MONTREAL -- If you think you're confused by this winter's warmer than usual weather, take a moment to ponder our feathered friends and furry neighbours.

While this season's record-breaking temperatures have offered humans a welcomed reprieve, the unseasonal weather has played havoc with the lives of birds and animals.

The balmy winter weather has tricked many members of the wildlife community to alter their usual migration schedules, sleeping habits and feeding and breeding patterns.

Now, wildlife biologists, ornithologists and zoologists are concerned that the survival of some of these birds and animals could be threatened by the winter months ahead.

Among the anomalies reported in Eastern Canada:

-The Canada goose, which usually migrates south, staying put. An annual Montreal Christmas bird count found an all-time high number of the water fowl, 2,832, roosting on the open waters of the St. Lawrence.

-Raccoons and skunks foregoing their shorter but still important hibernation period and, burning up fat stores that they will need if and when a January or February deep freeze arrives.

-In Montreal, the eastern gray squirrel is feeding instead of nesting and getting fatter. At the same time, it has been joined by the Fox squirrel, a bigger and brown-reddish colored squirrel with a more southern range.

-Possums, a marsupial associated with the southern United States, have been spotted in southern Quebec.

"There's a pile of stuff going on," said Lynn Miller, a Montreal wildlife biologist based at Le Nichoir, a bird refuge in Hudson."There will be winners and losers," she added.

Miller recently had to euthanize a great blue heron because it couldn't stand up. Frostbite had destroyed its toes. The species usually migrates to Florida and other sunny climes for winter.

"The weather has been so warm, he thought he could stay," she said. "It was bloody awful."

With little snow, the white-tailed deer is having no trouble finding food this winter and, as a result, the species will be more successful come breeding season.

Coyotes, foxes and many birds of prey are also well positioned with a plentiful food supply. Turkey vultures, a bald-headed species usually seen much further south at this time of year, is now thriving in Canada.

In southern Ontario, spring-like temperatures have dandelions blooming and even frogs, flies and bees are out.

At the Ojibway Nature Centre in Windsor, Ont., people are reporting seeing frogs, snakes and turtles, said naturalist Paul Pratt.

Pratt says a sudden plummet in the mercury could be a killer.

"The biggest danger is a real sudden change in temperature. You don't want to go from plus 13 C one day to minus 20 the next," Pratt said Friday.

"You want to give them a chance to crawl back in their holes and get in the burrows and hollow logs or wherever they want to go when the weather's cold."

Montreal Gazette, with file from Windsor Star