Be careful with bird seed: you may attract porcupines

A Parkvale resident learned a prickly lesson after she recently spotted an uninvited guest in her backyard.

A Parkvale resident learned a prickly lesson after she recently spotted an uninvited guest in her backyard.

“I put a bird feeder on a picnic table and (a porcupine) climbed on the picnic table and was helping himself,” said Carol Scott, adding she noticed two porcupines on the move in her Red Deer neighbourhood in the past few weeks. “My next-door neighbour fills a bird bath with seed. That’s why he’s been coming to her.”

Scott contacted Medicine River Wildlife Centre and a wildlife community liaison assessed the situation, trapped and relocated the porcupine to Crown land.

Alberta Animal Services generally begins its trapping season at the end of April.

Carol Kelly, executive director of Medicine River Wildlife Centre, said leaving food in your backyard is an open invitation for wildlife. She said it is not unusual for porcupines to visit urban areas because Red Deer has trees and the river valley, a habitat that porcupines like.

Kelly said the critters usually roam the entire year but once spring comes, the porcupines and other wildlife start to move around more.

“Wildlife need two things,” said Kelly. “They look for a place for shelter and food. And if you provide them with shelter or food, you are inviting them into your yard. Don’t do those kind of things. Keep your bird feeders up high.”

Kelly suggested keeping bird feeders from spilling over the ground by placing a tray under the hanging bird feeders.

Clean it every couple of days so there is not a lot of feed on the ground. Porcupines nibble on trees so if that is a problem, the centre can provide a special spray to ward them off the trees.

Kelly said the centre is in talks with the City of Red Deer about an education partnership on teaching people about how to care for their yards so everyone is happy.

She said unfortunately there is always one family in a neighbourhood that really loves birds and animals.

“They leave cat food out for the stray cats,” she said. “They leave bird feeders for the birds. They leave their yards full of food and then there is a terrible conflict because the cat food on the ground feeds stray cats, which eat the birds. It also brings in skunks and porcupines. You are bringing them into the city with this food source and shelter.”

Medicine River Wildlife will assess a situation and identify the problem before deciding to relocate an animal.