5 scenarios that could happen at the cottage and what to do about them

a-swarm-of-bees Photo by Sushaaa/Shutterstock

If you’re unfamiliar with the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Board Game, it’s all fun and games until you find yourself in those very circumstances. The game requires players to choose the best solution from three possible answers. While knowing how to cross a piranha-infested river might not be widely applicable, here are a few scenarios that might surprise you as a cottage owner. We’ve taken the guess work out of the equation for you with this “What to do if…” guide.

A swarm of bees has taken up residence

When a Queen bee leaves her hive in search of a new colony location, a ‘swarm’ can occur. Up to 60% of her loyal worker bees will leave the original hive to start anew if the Queen feels the colony has outgrown its space. Swarming is part of the bees’ natural life cycle. If you are lucky, the swarm will leave on their own accord within one to two days. If the bees choose to squat at your cottage, you will need to contact a bee rescue service or local beekeeper who may be able to re-locate the swarm. Some keepers may offer their services for free—but don’t be stung, ask for a quote in advance. The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association provides links to local beekeepers’ associations who can distribute a colony removal request and a list of honey bee rescue and removal services with a user-friendly map to help you navigate the sticky situation.

You spot a rare bird

When a bird strays from its normal migratory, wintering or breeding range, it is referred to as a “vagrant” or “accidental.” Some arrive to a foreign area by hitchhiking on ships or as the result of storm’s air currents. Some tropical birds are escaped pets while others have genetic abnormalities impairing their sense of direction. Vagrants are sometimes just newbie juveniles, overshooting (or undershooting) a destination.

“If you’ve spotted an unusual bird species in your area, reporting what you see can be a big step in helping researchers,” says Sarah Coulber, Education Specialist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation. She suggests documenting your find on iNaturalist.ca, eBird Canada or Project Feeder Watch (Canada). “It’s a volunteer program that allows birdwatchers to keep track of birds they see in their garden while helping Canadian and American experts track bird population changes.”

You find a deceased banded bird

Reporting your find online to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory in Maryland helps ornithologists further understand and monitor migratory bird populations. One million birds are banded in Canada and the U.S. each year, but only 10% of game bird bands are recovered (and less than 1% of songbird populations). Be sure to take a photo of the bird to help with identification and to ensure accuracy. You’ll need a magnifying glass or the magnifying app on your iPhone to read the band number. The reporting form will prompt for all the particulars: encounter date, location, species, condition and how the band was obtained. Your citizen science efforts will be rewarded with a Certificate of Appreciation and information about the age of the bird and where it was originally banded. You can also call 1-800-237-BAND (2263) to report data or visit the Government of Canada site.

You discover a rare amphibian

James Pagé, a Species at Risk and Biodiversity Specialist at the Canadian Wildlife Federation reminds amateur herpetologists that “Amphibians have sensitive skin and shouldn’t be handled as sunscreen or insect repellent can be harmful. If you find a frog or salamander out of water, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in distress, many species travel large distances from water sources. Your find may be something very common or super rare, but either way, the report is extremely valuable to science and conservation.”

Pagé recommends taking a photo using an identifying app, such as iNaturalist.ca (or digital camera upload) as “image recognition software can suggest a species identification of what you have observed. The report is shared with every province’s Conservation Data Centre, which tracks rare species. The information can be used to keep an eye on populations or to refine our knowledge of where these species occur in Canada.”

You find an arrowhead

Uncovering an artifact while planting some tulip bulbs or a digging a horseshoe pit seems innocent enough, but The Ontario Heritage Act prohibits disturbing or altering an archaeological site (on land or under water) unless you hold a valid ministry-issued archaeological licence. A licensed archaeologist may collect artifacts, but she or he does not own them—they are only held “in trust, for the people of Ontario.”

John Raynor, a member of the Ontario Archaeology Society’s Huronia Chapter says, “most, if not all provinces and territories have archaeological societies or public, non-governmental organizations that try to help foster an interest in archaeology in their area. The Canadian Archaeological Association as well as numerous museums and universities have public outreach, educational programs and Facebook pages as well.”

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