Unusual spikes of warm winter weather continue to threaten southwestern Ontario's wildlife.
Several species of frogs, turtles and snakes are coming out of hibernation early and may not survive when normal, colder weather returns, according to the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.
Reports of early animal sightings increase after stretches of unseasonably warm weather, such as the one that swept through southwestern Ontario over the weekend.
Animals that have come out of hibernation could be at risk, particularly with a winter storm predicted to hit the region this week.
"Generally, with snakes and turtles, they stay pretty close to where they've been hibernating," said Scott Gillingwater, a species-at-risk biologist with the conservation authority. "Occasionally, some of our local species - eastern garter snake, northern brown snake - they will move a little bit further away from the hibernation site, away from where they would be secure for the winter during the cold snap and end up dying."
Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for most of southern Ontario for a late winter storm expected to arrive Wednesday. The storm could dump 15 centimetres of snow by Thursday morning and another five to 10 cm later that day.
Several warm snaps this winter have led to early signs of animals. Gillingwater said he received similar reports back in November and December for animals, such as the green frog, leopard frog, spring peeper frog, the midland painted turtle and the spotted turtle.
"This is definitely a bit odd for what's typical for this area and, if it happens once in awhile, it's not that big of an issue, but we've had consistently warm temperatures and a number of warm breaks throughout the winter," he said.
The wildly warm winter weather has affected other animals as well. Earlier this month, staff at the Wings Wildlife Rescue Centre in Amherstburg reported possums getting frostbite, young hawks and owls looking a bit starved and squirrels being born into a cold snap.
"We're just seeing, as a whole, things that are much different this year than last year," Nancy Phillips said at the time.