When we think of Alberta’s wildlife we don’t always think about the birds and the bees. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for some added romance. Here are our picks for this year’s five most loving, though not always the most lovable creatures.
1) Ord’s Kangaroo Rat
You may be thinking, ‘What self-respecting Valentine looks for a rat?’, never fear: these unique creatures aren’t rats at all!
The Ord’s kangaroo rat can be found in southern Alberta, not far from Medicine Hat in the Suffield area. Their population is in extreme threat, with less than 400 left in the province. They live in sandy areas where roads, crops and climate change have drastically reduced their habitat.
Even though they’re small in stature, their romantic side is larger than life: because when it comes to mating, these nocturnal animals know romance. They love nothing more than a dark starry night with the gentle sound of the rain as their music. In fact, the start of the spring rains brings on their mating season. What more could you ask for?
2) Woodland Caribou
When it comes to ungulates, caribou males aren’t shy about trying to get female attention. They compete for female attention aggressively. They’ve got a lot of girlfriends and could mate with 30 females! Better watch out for these tall, darkish and handsome fellas. There’s a lot to fall in love with, since caribou males boast a large set of antlers.
Woodland caribou are threatened in Alberta and Canada, despite being so amorous, with almost all of their populations in rapid decline. They are emblematic of many of our forests, the way the forests used to be. With careful protection and management in our province, their numbers may be rebuilt.
Sturgeon may not have the looks, but you’ll be hooked by the personality. Each fish has an individual personality – some even love to come to the surface so you can pet them, while others walk on their tails like a dolphin.
Lake sturgeon are a species at risk and are listed as threatened under Alberta’s Wildlife Act so don’t fall too hard for them, since they are strictly catch and release.
Sturgeon are a very romantic animal indeed: that’s because this Valentine’s going to be around for a long time – these guys and gals can live to the ripe old age of 150! Sturgeon females spawn only once every four to six years – and they don’t even start until about age 25.
4) Alberta’s short-horned lizard
Did you know that Alberta’s short-horned lizard population is the northernmost population of these animals in the world? These pint-sized charmers live in southern Alberta and the adult males are about two-to two-and-a-half inches long, while females are three-to-four inches long.
Size is not an obstacle from their perspective. They’re very confident while moving across the ground, like a mini alligator, crocodile or Komodo dragon. They know they’ve got it going on!
The short-horned lizard is endangered both federally and provincially, so even though they have their own small swagger and sassy style, if you’re out hiking in coulee areas it’s important to leave them be. They are harmless…unless you are a fly or some other insect…then you could become part of his diet.
5) Polyphemus moth
Once you see those eyes flashing at you, you’ll be drawn to the Polyphemus moth like… well, like a moth to a flame. Only those aren’t actually eyes on the Polyphemus moth – they’re large, purplish eye-spots on its wings. This animal (and yes, it is an animal) flashes them to scare off predators and other unwelcome visitors.
The Polyphemus moths will have you looking twice – even though they are six inches wide, they are very gentle. It’s from the family of giant silk moths, the larva grow up in a silken lair (otherwise called a cocoon) and emerge from that in late summer.
To add to the allure, the females release a chemical compound that’s invisible to us, and this pheromone attracts male Polyphemus moth attention. The male has feathery antenna that it uses to detect this pheromone. Talk about one fabulous blind date!
So while it’s not always flowers and chocolates with these wild guys, they all have their own unique spin on love and romance – who could ask for anything more?