With the humans away, the animals come out to play

Whether it’s roadside moose, backyard coyotes or sidewalk raptors, Ottawa residents seem to be noticing more wildlife in their midst.

Moose, coyotes and other creatures taking back the streets

A goose on a lawn with patchy snow. There's a grey highrise in the backround.
Geese wander the grounds of Tunney’s Pasture in Ottawa on March 24, 2020. Given the number of civil servants who’ve been told to work from home, birds may well outnumber humans at the federal government complex these days. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Whether it's roadside moose, backyard coyotes or sidewalk raptors, Ottawa residents have been noticing more wildlife roaming around the city these days.

It's hard to say exactly what's spurring the rise in animal sightings, according to Gordon Robertson, chair of the education and publicity committee for the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club, but it might just be that we suddenly have more time to stop and notice our surroundings.

"I'm not entirely certain that there are more of them. In some cases there might be, but I think just more people are out right now," Robertson told CBC Radio's All In A Day this week. "They're not at work so maybe they're taking walks around and they're just seeing them more."

Here are a few recent sightings folks have flagged to CBC Ottawa. Have you had your own close encounter? Let us know!

A coyote runs down an empty Carling Avenue near Island Park Drive in Ottawa. (Submitted)

Coyote on Carling

Colin Wong captured a video with his dashcam of this coyote running down Carling Avenue.

"I was sitting at the intersection heading northbound, waiting for the light to change, and noticing how peaceful it was for a Saturday, when out of the corner of my eye I saw the coyote," Wong said.

"It had stopped briefly before launching into a full sprint in front of me."

Coyotes have been growing in numbers for years and seem to be less fearful of humans, Robertson said, even though they do still prefer to stay hidden.

Fewer cars on the streets these days mean less noise, he added, and that could give animals like coyotes a greater sense of security to roam free.

Moose on the loose

Jocelyn Lanctot was heading down Lester Road last week when found herself stuck in a long lineup of cars.

"I thought maybe [there were] ducks or a turtle, and then I saw the moose. Had to pull over to take a few shots and enjoy the wildlife," Lanctot said.

Others tweeted about their encounters with the moose couple, which clearly had no interest in physical distancing.

A new flying friend

For the past week or so, a lone bat has been greeting Marc Gagnon on his walks near St. François d'Assise church in Hintonburg.

"I noticed a bat flying around March 27. I watched intently and noticed it land. I was intrigued," Gagnon told CBC.

"During my daily walks, I do a check and it was still there this morning. I find it fascinating, and it has provided an opportunity to learn more about bats and the important role they play."

Hangry birds

Soula Dimitrey says her Old Ottawa South backyard is suddenly aflutter with activity.

"Our backyard bird feeder has never seen so much business," Dimitrey said. "Blue jays galore, cardinals, and tons I can't even begin to recognize."

In Nepean, Tooneejoulee Kootoo-Chiarello spotted a murder of crows in her backyard, feasting on a dead rabbit. 

Daniel Martelock, witnessed a falcon take down a pigeon in a parking lot near his home.

"I was about to throw out some garbage, but was interrupted when this falcon landed with a pigeon in its talons, between the bin and myself," Martelock said. "It didn't even care that I was there, so I came back out an hour later and it was still munching."

According to Robertson, there are mental health benefits that come with encountering birds and other creatures, something that's extra important when we're all cooped up at home.

"For the next month take the earbuds out and listen to the birds," he suggested. "It's really quite relaxing."