As April approaches, High Park is beginning to show some sure signs of spring. Although we are still due some uncertain weather before spring has fully sprung, this is a great time to explore the park and look for the first signs of the new season. One of the best things about spring in High Park is the arrival of baby animals. Most mammals in the park begin to have their young in late winter to early spring, so on your next visit be sure to keep a watchful eye out for signs of these little critters.
Eastern Grey Squirrel
The eastern grey squirrel is the most common animal found in High Park, and the baby animal you’re most likely to spot if you look hard enough. They have two breeding seasons—one in late winter (January and February) and one in midsummer (June and July)—and the winter babies begin to appear in the early spring. Young eastern grey squirrels can be seen exploring their surroundings outside of their nest by 8 weeks old, and by 12 weeks they are almost fully grown and independent.
The eastern chipmunk is another common inhabitant of High Park—they can be heard chirping and chattering as they scurry about the park during the spring, summer, and fall. Unlike the eastern grey squirrel, most chipmunks only have one breeding season a year, from mid-April to mid-May. Young eastern chipmunks only weigh about 3 grams at birth, making them the tiniest babies on this list. They grow quickly, however, and reach their full adult size by early fall of their first year, and most begin to breed in their first spring. While exploring High Park this April, keep an eye out for young chipmunks foraging outside of their burrows for the first leaves and shoots of the season—they might be even more charming than their adult counterparts.
High Park is also home to Toronto’s favourite masked mammal: the raccoon. Just as likely to make their den in a hollow tree as in a brick chimney in a residential neighbourhood, raccoons and their young are notoriously adaptable to life in a big city. Raccoons breed in late winter and early spring and their young are mostly born in May, although births have been recorded as early as March. Young raccoons stay with their mother until they are about a year old, and their distinctive facial markings begin to develop in their first few weeks of life. It is not uncommon to see young raccoons following their mother through the trails of High Park in search of their next meal.
Spring in High Park means rebirth and renewal. Although it may seem a long way away, the promise of new life—blossoms, blooms, and baby animals alike—is enough to keep the cold at bay for now as we dream of warmer days.