nectar.

Feeding birds nuts and cayenne seeds as a dietary supplement, only during the winter weeks, when their natural food sources are not available to them, seems the right thing to do, given that we have upset their natural balance in the first place. Birds, unlike mammals, are indifferent to the painful effects of capsaicin, so I don’t worry about inviting unwanted visitors.

During the recent ‘cold snap of a lifetime’, when natural food sources for birds were buried in snow and ice and puddles were frozen, I woke up every morning to find many species of birds cohabiting while waiting in the shelter of our outdoor patio kitchen. They were waiting for a pot of cool water.

I learned during my permaculture education that in winter wild birds need fresh, clean water as much as they need food. Birds are at risk of dehydration if they expend extraordinary energy collecting water, converting snow into water inside, or excessively preening to maintain their insulating swelling.

At all times, we have eight sources of drinking water in our gardens for birds, bees, butterflies and small animals. They are strategically placed to provide one or more elements of protection, sustenance, warmth or cooling shade, and also to encourage the beneficial distribution of excreta. A small fountain-style waterer fitted with a submersible heater and sheltered from snow is the usual waterer in very cold weather.

For weeks now the heated waterer has been frozen and packaged at -15 ° C. Lucky for the birds, and for us we were home for the holidays, able to change the water troughs every few hours as needed. , providing some relief for our feathered and furry little friends.

Little wild things react to cold in a way I’ve never seen before. Birds and squirrels of all species and sizes feed and drink together, side by side, as if they know their lives depend on a spirit of cooperation and community close to ceasefire.

At all other times of the year, star jays outweigh tohi and chickadees, tohi outweigh lily of the valley, and the small but mighty Douglas squirrels outweigh everything, including gray squirrels and black, several times larger, even crows. On these amazing days, they make room for each other, sharing food and space equally, taking only what they need.

These tiny and vulnerable teaching creatures, instinctively inspired by stoicism, generosity and equanimity, move me to tears. They bring me joy. They make me laugh.

It goes without saying that nature knows best how to heal our beautiful blue planet. It shows us over and over again in countless tiny, extreme ways that it will take a spirit of altruistic, global ceasefire-like cooperation and community to repair and maintain a natural balance.

I resolve, in this new year, to be more careful.

Laura Marie Neubert is an urban permaculture designer based in West Vancouver. Follow her on Instagram @upfrontandbeautiful, learn more about permaculture by visiting her Upfront & Beautiful website, or send her your questions here.

For a taste of permaculture, click on the YouTube link below:

(Video – Courtesy of West Vancouver Memorial Library)


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