Wildlife birthing and tree removal in the City of Ottawa

Wildlife birthing and tree removal in the City of Ottawa
Posted on April 18, 2014 | Donna DuBreuil | Written on April 18, 2014
Letter type:



Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Laura Mueller from the EMC wrote an article on this issue this week. You can read it at: http://bit.ly/1rlUani.

Dear Marianne,

 I am writing with respect to the clear-cutting of trees at the corner of Terry Fox and Old Second Line roads. It is very frustrating to continue to see the little regard that the City of Ottawa places on wildlife-sensitive planning, specifically for mammals. It is all well and good that tree removal is restricted after April 15th due to the bird nesting season, but what about species such as squirrels where this is the height of the birthing season?

There would be very few dreys or tree cavities without newborn young at this time. The birthing season can start as early as late February. On average, at this time of year, immobile, eyes-closed baby squirrels are about 3-4 weeks old, similar to the one shown here.

You indicate in your letter that the “City is providing nesting boxes for any squirrels or other animals that are already nesting and they are to leave any tree with a nest to give time for the animals to relocate to the boxes”. However, Nick Stow conveyed to Judy Makin that “any trees scheduled for cutting that day with any signs of wildlife or bird nests will not be cut that day, but will be marked for the following day; hopefully animals will move overnight; small nesting boxes are provided nearby, but off-site, for mammals to use.”

It is totally unrealistic to think that a squirrel with a nest of babies will be able to move them overnight, let alone find an off-site nesting box.

Where is the Construction Protocol?
You will recall that when the Wildlife Strategy was before Council last July, you pressed staff for a definitive answer about when it would be available for consultation. The staff person responded that it would likely be Q1, 2014. This was more than reasonable given that a Wildlife Construction Protocol has been almost 15 years in the making, prompted both in 2000 and again in 2010 by people in the construction industry who were very concerned about the destruction of wildlife that they regularly witnessed.

Consultation Essential
If the significant controversy that surrounded the lack of public consultation on the Wildlife Strategy is to be avoided, there needs to be open and transparent communication on the Wildlife Construction Protocol.

For example, the City indicated when trees were being removed under the EAB program (email from Nick Stow on Jan. 15/14) that “Forestry Services has begun the installation of ‘squirrel boxes’ to provide replacement habitat”. Yet, our request to see the location of some of these nesting boxes (email to you on Jan. 16/14) was never answered. Why the secrecy? Likewise, had the City been open about the current clear-cutting on Terry Fox and Second Line roads and had taken steps to pre-stress the area (as we had outlined during the Wildlife Strategy discussions) and work with the community in the construction and placement of nesting boxes, there would be less reason for criticism, at least with respect to wildlife impact.

For example, the design of the nesting boxes will determine whether squirrels will use them.  Our Centre has many years of experience in designing nesting boxes so that young squirrels are safe from predators and, for this reason, continue to be regularly used by squirrels during the birthing seasons. Given this first-hand experience, it is surprising that the City would not have consulted with us on the most effective design and construction.

Earning Trust
You indicate that staff has informed you “that no evidence of wildlife being injured or harmed was found” during the clear-cutting in question.

However, when trees were removed at Andrew Haydon Park in March 2012, we were assured then by the City that occupied dreys were not touched but we later heard reports from one of the workers employed by the tree removal company that baby squirrels had been removed and left on the ground. They would have either died from exposure or been preyed upon – an unnecessarily cruel outcome.

Working with the community to develop a proper Wildlife Construction Protocol is not all that difficult so we cannot understand why there is such resistance on the part of the City to do so.

Timing Going Forward
As I have heard you express previously, Marianne, the only safe time to do any significant tree cutting is in early to mid-October, after the birthing season is over for all species and animals still have the time and materials (branches with leaves still attached) to select and/or build winter nests.  As KNL will, no doubt, be going forward with development in this particular area, it is important this timing be respected and that the Wildlife Construction Protocol be in place to guide humane and environmentally responsible development.  We look forward to working with you and others on behalf of this objective.

Donna DuBreuil
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre
(613) 726-8178

RELATED LETTER: Tree clearing in Trillium Woods by Paul Renaud

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Related article:

Letter Response

I have been asking about the construction protocol as recently as earlier today and have asked that there be a draft of ideas at least to be discussed with the public before the summer.  I will continue to press for this to happen as it would have been helpful in this situation.  I did not have any success in changing the time when tree removal would be permitted whenI raised it last year.  I hope that this will be further considered when the construction protocol is developed.
I was able to get the City to have KNL follow the protocol for our forestry department and to have our staff involved in putting out the nesting boxes and providing advice to the environmentalist they had on site to check prior to cutting and to be available during that time.  Not the best but better than before.
This case was particularly difficult.  To get the school that the Board has funding from the province for completion for Sept 2015 the Board needed to have access to the site but the Board did not want any cutting to occur until after dealing with the site at an in camera meeting on Tues April 8th.  At that meeting they asked that the site be prepared pending their final investigation of the site and securing the land.  That left 7 days before the 15th which is the present deadline, after which trees could not be removed until August, leaving insufficient time for the technical studies and construction of the school which is needed for the children in our community.  That’s why the trees have now been removed from a part of the site.  A 30 metre strip was left for a outdoor study area within the property.
The cutting was for the school site only (it is zoned for a school) and not any other part of KNL’s lands.
I don’t know why your offer to assist has not been accepted and will look into that further.  I find that community volunteers can make a big difference in issues such as this.
Thank you for being committed to work with me and with city staff in moving forward on the construction protocol.  I did make some progress today in getting support from Planning staff to have a public consultation before the summer and will continue to press to have that happen.
Marianne Wilkinson
Councillor, Kanata North
City of Ottawa

About The Author

Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre's picture

Donna DuBreuil is the co-founder and president of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre. The Centre, founded in 1987, was established to support a better understanding and respect for wildlife in the face of rapid... More


Good letter Donna. While I understand the need to build a new school, I don't understand the need to ignore proper procedure and skip public consultations altogether, especially when promises had been made. Both need to be done in order for the right decision to be made and public confidence in the City to be maintained. Of course, the City never does, and, as a result, the public's confidence in it has eroded to nothing.


Why has the city repeatedly ignored requests to save our wildlife? Why has only greed been the main force to be reckoned with in the city of Ottawa. Why is the capital of Canada NOT setting an example for our country? The only answer I can come up with is greed. Who's pockets are being lined at the expense of our wildlife? Certainly not the citizens of Ottawa. But I'm pretty sure politicians for the city and the province of Ontario are having their pockets lined for saying yes to this destruction. .... ENOUGH! I am sick, sorry and tired of the corruption in our city, our province and our country!! CLEAN IT UP!!!

Tracey blomquist

We live in a very privileged area where humans and wildlife can co-exist. We cherish the Ottawa area because it is not just buildings and housing, but also an area of wilderness and wildlife next door. A Wildlife Construction Protocol needs to be implemented and followed in order for this co-existence to continue. Ignoring the welfare of wildlife undermines at best, and destroys at worst, what we are so proud of in the Ottawa area: Nature and humans existing together in harmony.

Jane Beall

I agree totally with Donna's comments re the clear cutting at the corner of Terry Fox and Old Second Line Roads. The city must move forward with a clear construction protocol for protecting wildlife, and have it in place before situations like this arise. Can any thinking person imagine a mother squirrel will move a nest of newborns overnight?


A school built upon broken laws and killing of innocent baby animals. Built upon lies from the city and hectic rush from the school board.

I'm sure those are all great qualities upon which to build for the children, so adept at learning from example. Perhaps some of the children will remember the cost of building their school.

Colleen Fraser

How many protests must citizens make in Ottawa to have a workable wildlife policy that is indicative of some level of humanity for the other local creatures who share our habitat?

Years of empty municipal promises and vacuous policies continue to leave helpless creatures like this tiny squirrel baby homeless soon after birth. There is lots of public interest and expertise to assist, but our elected officials and our disinterested mayor never step up and undertake any helpful actions for wildlife. Recent years have actually seen a rise in their designs to rid the region of wildlife.
Remember this come election time. Colleen Fraser, Kanata

Chris Roberts

I agree. We must continue to pressure the City of Ottawa that ALL wildlife matters, and that the long overdue wildlife construction protocol needs to be brought forward. It is disheartening to continue to hear stories about displaced wildlife with little regard for their welfare. There must be a public consultation held before summer.

Chris Roberts, Munster Hamlet

Cathy Kari

Excellent letter Donna. In the past I have also expressed concerns to the city about issues related to wildlife and have had my concerns ignored.


..a shame, these poor animals, how would you feel being left to die.....think about it and move on the proper protocol. what is the hurry.....wait


Spring is for the living. The animal in our world reserve the same respect. Please have a heart and leave the animal Kingdom alone.
It saddens my heart to know all this cruelty that exists in this world of ours.

Sandra Iseman

Thank you, Donna, for the excellent letter and capturing my concerns for our wildlife. I agree that Ottawa needs to work with the public in order to create a solution that will properly protect our wildlife through all life stages especially with regard to construction and land alteration. Squirrels are an important part of our ecosystem and must be protected, and aside from that we keep removing wildlife habitat, we need to be compassionate and understand we are limiting our wildlife's chance and means of survival and need to make more of an effort in this regard.

Sandra Iseman

Thank you, Donna, for the excellent letter and capturing my concerns for our wildlife. I agree that Ottawa needs to work with the public in order to create a solution that will properly protect our wildlife through all life stages especially with regard to construction and land alteration. Squirrels are an important part of our ecosystem and must be protected, and aside from that we keep removing wildlife habitat, we need to be compassionate and understand we are limiting our wildlife's chance and means of survival and need to make more of an effort in this regard.

Richard Spearman

Ms. Wilkinson, please be sure to let us all know when and where the public consultation is to be held. It is encouraging to see that you're committed to taking action on this issue!


What is it going to take to get the city to realize just like humans, wildlife are living and breathing and deserve preference over inanimate objects. It appears that wildlife in Ottawa are consistently being treated as collateral damage and that developing every piece of vacant land is more important ( or should I say money talks ).

Stop with the excuses and step up an protect Ottawa's wildlife.


In the spring, why is there always a race to do as much damage as possible to what little is left of a city's green space? The second the weather is mild enough to open the windows, a person hears drilling, sawing and countless city trucks pecking away at nature. It's truly sickening how the city of Ottawa continues to disregard wildlife's needs for shelter and habitat. Urban wildlife has evolved to coexist with humans but they don't have a chance if we take everything for ourselves. And believe me, life will be incredibly impoverished when we wake up to find only ourselves for company.

Edith Moore & Audrey Starkes

As residents of Ottawa we have been made aware of the need for the city to seriously address the need for a wildlife policy. This is particularly urgent in view of the burgeoning development infringing on both urban and rural wildlife settlements. It is also evident that despite the stated intent, voiced over several years, nothing has been accomplished - no policy has been established, no plan for implementation, and only token lip-service and response. It makes us question what is driving the short-sighted management of our city and the council to which it is accountable.

Caroline Schroder

Good letter Donna. And while I appreciate the efforts Councillor Wilkinson has outlined in her response, our city (Ottawa) has a poor track record when it comes to protecting wildlife. City Council must recognize that all wildlife matters. The long-overdue Wildlife Construction Protocol needs to be brought forward, including a public consultation before summer. As this is an election year, all voters should be asking candidates what action they will take on this important matter. (And looking at the record of those seeking re-election).


Excellent letter, Donna. I too am frustrated at the City's lack of response in the past on wildlife issues and how summarily wildlife is dismissed as a nuisance. The City of Ottawa has been given ample offers for assitance in finding ways to humanely work with wildlife, yet shows only disdain for the animals and those of us who care about them. I have begun issuing a challenge to my friends, family, and colleagues, to watch for the next wildlife issues in our city and see how they're handled. In almost every case that's come to my attention, the animals are killed with the excuse that it was to protect people or property.. all the while the situation could have been avoided with proper planning, or dealt with humanely after the fact had personnel had proper training. With all the science around wildlife, birthing times, nesting, etc. it is a wonder that our City seems incapable of considering methods that are proven to work. Is the City of Ottawa also anti-Science?

Claudia Owens

This situation of tree cutting in our City at inappropriate times of the year saddens me tremendously. All creatures deserve to be treated with respect and this cruelty placed upon them is beyond my comprehension. There is no reason we cannot all live in harmony, humans and animals, surely those in power can insure the grace period for the birthing season is ENFORCED!! Come on people, dig deep in your hearts!

Leah J. Travis

Dear Ms. Wilkinson: I would like to add my voice in support of Ms. Donna DuBreuil's comments concerning the actions of KNL and the City's Wildlife Construction Protocol. Thank you too, for your response to her letter. Please, isn't it time for the City to recognize the concerns of its citizens relative to these important wildlife and environmental issues? Sincerely, Leah Travis

Katherine Forster

I'm happy to hear that there are Wildlife Construction Protocols available for the City construction professionals. I am certain that many working in the field would appreciate any advice as to how to minimize their impact on the wildlife here in Ottawa. It is heartening to hear that Councillor Wilkinson is helping ensure that these protocols are followed. I do hope that the City will fully stand behind and require these protocols to be met AND be transparent in terms of how these protocols are being used.

Joyce de Reson

Can anyone please clarify if the trees in question are/are not being removed due to ash borer or some other communicable disease or pest? The city may be juggling the death of hundreds of trees versus the potential deaths of a few baby squirrels. Not to come across as heartless or anything but I'm sure our squirrel population will hardly be impacted by a couple less additions this year.

Delia Coates

It is so important to persevere and ultimately to work together to resolve these issues. There is a huge gap in the construction process on the part of developers and landowners where a greater understanding and respect for animals needs to be put in place. Why does this need to happen? It is critical we work as a whole to better harmonize with the environment and the animals that call it home for theirs and our own sustainability. Why is there so little respect for animal residents? There appears to be a common complacency where the current process is not meeting the needs of a growing population evermore conscious of wildlife issues. Many more individuals will be asking the city these questions. We are all common citizens – people and animals alike. This is a fact. Can you imagine just bulldozing your neighbour's house in the middle of winter or when they have a new baby in the house? Can you imagine?! Why is this done to animals? We would feel better about the land we assimilate if we had respectfully considered it's previous occupants enough to provide them with adequate time to relocate safely and help them through the process. This isn't a complex process and is doable with a viable Wildlife Strategy in place whereby its very existence will guide city planning and reduce stress on construction workers, home owners, environmentalists, city staff and most importantly the animals.