01/19/2012 06:41 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Animals coaxed out of hibernation by weather

This winter's warm weather means wildlife that usually hibernate are on the prowl, says the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.

Small animals like rabbits, raccoons and skunks usually spend most of the winter curled up in their den, says federation president Duncan Crawford. But this year's warmer weather means these animals are spending more time above ground. The warmer weather makes it easier for them to dig up food. "The negative is if they're on the go, especially where they're for the most part nocturnal, they're more susceptible to predation," said Crawford.

"So they're there for the roamers, like foxes and coyotes, to get them."

Crawford said the weather this year has made work easier for human hunters and trappers as well.

"Certainly if the snow's out of the woods and the rabbits are white, they're easily identified," he said.

"There's going to be more raccoons on the go, so if raccoons are moving, they're more susceptible to being trapped."

On the down side for hunters, coyotes will be more difficult to track down. They are not as likely to be as hungry and be tempted to go after bait. Increased predation should not be a long-term problem. The animals will likely make up for any decrease in population by having larger litters in the spring, said Crawford.

He did, however, warn Islanders to be on the lookout for unexpected skunks crossing the roads.