The Montréal Botanical Garden is located in an urban setting, and is home to a number of different animal species. We aim to coexist with them as harmoniously as possible: watching a family of racoons next to the pond can be very enjoyable, but when they move into a building or when visitors try to feed them, and risk being bitten, the situation can become problematic. In some cases we have to intervene to stop animals from feeding on our botanical collections and destroying or seriously damaging them.
The Montréal Botanical Garden wildlife management policy, adopted in 2011, is intended to ensure the most harmonious coexistence possible with wildlife in the Garden, while establishing clear guidelines on how and when Garden staff are to intervene.
Wildlife management policy guidelines
The Montréal Botanical Garden wildlife management policy is intended to preserve the Garden’s biodiversity and ensure harmonious coexistence with the wildlife there, while protecting the public and employees and the Garden’s plant collections.
Garden staff intervene only as a last resort, when an animal becomes a threat to visitors, employees or the Garden’s collections. First, they must use all proven preventive and dissuasive measures.
Respect their true nature. Please don’t feed the animals.
Feeding wild animals isn’t natural and really isn’t good for them:
- Wild animals don’t need to be fed.
- The natural environment provides them with a healthy, varied diet. By feeding themselves, they develop the behaviour they need to survive.
- Feeding wild animals can make them sick (malnutrition, obesity and other problems).
- It’s not good for wild animals to lose their natural fear of humans.
- Tame animals may pester visitors. This can be dangerous, especially for young children.
- Through contact with humans, wild animals that become accustomed to being fed can transmit diseases and parasites to humans (fecal coliform bacteria, salmonella, ticks, rabies).
- Large numbers of wild animals can gather when attracted by food, and this can result in epidemics and parasite problems.
- The Botanical Garden is recognized as a National Historic Site. Wild animals on the site can sometimes damage the plants, buildings and electrical equipment.
Did you know that feeding wild animals is prohibited?
Feeding wild animals is prohibited, for reasons of public health and hygiene. Anyone violating this by-law is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of $30 to $60. (By-law 35.1, 99-102, a. 37; RCA-53 a.9)
No new animals at the Garden
The Montréal Botanical Garden cannot accept any exotic or native species of animals brought in by visitors. They could carry diseases that might spread among the animal population at the Garden and even cause epidemics.
The introduction of new species could force the species already living here to move elsewhere or even disappear. Red-eared slider turtles and goldfish, for example, are exotic species purchased at pet stores. When released into the wild, these species can easily survive the winter and crowd out native species.
Pets – rabbits, for instance – are not used to finding their own food, as they have always been fed. They would not survive long at the Garden. Stray dogs and cats generally manage to survive by feeding on small mammals and birds, with a negative impact on the native wildlife at the Garden. They can also contract diseases and spread them to the native animal population. In addition, they can scratch and bite visitors and employees.
Lastly, the introduction of animals that do not belong at the Garden could have disastrous effects on its plant collections. Animals could destroy some species of perennials, shrubs or conifers by feeding on them.
Birds at the Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden is home to many different kinds of birds. There is a wide and abundant variety of food for them. In winter, we set up birdfeeders to give them a more regular diet. This is very popular with birdwatchers and other visitors, who can observe the birds more easily. Feeding them in this way does not create any problems, since there is no contact with humans and hence no possibility of the birds becoming dependent on humans.
We do take special precautions to avoid the risk of Salmonella infections: the birdfeeders are cleaned and empty shells mixed with bird droppings on the ground are picked up.
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
There are red foxes living in the Garden at present, but there is room for only one pair on the site. Red foxes are shy, discreet and nervous creatures. They play a valuable role by consuming a large number of small mammals and insect pests. It is very important not to feed them.
The Garden staff makes sure that the den where the kits are born and raised is in a remote spot, away from visitors. All the buildings are fitted with protection to keep animals from burrowing underneath them. The pair and the kits in each brood are vaccinated against rabies during the annual vaccination campaigns by the city’s Direction des Grands parcs et du verdissement in co-operation with the Québec Ministère des ressources naturelles et de la Faune.
Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Many visitors enjoy watching our squirrels and feeding them. Because of this, the squirrels can become quite tame, however, and even bite people trying to feed them. So it is best not to do so.
Squirrels can dig up large quantities of bulbs and ornamental plants. They gnaw on the bark of young trees and eat buds. They also get into storehouses, buildings and birdfeeders. They can chew on electrical wires and cause fires.
For the well-being of the squirrels and visitors’ safety, it is very important not to feed the squirrels. Garden staff use repellents when they plant bulbs, to keep the squirrels away.
Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis)
Gulls can sometimes harass visitors eating outdoors, on the restaurant patio for instance. They may pull waste out of trash containers, and have been known to attack the carps in the Japanese Garden.
To help us avoid these problems, it is important not to feed the gulls. Nylon lines have been strung 25 cm apart over the restaurant patio to keep them away from that area. All waste must be placed in the closed trash bins.