P.E.I. wildlife: A 2016 roundup of fascinating facts

People are endlessly curious about the world around them, which is one reason CBC P.E.I. launched a regular feature on wildlife this year. From skunks to birds and even bees here's a roundup of some of our most popular critter stories.

Eagles can see five times better than a human, and more interesting info

Foxes have exceptional senses of hearing and smell and can feel the vibrations of rodents beneath metres of snow. (PEI Urban Fox Project/Facebook )

People are endlessly curious about the world around them, which is one reason CBC P.E.I. launched a regular feature on wildlife this year. From skunks to birds and even bees, it's clear Islanders enjoy reading about critters that share our world.

First, a very hearty thanks to all the experts who generously shared their knowledge with me. And secondly, an observation: even to scientists, much is still unknown about virtually every species discussed here — why and how they do certain things, their migration patterns or mating habits. Often, answers to my questions were simply: 'I wish we knew. No one has studied that.' 

For your enjoyment, here are some of our most popular columns on P.E.I. wildlife from 2016. 

Skunks

"Striped skunks don't deserve a bad rap," asserted wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft from his home in Nova Scotia. "Odoriferous maybe, but they release that nauseating spray with reluctance."

City of Windsor officials haven't yet decided on how to remove skunks from the city. (Flickr)

Foxes

The most visible wildlife on four legs  in P.E.I. — even in urban areas — is undoubtedly the fox. Scientists aren't sure of exact numbers, but believe the Island's fox population is thriving and healthy.

Foxes are quite at home in Charlottetown but officials ask residents to refrain from feeding them. (@bkcrossman/Instagram)

Bats

Most people are afraid of bats but scientists say there's no need, because they won't harm people. Rather, they eat thousands of insects every day.

Sadly, the species that call P.E.I. home have become endangered after being struck by a deadly fungus called white nose syndrome. 

A little brown bat, the most common type on P.E.I. (Jordi Segers/Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative)

Barn Swallows

Barn swallows are the most widespread of all swallow species — they're found on every continent except Antarctica — but the tiny songbirds are actually threatened in Canada, with a population decrease of an estimated 76 per cent over the past 40 years.

Aerial insectivores, that is birds that catch insects in flight, like this barn swallow are declining more steeply than any other group of birds, according to a recent report. (Submitted by Nick Saunders)

Blue Jays

The blue jay became the provincial bird back in 1977 after a province-wide vote, and is is plentiful and plenty visible at feeders and in the wild across the Island.

They are loud, colourful and pushy!

Blue jays can be seen hogging the space at feeders across the Island. (Submitted by Paul Gauthier)

Owls

At least eight species of owls have been seen on P.E.I. including short-eared, boreal and northern saw-whet owls, although barred and great horned owls are the only species that are year-round residents. 

Boreal owls like this one can sometimes be found on P.E.I. (Donna Martin )

Eagles

Brought back from the brink of endangerment, the eagle population on P.E.I. could still use some help, say conservationists.

The magnificent birds have a wing span of two metres or more and eyesight five times better than a human's. Read on for more cool facts. 

Did you know female eagles are usually larger than males? (Lorne Kelly)

Seals

Seals are "amazing animals" that have the ability to live in both the marine and terrestrial worlds, are loved by animal rights groups and reviled by most fishermen.

Four kinds of seals make their home around P.E.I.: harbour and grey seals are here year-round, while harp and hooded seals come in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to give birth on ice floes in early spring and sometimes even on the Island's shores. 

Seals live in a dim underwater environment so those big eyes have evolved to capture as much light as possible. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca