Wildlife and nature are a part of our life here in Aurora. We are committed to living in harmony with all living things and seek to promote a healthy and environment for all. 

Wildlife in Aurora

Wildlife such as Coyotes, Raccoons, Skunks and Foxes are common in Aurora and York Region. These animals can be found in forests, trails and neighbourhoods. 

You can help prevent wildlife from coming on to your property by limiting the food source. Removing sources of food by protecting pets and livestock, fencing gardens, and securing garbage and compost, will help encourage coyotes to go elsewhere. Most importantly, never feed coyotes or other wildlife.

Animal Services will address wildlife complaints within the town provided that the injured wildlife is located on town-owned property. If you require any wildlife removed from your home, please contact and hire a local wildlife removal expert.

For more information and tips for peaceful coexistence with wild animals in our area, please visit our Wildlife in Aurora page.

Why you should never feed wildlife

We all love animals but feeding wildlife can actually do more harm than good. Here are 3 reasons why you should never feed wildlife.

  1. People food isn’t good for them – Animals require the right mix of vitamins, minerals and proteins from their natural diet. Human food doesn't offer the right nutrition. A poor diet can lead to health problems.
  2. Feeding animals makes them lose their natural fear of humans - When animals lose their fear of humans, they can become aggressive or a nuisance, leading to human and wildlife conflicts.
  3. Feeding contributes to the spread of disease - Either the food itself or how the way they feed can allow parasites and other diseases to take hold and spread.

What is an invasive species?

An invasive species is a plant, insect or animal that causes damage to the environment, economy or human health in a new region where it is not native. They out-compete native plants for space, food or other resources. Invasive plant species can be difficult to control due to their natural aggressiveness, high rate of reproduction and lack of natural predators in the environment.

What can you do to stop invasive species?

  • Learn to identify these species
  • Use designated trails and keep pets on a leash to avoid accidentally spreading of these invaders
  • Learn to effectively and environmentally manage these invasive species on your private property
  • Buy native species to plant in gardens and landscaping
  • Clean all equipment thoroughly to remove seeds, leaves and mud
  • Encourage people to report any illegal importing, distribution or sale of Dog-strangling vine and Japanese Knotweed

For more information on how to deal with invasive species please visit Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program Website.

Below are the invasive species, threatening the Town of Aurora, are regulated under the Ontario Invasive Species Act, 2015.

European Common Reed (Phragmites australis subsp. Australis)

European Common ReedRight photo: Pond on Leslie Street is being encircled by invasive phragmites.

Invasive Phragmites is an invasive plant causing damage to Ontario's biodiversity, wetlands and beaches. It is a perennial grass that has been damaging ecosystems in Ontario for decades. It is not clear how it was transported to North America from its native home in Eurasia.

Origin: The plant is from Eurasia and was introduced to North America in the late 1800s.

Impacts: Phragmites tend to become the dominant species in a variety of habitats, because of its dense growth both above and below ground and its ability to release toxins from its roots into the soil to stop the growth of and kill surrounding plants.

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

Japanese Knotweed

Left photo: A large outbreak of Japanese knotweed at Bloomington and Bathurst.

Japanese knotweed is an aggressive semi-woody perennial plant that is native to eastern Asia. It has broad leaves and a vigorous root system. This invader is very persistent and once it becomes established, is incredibly difficult to control.

Impacts: Commonly invades disturbed areas with high light, such as roadsides and stream banks. Reproduction occurs both vegetative (rhizomes) and seeds, making this plant extremely hard to eradicate

Dog-Strangling Vine (Cynanchum rossicum)

Dog-Strangling Vine (Cynanchum rossicum)

Right Photo: Climbing up a fence on Industrial Parkway South, these well-seeded vines are just a small part of a substantial outbreak North of the Sheppard's Bush soccer fields

The name “Dog-strangling Vine” refers to two invasive plants native to Eurasia– black swallowwort and pale swallowwort. This invasive perennial prefers open sunny areas, but can grow well in light shade. It grows aggressively up to two metres high by wrapping itself around trees and other plants, or trailing along the ground. Dense patches of the vine can “strangle” plants and small trees.

Impacts: Forms dense stands that overwhelm and crowd out native plants and young trees, preventing forest regeneration. This is a serious concern for the conifer plantations in the York Regional Forest. Leaves and roots may be toxic to livestock. Deer avoid dog strangling vine, which can increase grazing pressure on more palatable native plants. Threats to monarch butterfly populations; butterflies lay their eggs on the plant but, the larvae are unable to successfully complete their life cycle.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria Petiolata)

Photo of White flower with green LeavesGarlic mustard is an invasive herb native to Europe and was brought to North America in the early 1800s for use as an edible herb. It has a strong smell similar to garlic and since its arrival in North America it has escaped into the wild and is now one of Ontario’s most aggressive forest invaders.

Garlic mustard seeds are easily spread by people and animals. They can remain in the soil for up to 30 years and still be able to sprout. The plant can grow in a wide range of sunny and fully shaded habitats, including undisturbed forest, forest edges, riverbanks and roadsides. 

Garlic mustard can invade relatively undisturbed forests. Once established, it can displace native wildflowers like Trilliums and Trout Lily and hinders other plants by interfering with the growth of fungi that bring nutrients to the roots of the plants.

Garlic Mustard can be found in residential yards and gardens. The plant can be easily pulled out of the ground in the spring while soils are moist in late April/May and the plant will flower at the end of April/May making it very identifiable by the flowers for removal.

The Town of Aurora is actively educating the public and working with the Aurora Community Arboretum and the Adopt-a-Park groups to remove the species from public greenspaces. Please assist in this effort by removing garlic mustard plants from your property and advising the Town if you encounter the species while out in our parks, trials or woodlots.

The plant threatens several of Ontario’s species at risk. The Ontario Invasive Plan Council has some great tips on how to manage Garlic Mustard on your property.

The above information was provided from the Ontario Invasive Plan Council and Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

The Emerald Ash Borer, is an invasive insect that kills all types of healthy ash trees. It is a major threat to the health of our Regions forests.

The insect was discovered in York Region in 2008 and the City of Toronto a year earlier. While the Emerald Ash Borer poses no risk to human health, it is a significant threat to our forests.

The Town has contracted with Trugreen to provide treatment services to combat the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive insect that kills healthy ash trees.

The contract will provide for the preventative application of TreeAzin, a pesticide approved in Canada that has shown to protect ash trees from the EAB. Approximately 2,000 publicly-owned trees along boulevards and rights-of-way have been identified in the Town's street tree inventory as potential candidates for treatment. Trees meeting the treatment criteria will be marked by Town staff with a small but highly-visible painted dot.

York Region is working co-operatively with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Ministry of Natural Resources, conservation authorities and local municipalities to monitor the spread of this invasive insect and determine the best course of action to help manage its impact.

Visit York Regions website and click on Emerald Ash Borer to learn more or, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or call 1-866-463-6017.

 

Spongy Month/Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD)

Image of Gypsy moth with blue and red dots

The Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD) now more commonly known as Spongy Moth was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s and first detected in Ontario in 1969. This invasive insect is well established in North America and likely will never be eradicated. Caterpillars grow up to 6 centimetres in length, are dark and hairy with five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots on the back.

LDD/Spongy Moth is a species of the moth that get their name from their ability to travel by attaching to various objects. In the winter they lay eggs usually in the bark of trees and in the spring the eggs hatch and larvae ascend the trees to feed on the foliage. Feeding ends by early July and these moth caterpillars will appear late July or August.

These pests are destructive and are a concern because the larvae feed on the leaves of trees. During the larvae stage, a single moth caterpillar can eat an average of one square metre of leaves.

Late July to December 2022

From late July to December the Spongy Moth will enter the Pupa and Moth stages. During this time you should remove all burlap, sheets or anything you have wrapped around your trees. Keeping these items wrapped around the trunk of your tree will impact the tree from expanding and growing, causing damage.

You can scrape off any egg masses on the trees and place them in a bucket of soapy water for up to two days. To be safe, wear gloves when handling them.

LDD/Spongy Moth factsheet

Frequently Asked Questions

 What are Spongy Moths/LDD?
The European Spongy Moth was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s and first detected in Ontario in 1969. This invasive insect is well established in North America and likely will never be eradicated. Caterpillars grow up to 6 centimetres in length, are dark and hairy with five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots on the back.
Why are they now using the Term Spongy Moth?

The Spongy Moth, also known as Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD) and European gypsy moth name changed as the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) recently adopted the new common name of ‘spongy moth’ to replace Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD) and European gypsy moth.

Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD) was previously known as ‘gypsy moth’ (and more recently in media reports as ‘LDD moth’). The previous common name was removed from the list of accepted common names in July of 2021 for its use as a derogatory slur for the Romani people.

The new common name was selected to acknowledge the conspicuous, spongy egg masses that the insect produces.

Egg Mass Stages

The Spongy Moth lifecycle has four stages. Timing of each stage may vary due to climate and location.

Image of Spongy Moth Lifecycle

Egg Mass Stage

Eggs are covered with brown fuzz and are found as oval shaped “egg masses” 2 to 3 centimetres wide and a few centimetres long. They are usually in tree bark crevices or other hidden places. It’s common to find them on vehicles, garbage cans, firewood piles, outdoor furniture and children’s toys. The insect spends the winter in the egg stage and then hatches the following spring.

Caterpillar Stage

Caterpillars hatch from eggs in spring (end of April/May) and the emerging caterpillars climb up trees to feed on leaves.

At first the caterpillars are very tiny, but they can grow up to 6 centimetres in length, covered with dark hairs. The caterpillar is characterized by five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots that run down its back.

People usually notice the caterpillars later in their life cycle when they are larger and if their feeding damage is visible.

Pupa Stage

At the end of the caterpillar stage, the larvae seek safe shelter to pupate.

In early summer (late June to July), the larvae enter a transitional stage for 10 to 14 days in which the larvae transform into adult moths.

Moth Stage

The winged moths have less than two weeks to mate and reproduce before they die. Each female moth can lay between 500 to 1,000 eggs.

Only male moths can fly. Female moths often remain on the tree they fed and pupated on because their heavier, wider bodies make flying difficult.

 What kinds of trees are most affected by the Spongy Moth?
The Spongy Moth prefers to feed on oak trees but will feed on the leaves of many other hardwoods including maple, elm, birch, poplar and willow trees. In some rare cases, when their number is extremely high, the caterpillars will feed on evergreens such as pine and spruce.  Caterpillars don’t appear to like ashes, sycamores, butternuts, black walnuts and dogwoods.
 What are the impacts of Spongy Moths?
Spongy Moth caterpillars tend to only feed and damage trees for a short period in June-July and most trees will put out new leaves when the weather is favorable.  Most healthy trees can withstand several years of severe defoliation. Trees that are already in poor health may have a harder time recovering from severe defoliation and if coupled with additional stressors such as other pest/diseases or hot, dry weather may result in tree decline or mortality.

At high numbers, the caterpillars can be a nuisance. Caterpillar droppings and bits of foliage dropped by feeding caterpillars can create messes on decks and walkways near infested trees, on York Regional Forest trails and in local parks and greenspaces.

 How do I know if I have Spongy Moths?
These moths hibernate in egg masses that are covered with tan or buff-coloured hairs, and may be found on tree trunks or bark. Large egg masses are about the size of a loonie and may contain up to 1,000 eggs. The larger the side of the egg mass, the larger the infestation. The eggs will hatch into caterpillars and will feed on the trees and bark.
 How do I get rid of Spongy Moths?
These moths spread easily, as the young larvae can be carried by wind currents or will hitch a ride on objects like vehicles, tents, trailers, and lawn chairs to infest new areas. 
  • If trees are severely infested (many egg masses are visible), an insecticide may be a viable option
  • Homeowners should contact a licensed tree care company to discuss the best options

Some products have very tight timing windows for application to be successful and may require more than one treatment; if an opportunity to treat trees is missed this year, homeowners may want to reserve a spot the following spring.

Removing egg masses

Common places egg masses can be found are under branches, tree trunks, fences, firewood, outdoor furniture, boats and trailers and under the eaves of buildings.

If you come across an egg mass it should be scraped off with a knife and dropped into a bucket filled with soapy water for up to two days. Remove any tables, swing sets or lawn furniture from around the base of any tress as they objects provide protection from the heat of the sun.

Removing caterpillars

The caterpillars can be handpicked and placed in a bucket of soapy water for up to two days. The long hairs of the caterpillar can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some people. To be safe, wear gloves when handling them.

Caterpillars can be successfully trapped by wrapping a 45 cm wide strip of burlap around the tree trunk at chest height. Tie a string around the centre of the burlap and fold the upper portion down to form a skirt with the string as a belt. The caterpillars will crawl under the burlap to escape the sun and become trapped. Later in the day, lift the burlap up, pick off the caterpillars and dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water for up to two days.

How to wrap your trees with burlap bands fact sheet

What is the Town doing to protect the trees?

Town staff are currently burning and destroying egg masses off tree trunks in areas identified with many egg masses. This will reduce the number of eggs that will hatch in the spring. The Town will also be providing educational information to residents on how to combat the spread of the Spongy Moth and will work closely with York Region to control the moth population. 

Will the Town be Ariel spraying of trees in Aurora?

Aerial spraying is not part of the Town’s LDD Management Strategy as data from egg mass surveys indicate Spongy Moth populations are on the decline. Aerial spraying also requires precise timing and more than one application to be effective against Spongy Moths, in addition it is dangerous to many other beneficial insects in the ecosystem that many birds and animals rely on as a food source. 

 What can residents do to protect the trees on their property?
Similar to other tree/forest pests (emerald ash borer, forest tent caterpillars, etc.), it is generally the responsibility of the tree owner to maintain the health of their trees and to seek control/removal of the undesirable tree pest if required. 

There are a number of ways homeowners can manage the impacts including treating trees with insecticide, hand picking caterpillars or removing egg masses. Homeowners can consider contacting a licensed tree care company to discuss best options for dealing with privately-owned trees including hiring a licensed contractor to apply pesticide sprays or tree injections. 

Watering your affected trees

Ensure your affected trees are generously watered. The affected trees are under a significant amount of stress from the feeding and they require plenty of water to help them regenerate leaves once the caterpillars stop feeding.

 

Image of how to remove Spongy Moths

January to April

  • Prior to caterpillars hatching in early spring, egg masses can be scraped off trees and destroyed by placing them in a bucket of soapy water for a day or two
  • This will help reduce numbers of caterpillars hatching and defoliating the trees

April to June 

  • If trees are severely infested (many egg masses are visible), an insecticide may be a viable option
  • Homeowners should contact a licensed tree care company to discuss the best options
  • Some products have very tight timing windows for application to be successful and may require more than one treatment. If you miss an opportunity to treat your trees this year you may want to reserve a spot the following spring.

May to August

  • In the spring and into the summer, caterpillars can be handpicked
  • To trap caterpillars (making them easier to collect), wrap burlap around the tree’s trunk at chest height, secure with a string or rope in the centre and fold the top half over the bottom half to form a bit of a ring. The caterpillars will seek refuge under the burlap bands, which can be checked regularly
  • Caterpillars can be removed and disposed of by placing them in bucket of soapy water for a day or two

Note: check your burlap bands daily to ensure birds or any other wildlife don’t get unintentionally caught. If you come across injured wildlife, contact your local Animal Control Services at 1-877-979-PAWS or email animal services or contact a Wildlife Rescue:

Residents are reminded to always wear gloves when handling LDD caterpillars and egg masses to avoid an allergic reaction. If you are experiencing any sort of reaction, please contact your doctor.  

August to December

  • Prior to caterpillars hatching in early spring, egg masses can be scraped off trees and destroyed by placing them in a bucket of soapy water for two days
  • This will help reduce numbers of caterpillars hatching and defoliating the trees
Can I apply sticky tape around the tree  to prevent caterpillars from climbing the tree?
This method is not recommended due to the potential for injury/death to unintended insects as well as small animals including mice or chipmunks getting stuck on the sticky tape. Burlap bands, when checked regularly, are a safer way to collect and dispose of the caterpillars that would otherwise be high up in the branches eating the leaves of the trees.  
How do I apply burlap to my trees?

European Gypsy Moth caterpillars grow to about an inch (2.5 cm) in length by mid-June, they will move down the trunk to seek shelter from predators and heat. You can take advantage of this behaviour by making a burlap barrier band trap to reduce the number of larvae on the trees in your yard.

Watch the video from the City of Toronto on how to wrap your trees with a burlap trap for caterpillars.

Can I wrap a sheet or towel around my tree or does it have to be burlap?

Old towels and sheets are just as effective as burlap and a great way to recycle!

 Does the Spongy Moth have any natural enemies?
Birds, squirrels and other insects will all help reduce numbers, as will a naturally occurring fungus (Entomophaga maimaiga) and a virus (nucleopolyhedrosis (the fungus and the virus are harmless to people). These will all contribute to cause an eventual collapse in numbers if the population builds to high levels in a particular area.
 Is this the last year of the Spongy Moth outbreak or will it happen again next year? 
Generally, the Spongy Moth outbreaks can last one or two years and in some cases more. Based on the population estimated from 2019 and 2020 egg mass surveys, it is possible that the outbreak levels observed this year could be repeated again in 2022. This can only be better predicted by conducting egg mass surveys in the fall of 2021. The number and size of egg masses in sample plots will give an indication of whether the population is increasing or decreasing.
 What is the Region doing this year to manage this invasive pest?

The Region has identified its street trees at greatest risk for severe defoliation and will be implementing integrated pest management strategies including: 

  • Manually removing egg masses on smaller high-risk street trees
  • Treating select high-value street trees with a biological insecticide called TreeAzin™

Burlap banding on high-value street trees and smaller high-risk street trees, and ground-based Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki (Btk) sprays on smaller high-risk street trees are also being considered. When used as directed TreeAzin™ and Btk sprays pose minimal, if any, risk to people, pets, wildlife, soil and water.

As a preventative measure and part of our ongoing practice, staff continue to monitor both street and forest tree plots at greatest risk.

In July staff will be conducting defoliation surveys on previously-surveyed plots to look at the actual defoliation levels (which the egg mass surveys in 2020 attempted to predict).

In late fall/early winter staff will be resurveying the plots for egg masses to help with 2023 LDD predictions.

 Will trees in the York Regional Forest be treated?
The Region will not be implementing integrated pest management strategies on trees in the York Regional Forest because those trees are at lower risk. Natural ecosystems, like those found in the York Regional Forest are often more resilient to pests and diseases than urban street trees. 

 

European Fire Ants 

Photo of red fire ants gathering on sandThe European fire ant (Myrmica rubra Linnaeus), is an invasive, non-native species that is a nuisance pest for people and potential threat to native species. Over the past 10 years, they have been found in residential and natural areas in the Greater Toronto Area. They nest in damp soils around tree roots and under rocks, logs and rotting debris. These ants sting humans, pets and wildlife to defend their nest.

Controlling fire ant colonies on public property

There are no known effective, long-term control methods available for parkland. Known treatments will kill beneficial insects too, which can negatively affect wildlife and the natural food chain.

When travelling through Aurora parklands, you're advised to:

  • Stay on designated pathways and trails
  • Always wear covered footwear and long pants to protect yourself from ant stings and other hazards - different insect bites or poison ivy
  • Keep dogs leashed and on the designated trail

Controlling fire ant colonies on private property

Keep your property clean to avoid a potential European fire ant habitat:

  • Disposing of yard waste properly. Do not dump yard waste into natural areas
  • Keep the area immediately adjacent to your property clear of accumulated branches or decaying vegetation
  • Mowing tall grass and trimming hedge
  • Avoid transporting materials (soil, mulch, plants, and decaying logs) unless you are certain that it is free of fire ants

Treatment of fire ant colonies

Try using boric acid bait traps, diatomaceous earth, or pyrethrin (these products can be purchased from local nurseries and hardware stores and should be applied according to product instructions). Or contact a pest control company.

If you discover an infestation of European fire ants on your property, treat the colonies quickly to reduce their opportunity to expand into neighbouring areas.

Public lands

There are no known effective, long-term control methods available for parkland. Known treatments will kill beneficial insects too, which can negatively affect wildlife and the natural food chain.

When travelling through Aurora parklands, remember to:

  • stay on the designated pathways and trails
  • always wear covered footwear and long pants to protect yourself from ant stings, etc
  • keep dogs leashed and of the designated trail

Private property

Keep your property clean to avoid a potential European fire ant habitat.

  • Disposing of yard waste properly. Do not dump yard waste into natural areas.
  • Disposing of yard waste properly. Do not dump waste into natural areas
  • Keep the area immediately adjacent to your property clear of accumulated branches or decaying vegetation.
  • Mowing tall grass and trimming hedge
  • Avoid transporting materials (soil, mulch, plants and decaying logs) unless you are certain its free of fire ants

If you see an infestation of European fire ants on your property, treat it quickly to reduce the chances of expanding into close areas.

Try using these products that can be purchased from local nurseries and hardware stores or contact a pest control company:

  • boric acid bait traps
  • diatomaceous earth
  • pyrethrin

Noxious weeds

The following noxious weeds are found in Aurora and cause harm to humans:

Poison Ivy

Phot of 3 leaf green poison IvyA harmful weed that produces clusters of three leaves, it can be found along trails and wooded areas. When the sap from this plant comes in contact with the skin, it produces blisters and irritation.

Wild Parsnip

Photo of yellow flowered yellow parsnipWild Parsnip is often found in ditches, trails, and residential properties. When the sap from this plant comes in contact with human skin then is exposed to sunlight it causes severe burns and blisters.

Giant Hogweed

Photo of tall, large white flowered hogweedGiant Hogweed is found alongside roads, streams and in open spaces. The sap from this plant can cause severe blisters, burns, and scars. The effects of this plant are further intensified when exposed to sunlight. Eye contact may cause loss of vision.

For more information on how to deal with invasive species please visit Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program Website.