Many people have been reporting what appears to be increased wildlife sightings this winter and as we head into spring.

Sightings of white-tail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, as well as the occasional bear and cougar, have been reported in many parts of southeastern Saskatchewan.

We spoke with Leanne Heisler, Regional Wildlife Ecologist with the Ministry of Environment for the Swift Current area, to find out some of the reasons for the increased sightings.

Heisler said that there could be several reasons for it, and it sort of depends on where you live and the time of year. 

"One of the reasons why you might see more [wildlife] in the spring and fall is because wildlife, they tend to start moving around a lot more in those seasons. They're pretty limited in what they can find to eat as well as shelter in the winter, especially with heavier snowfalls."

Heisler said that as the snow melts, more food is available to them and they start moving around a lot more looking for it. They are also getting ready for the breeding season she said, so they'll start looking for areas to nest and to set up their territories for the summer.

"So in the spring, that's usually the reason why you start seeing more wildlife. Then in the fall, they're starting to move to their winter ranges where that habitat will be available to them through the winter."

Heisler provided some reasons as to why we might see more wildlife populations in urban settings during the winter.

"You might see more wildlife then because they're moving in to take advantage of the shelter and the food that's typically available in those areas, especially deer. We've seen a lot of deer kind of move in and we call it 'yarding up,' where they'll find some kind of food source or shelter in someone's yard or in a town and that's where they tend to increase in numbers."

"That food and shelter is more readily available to them in that yard relative to out in their natural habitat," Heisler said. "That can happen more often depending on how much snowfall you get in the winter, so those are a couple reasons why you might see wildlife more often, but it's pretty variable, depending on where you live and what season it is." 

Heisler said that the wildlife populations are pretty variable from year to year, and the more wildlife you see in a town really depends on how severe the winter conditions are.

"Heavy snowfall is a big one, and then if we get those freeze-thaw events where you get really cold temperatures for a while, then it starts to melt, it might rain a little bit and then it freezes again. Then in your snowbanks you have layers of ice, which can make it really difficult for wildlife to get through, to get to food. Then you start to see them move into areas where you won't likely see them."

If wildlife starts to move into backyards or other areas where people would prefer to have that area for themselves, Heisler said that one of the best deterrence methods is to manage food attractants.

"Covering your shrubs, fencing off any gardens and things like that, that they could get into. That's a good way to limit their access to food and shelter in your yards. I would encourage people just to enjoy the wildlife that they see."

She said that the wildlife are a natural part of our environment and especially at this time of year, we're going to start seeing birds move into the area.

"You'll hear a lot of songs and songbirds. Animals are starting to come out and move around a lot more, so I just encourage people to keep an eye out for wildlife and really enjoy their presence."

If you're encountering aggressive wildlife, Heisler said you can call in to the Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) line at 1-800-667-7561.