Well, Ottawa is hardly in the wilds, but here are a few snaps of local wildlife I took during the Evolution meetings.
On the Parliament grounds, there were rabbits feeding brazenly in the open, including a mother and baby:
And the grounds were crawling with black squirrels, a particularly attractive mutant form of the gray squirrel:
According to Wikipedia, black squirrels are common in Ontario. They carry a semidominant mutation, one copy of which makes the squirrel brownish-black and two copies (a homozygote) make it jet black. The animal above seems to be a homozygote.
The black subgroup seems to have been dominant throughout North America prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, since their dark colour helped them hide in virgin forests which tended to be very dense and shaded. As time passed, hunting and deforestation led to biological advantages for grey coloured individuals.
Well, I’m not sure how much science backs that statement up. Did anyone do experiments showing that black squirrels are more cryptic in virgin forests and gray ones in open forests?
Regardless, I also met another mutant: a miniature horse named Rosie, whose job is to pull small carts of children in the Byward Market. Her keeper was taking her for a walk around dinnertime:
I had a tête-à-tête with Rosie; she was very affectionate. I’m told by a flight attendant that some blind people use miniature horses as guide animals instead of dogs, for the horses can have a working life of thirty years as opposed to less than a decade. In fact, guide horses are allowed on airplanes! They are constrained to sit (or stand) in the bulkhead. I bet you didn’t know that. I would love to see a tiny horse on a plane.
In case you’re wondering, here’s how guide horses fly: