Carrots for the Critters

Carrots for the Critters

Carrots for the Critters

This story was originally published December 12, 2020 in the e-blast newsletter to Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s membership.

Are you a member but don’t receive these email Newsletters?  Contact us at info@yukonwildlife.ca to update your email preferences.

Banner photo credit L. Caskenette

This territory is full of incredible people of the north and without a doubt Steve and Bonnie Mackenzie-Grieve are among them!

Steve and Bonnie own and operate the Yukon Grain Farm, not far from the Preserve. They are pillars of the community and work hard to produce and provide local – they also immensely support local.

Every year, the Yukon Grain Farm donates a giant bag of, often brightly coloured but not considered beautiful, vegetables to the Preserve and its critters. This year, 1000lbs or so of carrots came in. While they are bright orange, grown right on the banks of the beautiful Yukon River, the carrots themselves are not deemed beautiful by the human eye. Instead of wasting this bounty the animals will gladly enjoy them, ground into their regular diet, as enrichment over the months to come!

Thank you Yukon Grain Farm for your ongoing support to the north!

Lindsay Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette

Manager of Visitor Services

Lindsay joined the Wildlife Preserve team March 2014. Originally from Ontario, she came to the Yukon in search of new adventures and new career challenges. Lindsay holds a degree in Environmental Studies with honours from Wilfrid Laurier University and brings with her a strong passion to share what nature, animals and the environment can teach us.

867-456-7400
lindsay@yukonwildlife.ca

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A-Moosing Move

A-Moosing Move

A-Moosing Move

This story was originally published October 24, 2020 in the e-blast newsletter to Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s membership.

Are you a member but don’t receive these email Newsletters?  Contact us at info@yukonwildlife.ca to update your email preferences.

Banner photo credit:  J. Paleczny

Early on Thursday morning (October 22), during those chilly hours before we are open to the public, the Animal Care team successfully moved the little male moose calf; walking from his temporary off-display habitat to the public viewing area near our other 4 moose.

Now you might be wondering how that happens, and safely. The wide roadways, snaking in a figure-8 through the Preserve are not only a means for you to explore the Preserve and its wildlife residents, they’re also the way in which we, using a series of gates and the fencing for each habitat, guide animals from one area to another.

This little male moose will spend time alone in this intermediate habitat (in between the 2 other males in the marsh habitat and the 2 females in the adjacent habitat) before being introduced in with the females.

He’s quite skittish, very cautious of new surroundings and people. While he remains in this secondary, temporary home a stand-off barrier is in place to ensure he feels he has enough space to be comfortable and explore his surroundings while reducing stress as he gets to know you, our visitors.

A trip down Memory Lane:  remember when this moose orphaned in July moved to his temporary off-display habitat?  And here’s the early October pre-A-Moosing Move update thanks to CBC Yukon!

Lindsay Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette

Manager of Visitor Services

Lindsay joined the Wildlife Preserve team March 2014. Originally from Ontario, she came to the Yukon in search of new adventures and new career challenges. Lindsay holds a degree in Environmental Studies with honours from Wilfrid Laurier University and brings with her a strong passion to share what nature, animals and the environment can teach us.

867-456-7400
lindsay@yukonwildlife.ca

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Bald Eagle:  Right Carpal Infection

Bald Eagle: Right Carpal Infection

Bald Eagle: Right Carpal Infection

This story was originally published October 24, 2020 in the e-blast newsletter to Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s membership.

Are you a member but don’t receive these email Newsletters?  Contact us at info@yukonwildlife.ca to update your email preferences.

Banner Photo:  Dr. Maria Hallock and the Animal Care team weigh the bald eagle upon it’s arrival to Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s Rehabilitation Centre.  Credit:  L. Caskenette
On Tuesday October 20 a bald eagle arrived at our Rehabilitation Centre from Mayo via CO services. It’s common that we do not know the circumstances surrounding an animal’s injury, as is the case with this bald eagle. In cases like this, CO services are the link between animals in the wild, human concerns for their health and welfare, and Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s Rehabilitation Centre. CO Services and YG’s Animal Health Unit will respond and evaluate an appropriate course of action (which may include bringing it to YWP). While the YWP can accept injured wildlife, we do not have a field response team to conduct rescues.
The good news is that while this bald eagle is underweight at 2.6 kg he has a good appetite, is alert and fairly strong. X-rays performed at Yukon Wildlife Preserve show no fractures. The challenge faced by this bald eagle while in our Rehabilitation Centre will be in overcoming and healing an infection in his right carpal joint (that’s a bird’s wrist!), and some other abscesses that have been drained by Dr. Hallock. The eagle will be on antibiotics, and will remain inside to give the team the ability to monitor him closely. Follow up x-rays will be taken in a week to assess how the eagle is progressing and his health plan will be tailored based on the findings. It’s early days on the road to this eagle’s hopeful recovery. The Preserve now has 3 eagles within the Rehabilitation Centre (1 Golden Eagle and 2 Bald Eagles). While this can be abnormal for this time of year, we do know that animals encounter illness and injury year-round. To help keep Yukon Wild at Heart, consider a donation. If you encounter an animal that you feel needs help, be informed. A good first step is to check our website for Wildlife Emergency protocols and contacts.

The following update was originally published January 23, 2021 in the e-blast newsletter to Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s membership.

A Convocation of Eagles

Lindsay Caskenette & Julie Kerr

Lindsay Caskenette & Julie Kerr

Visitor Services Manager and Visitor Services Coordinator

Lindsay and Julie love to share the Preserve the same way they explore life – full on and full of adventure!  They have a collective love of:  Animals....Lindsay dogs, Julie foxes; Adventure.... Lindsay dog mushing, Julie extreme camping;  both take on animal personas during story telling.  Together they support the Preserve with a strong Visitor Services presence and often, they even get work done (this happens most often when the other one is out of the office).

 867-456-7400
 info@yukonwildlife.ca

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The Antler and Breeding Cycle Featuring Moose

The Antler and Breeding Cycle Featuring Moose

The Antler and Breeding Cycle Featuring Moose

10 minute read –
Deer species are hoofed, ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The primary deer species in the Yukon include: Moose –  the largest of the species; Caribou, Elk and Mule and White-tailed Deer which have migrated in from Alberta and British Columbia over the past 250 years, Mule deer are very well established with their range documented to extend up to the Arctic circle1https://www.britannica.com/animal/mule-deer.

Many of the Preserve’s visitors are fascinated by the antlers, held by members of the cervid family, and ask many questions about them. This article will explain some of the basics on the annual growth and shedding of the antlers and how they play a critical role in the breeding cycle of these animals. We’ll focus on the largest and arguably one of the most Canadian iconic members of the deer family – the moose and his antlers.

Cervids, or members of the Deer Family, grow antlers.  Only males grow antlers, with the exception of Caribou.  Photo left to right:  Caribou, Elk, Mule Deer, Moose.

Let’s begin when last year’s antlers fall off sometime in the mid-winter following the conclusion of the breeding cycle. The antlers separate from the skull at the point of attachment called the pedicel – the base. The antlers – a growth of bone that is chemically altered to fatigue when the animal’s hormones change following the rut, (a term for the breeding season), which also coincides with shorter days and less sunlight. The cast off of the antlers at the pedicle produces an open wound. Like any open wound there is some amount of bleeding, but it does not appear to be a concern for the animal, the blood clots and is washed off by precipitation and a scab like covering develops. 

Antlers separate from the skull at the pedicel, typically in the winter months.

After a couple weeks the new antlers begin to form, and it is not like a tooth where a replacement pushes the old one out of the way in order to grow, it follows a different process. A new antler bud grows in the pedicle of the animal’s skull. Soon after the antler bud has grown for a few days a soft fuzzy fur-like material forms on the bony bud. This is antler velvet and it is an organ. It contains blood vessels, capillaries and nerves that facilitate the growth of the antler over the coming months.

Velvet covers growing antlers:  it contains blood vessels and nerves to facilitate rapid seasonal growth.

While antlers are growing they are engorged with blood and are quite soft and delicate, so much so that the animal is very cautious to not damage their new antlers in any way. If they do become broken or damaged, the animal is stuck with the injured or malformed antler until the next year when a new set will grow after shedding the damaged one later in the present year. A damaged antler may also develop into a ‘non-typical’ antler where it does not match the one on the other side and is often considered a deformity. As an antler bearing animal ages there is a shift in hormone levels, just like humans, and this can manifest in antler deformities or increased ‘non-typical’ tines. As for humans, aging and hormone changes can mean greying hair or more brittle bones. These malformations can spell misfortune for a bull when it comes to successfully fighting off males and attracting females in the rut – we’ll get to that soon!.

Antlers can be damaged during growth; asymmetrical antlers can be the result.  This can spell bad luck for a male when it comes to successfully fighting off males and attracting females.

Antlers grow very quickly. In fact, they are the fastest growing tissue of any mammal. If the animal has a rich and voluminous diet, moose antler growth can mean packing on a pound each day2http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=175, in the form of bone of course. Coastal moose in Alaska tend to grow the largest antlers due to the quality and diversity of plants that grow in the temperate coastal areas of their rain forests compared to the colder and less vegetated areas inland like the Yukon. These full sets of antlers are often referred to as a rack.

Moose happily browse the aquatic and terrestrial plants they prefer as their new antlers continue their rapid growth. The high levels of sodium found in aquatic plants help moose antlers to grow quickly. Moose adapt to the additional weight and mass of their antlers and can be very exacting in their use for scratching. They know where each antler tip is and how to control their movements with great precision. One of the most remarkable examples of how well moose can control themselves with a large rack is their ability to walk through a forest and not make a sound as they weave their way through the trees with the equivalent of a kitchen table upside down on their head. They can also scratch delicate parts of their anatomy with an antler tip with little fuss.

Velvet hangs from antlers as bull moose browses aquatic plants in marsh at Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

Over the summer season moose continue to gorge on vegetation as their antlers grow within the velvet encasing them, then a number of changes take place as the autumn season approaches. The first frost and dwindling day light is a turning point and triggers a hormonal change in the animal whereby blood flows back into the animal’s body and stops flowing to the antlers causing the velvet to dry after a few days and become itchy. At the same time bulls that are reproductively mature experience other hormonal changes in anticipation of the rut.

The itchy antler velvet gets rubbed off on trees and the bulls do not look their best as ribbons of bloody velvet hang from their antlers. As they dry, the antlers grow hard due to the process of mineralization and result in a two-type cartilage and bone structure3https://www.msudeer.msstate.edu/growth-cycle.php. The inner portion is less dense, spongy bone that has been highly vascularized during growth. The compact outer shell of the antler is of greater density and is very strong and solid and will become the weapons used when fighting other bulls during the rut which is coming up fast.

Once velvet has shed, antlers calcify becoming strong and solid.  Males are now ready to challenge each other for breeding rights to females.

In preparation for the competition among the bulls (males) to breed a cow (female), the bulls announce themselves by urinating on their bellies or sometimes on the ground and then roll in the mud produced. The purpose of this is to get their scent or pheromones to be carried on the breeze letting the cows know where he is; his readiness to mate and making it easier to be found. Of course other bull moose smell this too and a number of them will gather in a common location on a mountain pasture and their mating fights begin as the bulls gather for the annual main event.

Bears, wolves and other predators also smell the moose pheromones and for them it is like the ringing of a dinner bell and they too gather nearby to take advantage of the situation that will soon unfold.

Elk males, like moose, may announce themselves by urinating on their bellies or sometimes on the ground and then roll in the mud produced

Bull moose stop eating when they go into the rut, partly because of the change in their hormones and also because they don’t have time as they are quite busy chasing other bulls away or fighting with them. Some moose can lose a substantial amount of weight when in the rut rendering them weaker and susceptible to greater injuries. Antlers can do some serious damage to other moose where an eye could be lost, a major organ could be pierced by an antler tip or many other injuries, such as muscle punctures could be sustained that would make it much easier for a grizzly to be successful in it’s hunt for food. That’s why predators hang around the rutting areas, it often results in injured moose bulls that are easier to overtake due to their wounds.

When the cow moose go into estrus or heat, they are only then ready to be bred. Some documentary TV programs elude that it is the bulls’ fighting prowess that determines which bull gets to mate, that may be true but it is not the only consideration. The cow still selects which bull she will mate with and it may be the result of the fights, or the appeal of the bull’s pheromones or other factors we are unaware of. But her goal is to produce the best offspring possible and how she makes that determination is her business. The cow will only breed once, while the bull’s goal is to breed as many cows as he can.

Once all the breeding is concluded, the cows and the bulls go their separate ways and will remain isolated from each other until next year’s breeding season occurs again. During this time, the bull’s antlers fall off and the antler cycle starts all over again.

Cow moose may give birth to a single calf or twins and sometimes triplets in the late spring after the ice and snow have turned to water once again. The bulls wander independently between the low river valleys and the mountain tops browsing while their new antlers grow as they evade predators until the rut calls them back to that special place where the breeding games begin anew.

Doug Caldwell

Doug Caldwell

Wildlife Interpreter

Doug is one of the Interpretive Wildlife Guides here at the Preserve. An avid angler and hunter he has a broad knowledge of Yukon’s wilderness and the creatures that live here. With a focus on the young visitors to the Preserve, Doug takes the extra time to help our guests to better appreciate the many wonders of the animal kingdom here in the Yukon.

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Misunderstood Moose

Misunderstood Moose

Misunderstood Moose

5 min read –

You have most likely heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, implying that captivating stories can be hidden behind bland book covers. Similarly, at one time or another many of us have been judged or have judged others based on their outward appearance. Judging others based on their appearance can lead to us underestimating other people’s abilities. Have you ever been underestimated? How did it feel? Due to their funny-looking, long snouts, and gangly, plodding bodies, moose are often underestimated. People tend to view moose as gentle, slow-moving animals, and often don’t associate moose with characteristics such as agile and fierce. Cartoons1Like Bullwinkle the Moose can perpetuate this impression by displaying moose as slow, friendly Canadians. But don’t be deceived by this common misperception. Though moose may look unassuming, they are capable of performing impressive athletic feats in order to find food and avoid predators.

Despite their appearance, moose can easily propel themselves through water in order to find food. While otters, beavers, and other mammals that are known for their swimming ability have lean bodies and webbed feet which allow them to easily glide through the water, moose are heavy-set and have hoofed feet. Despite their size and hooved feet, moose have the advantage of being tall, and their long legs help propel their large bodies through the water. Moose also have hollow hairs, which help them stay buoyant while swimming.2National Park Service With these advantages, moose can swim as fast as 9.5 km per hour. By comparison, most humans only swim at the pace of 3 km per hour. Moose’s ability to swim quickly allows them to travel in search of food while reducing stress on their joints. Water also helps protect moose from predators because it is more difficult for predators to sneak up on them when they are in the water.3Moose Facts 

Moose swimming across Lake Laberge.  Photo credit D. Caldwell.

Photo Credit Johanna Marglowski

Moose also have adaptations that allow them to dive underwater to eat nutrient rich aquatic plants.4National Geographic To prevent water from rushing up their noses, moose have flaps that close in their nostrils. These flaps allow them to hold their breath underwater for up to 50 seconds5Holding breath Ecology and Management of the North American Moose and help them to dive up to 6 m (20 ft) underneath the water surface!6Hinterland Who’s Who After a winter of sparse food resources, aquatic plants provide essential energy to both pregnant cows (female moose), and to bulls (male moose) as they regrow their antlers.

In addition to swimming, moose are also capable of running at high speeds. Being the tallest member of the deer family, a moose can stand around 6 feet tall at the shoulder, which is as tall as some professional basketball players.7National Geographic Even though moose might be too gangly to make great basketball players, their height and long legs allow them to run very fast. A moose calf can outrun the average human after only 5 days of life,8National Geographic while an adult moose can charge at a pace of 56 km per hour, and maintain a pace of 32 km per hour over longer periods. For perspective, during his world record 100 metre dash Usain Bolt ran at an average pace of 44 km per hour. However, moose do not run fast to set world records, their speed provides them protection by enabling them to run away from wolves and other quick-moving predators.

Furthermore, despite the perception of being friendly, moose are actually effective fighters. Though they sometimes use their speed to outrun predators, an experienced and healthy moose is capable of defending itself against wolves by standing its ground and fighting.9Wolves of the Yukon by Bob Hayes Moose will protect their sides by standing next to trees and high shrubs, and then use their powerful legs to stomp or kick attacking wolves, hitting them with their deadly hooves. A powerful strike from a moose’s sharp hooves can result in injury to or even kill a wolf. 

Even young moose are large animals.  The photos show 2 moose bulls; on the left a young 1 year old and on the right a more mature bull of many years of age.

So, are moose really the plodding, polite animals that cartoons depict them as? Have you ever underestimated moose based on their goofy-looking appearance? As we have seen, instead of being slow, and plodding, moose are impressive athletes. Moose are capable of swimming through and under water, which allows them to more easily travel in search of food and access the nutrients they need during pregnancy and to grow antlers. Moose are also capable of running at high speeds and of fighting off other animals, which helps them survive attacks from wolves and other predators. Each of these athletic capabilities are important survival mechanisms that help moose thrive in the wild.

Tasha Mazurkewich

Tasha Mazurkewich

Wildlife Interpreter

Tasha is a self-proclaimed animal enthusiast and adventurer. Originally from British Columbia, she enjoys skiing, hiking, and all things outdoors. She is happiest when she is climbing a mountain with her pup. Having recently moved up north, she has enjoyed learning about Yukon’s wildlife and landscape and is excited to share the new knowledge she has learned with visitors to the wildlife preserve

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