URGENT: Help Protect Ontario’s Endangered Species Act

The deadline for public comments is March 4, 2019.

The Ontario government is reviewing its Endangered Species Act. But so far, the review appears to focus on making the act more efficient for economic development rather than improving outcomes for wildlife and habitat. Your voice can make a difference. But you must speak up now!

The Ontario Endangered Species Act is a last line of defence against extinction in an era that scientists have termed the sixth mass extinction on the planet.

Canada’s wildlife depends on innovative regulations, policies, and programs that make conservation of species at risk the primary goal.

Stronger and more effective action is the key to protection and recovery of Ontario’s endangered species and providing clarity for business, not building further holes in the Endangered Species Act.  The Act already contains exemptions and permits for industry and the need for permits has been removed entirely for some activities that negatively impact species at risk.

The government wants to hear from people on four aspects of protecting endangered species that they pose as challenges to economic development.

Here’s what we think:

1. Landscape Approaches

We support recovering species by looking at the entire landscape and taking actions that will contribute the most to improving habitat and protecting species from harm; however, care must be taken to ensure the individual needs of each species are still taken into account. There are situations where a species-specific approach is still warranted.

2. Species Listing Process and Protections

The ability of the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) to determine the status of species, independent of government, is essential to the proper functioning of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Improved communication and transparency in all aspects of species assessment and protection is warranted to provide clarity for the public and business.

Habitat loss or degradation is a primary cause for species decline. Automatic protection, combined with clear communication on where impacts can and cannot occur, would protect species while providing certainty of what to expect for economic development.

3. Species Recovery Policy and Habitat Regulations

Delays and inaction are detrimental to species while at the same time providing little economic certainty since business is uninformed of the parameters under which they must operate.  What is needed for species and economic development is for government to focus resources on quickly providing the framework for protecting habitat and taking action.

4. Permitting Processes

We are in favour of consistent application and streamlining of decisions, which must also include decisions to deny a permit for an activity that would harm a species or its habitat. Permits allowing harm to endangered species or their habitat poses considerable risk so need to come with strict conditions. Extinction is permanent.

What you can do

Let the Ontario government know you want strong protection for Species at Risk in Ontario, which means a prioritization on conserving species at risk and the habitats they depend on through improved implementation of the Endangered Species Act in its current form.

Post your comment on the Environmental Registry by March 4, 2019
Post Your Comment

You can use all or part of CWF’s position as outlined above or craft your own response.

Protect Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Protect Wildlife. Our economy will benefit by clear regulations, swift responses and improved communications, not by delays and exemptions in applying the Ontario Endangered Species Act, which is a critical backstop against extinction.

Find out more about endangered species in Ontario and CWF’s conservation efforts:

Cheaters in the Wild

How does monogamy work in the wild?

Can monogamy really exist in the wild? Most animals wouldn’t even attempt to stay faithful to one partner, but three per cent of mammals like to settle down with their one true love. That said, researchers are finding that even the most committed pairs might have flings on the side. Meet the wildlife with roaming eyes.

The Nearly Committed

Some animals are socially monogamous, meaning they might pick one partner for life but they’ve been known to cheat every so often.

Beavers

beaver

Beavers choose a mate for life and work hard on their relationships. Both males and females take on responsibility when they have young and they are so attached that they will stay together as a team until one of the partners dies. That said, beavers have been known to have affairs. But even a wandering eye can’t break up this team.

Wolves

Wolves breed about once a year in the wild. They’ll often choose one mate and stay true to them for many years, until one of the partners dies. However, sometimes they’ll abandon their mate if they are past their prime and can no longer procreate.

Prairie Voles

vole

Prairie Voles are like the poster child of monogamy in animals. These small rodents, which occupy the grasslands of Canada, create an unbreakable bond with one mate and are often attached at the hip until one or the other dies. They’re also amazing partners – they both take lead roles raising their young and they spend time grooming each other too.

It’s rare to find Prairie Voles rolling in the hay with another mate, but one study found that 10 per cent of male Prairie Voles cheated on their mates when presented with another female. That said, they’re pretty loyal mates. Fewer than 20 per cent of Prairie Voles will seek another partner after their one true love dies.

Don’t Tie Me Down!

It’s pretty rare to find mammals that are monogamous. Most will mate with multiple partners and some are even polygamous.

Bottlenose Dolphin

bottlenose dolphin

Dolphins are known for being incredibly social animals. Their pods can range from 12 to 1,000 individuals! These marine mammals would never bother to be monogamous; they’d much prefer to share their love. When a female strikes a male’s fancy, he’ll swim up to her and nuzzle away until she gives him the green light.

Walruses

walrus ice floe arctic

Male walruses have a huge harem of female walruses, called cows. The male will mate with all the cows by luring them special vocalizations. Underwater the sounds can sound like clicks or even bells and on land they sound more like whistles. They’re also awfully protective of their harem, challenging any male that gets too close to a cow with loud roars.

The Next Extinction Level Event — Is It Already Here?

Are we witnessing a mass extinction?

Life began on Earth 3.8 billion years ago. Since then it’s been through a lot — including five mass extinctions.

That last extinction occurred 65 million years ago when it is believed that a six mile wide asteroid hit the earth killing off the dinosaurs. Many scientists agree that the next mass extinction might happen sooner rather than later — as in, it’s already underway.

The Sixth Extinction

Vancouver Island Marmot

You see, species are going extinct at a rate that this planet has never seen before. According to The Sixth Extinction – An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, we’re losing some species 45,000 times faster than we ever did before. With the rate we’re going, we could lose between 20 to 50 per cent of our species within the century.

We could lose between 20 to 50 per cent of our species within the century.

Scientists believe that one-third of freshwater mollusks, sharks and coral reefs are well on their way to vanishing from our waters. Moreover, a quarter of our mammals, a fifth of our reptiles and a sixth of our birds are on their way out too. And every time another species goes extinct, we are all witnessing something we shouldn’t be able to witness.

The Cause? You Guessed It…

city smog

Why in the world are we headed in this downward spiral? Sadly, the culprit is largely because of you and I.

Humans have really taken over. Our population is exploding and we are digging our grubby fingers into things all over the globe — tinkering with the soil, water, air and more.

Think about it, since the industrial revolution we’ve added nearly 365 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, and 180 billion tons more by cutting down forests. We’re also placing dams in our rivers, fishing immense amounts of the ocean’s fish, and using more and more of the world’s water.

Plus, thanks to us, species are getting around in a way that would never have been possible just a few short centuries ago. Species are being transported in airplanes and cargo vessels from one continent to another, introducing a range of invasive species that put native species at risk.

The Cost of Convenience

What we need is a little bit of perspective. So many of our decisions are based on convenience and making life easier that we forget to ask ourselves — but at what cost? Who will pay the price? It might be the brightly coloured butterflies that visit your garden every spring. Or the majestic whales that have swam our oceans for centuries. Are we really willing to risk losing these beautiful creatures?

Reviewing the Risks: The Latest Assessments at the COSEWIC Meeting

Three Canadian species at risk of disappearing from Canada are…

The assessment of 22 wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in November has highlighted a need for provincial and federal governments to work towards preventing the loss of Canada’s native species.  COSEWIC found the risk status of three species at risk of disappearing from Canada – the Polar Bear, Black Ash tree and Chinook Salmon.

Polar Bear

Polar Bear

These gorgeous bears rely on seal hunting to survive. However, scientists are predicting longer Arctic summers which will make hunting this crucial prey harder. Inuit are hopeful that Polar Bears will be able to adapt and that this ability may save this at-risk bear. The Committee has listed the bear as of Special Concern.

Chinook Salmon

The Chinook salmon migration to the Upper Yukon River must travel around the Whitehorse Rapids Generating Facility via a 300 m long fish ladder. A viewing chamber partway through the ladder provides an incredible opportunity for the public to observe Chinook salmon as they approach spawning grounds

Did you know that Chinook Salmon complete the longest migration in Canada? Sadly, their journey is wrought with challenges and threats along the way.  The committee found 13 populations to be in significant decline and has listed eight populations as Endangered, four as Threatened and one as of Special Concern.

“As a founding member of the Committee for the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, CWF is concerned that 13 of the 16 population groups of Chinook Salmon assessed from southern British Columbia are at risk of extinction,” says David Browne, CWF Director of Conservation Science. “Declining quality of marine and freshwater habitat is sighted as a key factor. This is yet more reason to invest in habitat restoration and protection in the Fraser River watershed and address the Cohen Commission recommendations. This is also sad news for Southern Resident Killer Whales as their main prey, Fraser River Chinook Salmon, are determined to be at risk of extinction by Canada’s experts.”

Black Ash

Black ash leaves
@ Keith Kanoti

The malicious Emerald Ash Borer has wedeled its way into many forests in Canada. This invasive species has wiped out approximately two billion trees in North America and has no intention of slowing down (or showing much mercy).

It’s unclear how the 162 million Black Ash trees still standing will survive, and so the committee listed the tree as Threatened. Black Ash are a very important tree to our forests. They’re the most widely distributed trees in Canada and are used to make commercial items like baskets, furniture, flooring and snowshoes.

What You Can Do

upload observations to inaturalist.ca
Upload observations to iNaturalist.ca

The last thing we’d want is for you to feel helpless after reading the state of some of Canada’s wildlife. That’s why, we’ve got plenty that you can do to help!  Did you know 13 of the 22 species assessed have been observed by iNaturalist users? You can help to inform assessments of other species by downloading the iNaturalist app and be part of Canada’s biodiversity monitoring team!

 

Santa’s Got Company

The Arctic tundra is a fascinating area between the edge of the boreal forest and the permanent ice caps closer to the North Pole.

This areas spans across Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Northeastern Manitoba, Northern Ontario, Northern Quebec and Northern Labrador. Such a vast and harsh arctic climate is home to a limited variety of species that must adapt to the long, cold months and major snow fall.

The Great White Bear

polar bears

The North Pole wouldn’t be complete without the Polar Bear. Unfortunately, the Polar Bear is a species at-risk in the tundra. One of the main threats is climate change which is impacting the sea ice patterns. Sea ice patterns doesn’t sound like a big deal but the Polar Bears, along with many other species at-risk rely on the ice for migration and foraging. When the ice is sparse, it can result in famine and even death.

The Arctic Fox

arctic fox

The Arctic Fox is another common and welcomed sight in the tundra. This mammal perfectly adapts to the harsh conditions by changing the colour of its fur from a brownish-grey to white in the winter months. They also use their thick bushy tails as a warm cover to protect themselves from the harsh cold wind. The Artic Fox, like many other fox species, will travel long distances in search of food like lemmings, birds and their eggs, leftover carcasses and even plants.

Arctic Hare

arctic hare

Like the Arctic Fox, the Arctic Hare have adapted to survive the tundra. They sport short ears, black eyelashes that protect the eye from the glaring sun, and have incredibly thick fur that changes from a blueish-grey to white in the winter. To protect themselves from the cold and predators, the Arctic Hare will dig dens in the snow or soil which helps them conserve body heat. Here, under the snow, they can also find some winter grubs like shrubs, mosses and lichens to keep them full all winter long.

Arctic Char

arctic char

Very few fish species call the Great White North home in its coldest months. One of the fish that lives in the lakes and rivers of the tundra is the Arctic Char. It plays an important role in the tundra as these fish are an important source of food for many birds of prey in the summer and for mammals in the winter. The Arctic Char spends part of its life cycle in fresh water and the other part in salt water. However, some Arctic Char have adapted and made fresh water their primary address after become land locked.

Birds in the Tundra

Greater White-fronted Geese © Nathan Clements
Greater White-fronted Geese | Oies rieuses © Nathan Clements

Birds are the most diverse group in the tundra! It is home to important birds like the Common Eider, Thick-billed Murre and the Arctic Tern. These birds primarily live near the Arctic Ocean and rely on the marine environment for some grubs to feast on.

Plants and Fungi

tundra
@ Martin Prentice

When you think of life in the tundra, plant and fungi aren’t exactly the first thing to come to mind. There are nearly 2,000 species of plants, mosses, sedges, grasses and flowering plants thriving there! Adaptation isn’t only for birds and mammals, plants in the tundra have adapted to shorter growing seasons, lack of humidity and low nutrient level in the soil. Plants grow shorter and closer to the soil which aids when tumultuous windstorms arise. Huddling together for warmth isn’t only for mammals! Plants have adapted to grow huddled together to stay warm.

Helping At-Risk Freshwater Turtles: From Start to Finish

In June of this year, CWF’s turtle team spent many long evenings searching for turtles laying eggs.

In particular we were looking for Snapping Turtles and Blanding’s Turtles in the process of laying their eggs. Our goal was to let the females lay their eggs and afterwards we would dig up and collect the eggs to incubate them back at CWF headquarters.

Why?

Hannah moving a Blanding's Turtle @ Mackenzie Barns
Hannah moving a Blanding’s Turtle @ Mackenzie Barns

All eight of Canada’s freshwater turtles are now considered to be species at risk. Turtles face a lot of threats such as loss of wetland habitat, and traffic mortality. In many areas 50 per cent or more of turtle nests will be destroyed and eaten by predators such as raccoons. Nest predation is a natural process, but giving turtles a helping hand by protecting their nests can benefit their populations.

From Start to Finish

1. Collecting Eggs

Excavated Snapping Turtle eggs in the field
Excavated Snapping Turtle eggs in the field | Marquage des œufs de tortues hargneuses.

Collecting turtle eggs is not as easy as it may sound. After a female turtle has laid her eggs, she packs the soil back into the hole and there is often no sign of the nest. The surest way to find a turtle nest is to find the female during the few hours she is in the process of laying her eggs. This can involve a lot of searching in the evening, when turtles are most apt to lay their eggs.

Great care has to be taken not to startle the turtle, or she may abandon her search for a nesting site until another evening. Once the female has finished nesting, we carefully dig up the nest and collect the eggs. After many long and late nights, the Turtle Team gathered more than 400 eggs from roadside nests!

2. Egg Incubation

CWF Freshwater Turtle Specialist Dave Seburn shows us the turtle eggs in the incubator.
CWF Freshwater Turtle Specialist Dave Seburn shows us the turtle eggs in the incubator | Œufs dans un incubateur

The eggs were kept in a special reptile egg incubator that maintains a constant temperature. Eggs from two species at risk turtles were collected: the Blanding’s Turtle and Snapping Turtle. Blanding’s Turtle eggs are oval, whereas Snapping Turtle eggs are round, like tiny ping-pong balls. Blanding’s Turtles lay about a dozen eggs, whereas Snapping Turtles lay 30 to 40 eggs.

The eggs from each nest were placed in a separate container filled with damp vermiculite, an artificial potting soil mixture. Our first eggs began to hatch in early August, but the eggs continued to hatch over the next few weeks. Excluding the eggs which weren’t fertilized, we had about 97 per cent of the eggs hatch successfully.

3. Hatched Eggs

Blanding’s Turtles at different stages of hatching
Blanding’s Turtles at different stages of hatching | Tortues mouchetées à différentes phases d’éclosion | Tortues mouchetées à différentes étapes de l’éclosion.

When the hatchlings first emerge, they have a yolk sac attached to their bottom shell. This contains nutrients and feeds the hatchlings for the first few days of life. We kept the hatchlings until the yolk sac was absorbed and then released each clutch of hatchlings back near where the eggs were found, at the closest wetland to each nest. By the end of August we had released almost 400 hatchlings back into the wild.

4. Releasing the Hatchlings

These hatchlings still have a hard life in front of them.

The parents do not provide any care for the hatchlings, so they are on their own to find food, avoid predators and find a safe place to hibernate for the winter. Without our help though, at least half of these eggs would have simply become food for raccoons. And possibly many of the hatchlings would not have successfully made the trek to water as the eggs are often laid 100 metres or more from a wetland.

Adding more turtles to wild populations is a good start, but there are many other threats that need to be addressed to help the turtles.

Learn other ways how you can HelpTheTurtles.ca.

Helping Turtles Live Long and Prosper

“That’s a Blanding’s!”

Hannah, one of my supervisors, said pointing into the oncoming traffic lane as we were driving.

This was one of my first encounters with a Blanding’s Turtle. This individual was proudly sitting at the far edge of the lane, displaying the bright yellow chin and throat that is so characteristic of the species by putting its head aloft in a pose full of innocent curiosity… as a car rapidly approached.

“Oh, don’t you dare hit it,” Hannah grumbled as she flew out of the car to help the turtle.

Hannah moving a Blanding's Turtle @ Mackenzie Barns
Hannah moving a Blanding’s Turtle @ Mackenzie Barns

This particular turtle was unharmed; the driver moved to avoid it as they approached (thank you, whoever you are if you are reading this).

Unfortunately, all too often, this is not the ending to such encounters. This is one of the main reasons why all eight of the turtle species in Ontario are now listed as being at risk. Even the Painted Turtle has recently been listed.

Helping a Turtle Cross the Road

That’s where the Canadian Wildlife Federation turtle team comes in. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is in its second year of identifying places of high turtle road mortality, or “hotspots.” By surveying roads and finding these areas, we are able to inform municipalities on where it is important to put up mitigation measures to prevent further turtle deaths on the road.

The most common and simplest of these mitigations are turtle crossing signs to warn drivers of the potential hazard. We are particularly fortunate to be able to monitor areas with new signs put up this year in order to determine their effectiveness. Another common, and likely more effective, measure are fences that guide turtles and other wildlife to the nearest culvert that passes under the road.

Mapping Turtles Means Protection

As a side effect, these surveys are also helping to create more accurate maps of the current distribution of the turtles that can be found in the Ottawa area. Just this summer we have found over 600 turtles on the road.

Moving an Eastern Musk Turtle @ Mackenzie Barns
Moving an Eastern Musk Turtle @ Mackenzie Barns

One memorable find was a Musk Turtle alive at the side of the road in an area where the species had not been reported since 1947. Also, observations of some species, such as the previously mentioned endangered Blanding’s Turtle, can result in habitat protection for nearby wetlands where these turtles live.

Why Turtles?

So why should this be a concern when there are plenty of other animals being hit on the road each year?

Unlike mammals or birds, turtle species have extremely low survival rates until they are fully grown. To compensate for this, they rely on mature individuals producing hundreds of eggs over multiple decades just to replace the parents. This many eggs may sound excessive, but most of the nests are raided by predators such as foxes or raccoons before the eggs hatch.

A Blanding’s Turtle just hatched
A Blanding’s Turtle just hatched | Une tortue mouchetée après l’éclosion

For the hatchlings that do make it out of the nest, they are then faced with the task of surviving 10 to 20 years before they can start producing offspring of their own. Because of this, the death of any individual adult is a serious loss to the population.

How to Help Turtles

Although we are doing our best to help the turtles in the Ottawa area, they can always use more help. By assisting turtles crossing the road (see “How to (Safely) Move a Turtle across The Road”), or even slowing down around wetlands, we can all help prevent turtle road mortalities.

Also, submitting sightings of turtles, alive or dead, either online or through apps like iNaturalist is also beneficial. Just submit a photo and the location to help ensure a prosperous future for our turtles.

Learn other ways how you can HelpTheTurtles.ca.

Bullies in the Wild

5 animals that are anything but polite

It’s a jungle out there. Animals are constantly in competition, but some animals take it a little too far. Survival of the fittest is all fair and well, but some animals are downright bullies! These five animals could really benefit from learning their manners.

Cowbird

cowbird

A female cowbird lays her egg in other birds’ nests, hiding them so the females caring for those nests raise her fledgling as their own. Once the chick hatches, it’s quite the bully – pushing the other eggs out of the nest and growing to be twice the size of the other chicks.

Coyote

coyote

Slimmer and smaller than the wolf, coyotes love to scavenge for food from smaller animals, and will target some small livestock such as sheep. Much to the farmer’s frustration, coyotes sneak under fences into pens and prey on unsuspecting sheep.

Wild Boars

wild boar quebec

Indestructible, fearsome, and tough. Some Wild Boars that have escaped from farms in Calgary, have become a dominant and dangerous species throughout Saskatchewan. They have spread like wildfire, causing destruction to property, killing other animals, wreaking havoc in habitats and even posing a threat to humans along their way. Steer clear of these guys!

Gulls

gull in ontario

Sometimes known as the “pirates of the seashore” these swooping white birds are well recognized as thieves of a sea-side meal. But gulls will also target Brown Pelicans. They’re not very common in Canada but they can sometimes be spotted as far north as British Columbia and Nova Scotia too. These pelicans catch fish in their throats and hold them there until they can land. When the Brown Pelican touches the ground, gulls swoop in and steal the fish straight out of the pelican’s mouth! Thieving little gulls!

Sperm Whales

sperm whale

Depending on whose side you take, the sperm whale could be considered a bully: of humans! Sperm Whales have been recorded sitting near fishing boats, seemingly without a care in the world. But when the nets get pulled up, the 40 tonne whale moves with surprising speed, snatching up the fisherman’s catch for their own dinner! Some might say that humans have it coming but hey, that’s still surprisingly sneaky for Sperm Whales.

What Did You Do This Summer? Well, Here’s Some of What We Did…

As the largest supporter-based conservation charity in Canada, we thought we’d report back to you on some of what we’ve accomplished during the 2018 summer conservation field work season. There were both successes and failures, but all of the work we do helps further our understanding of these species in order to best conserve Canada’s wildlife.

Helping the American Eel

The Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Aquatic Science Team conducted research on the American Eel in the Ottawa River this summer. Eels face many challenges, and their populations have declined dramatically in recent years. Our summer research included:

  • Determining downstream migratory routes the eels take while passing the Chaudière Falls Generating Station by placing 40 acoustic receivers in the water upstream and downstream of the falls. This helped target large eels that are ready to make their downstream journey back to their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea.
  • Counting their numbers to determine how many of these at-risk species there are in the area. We did this two ways:
    • Trap netting, where we caught over 3,600 fish and identified 22 different species (sadly, we only found one eel).
    • Night time boat electrofishing which temporarily stuns the fish. It may sound extreme but they were not hurt and it really is critical that we learn how many eel remain as this species is dwindling quickly. This research provided more insight into how we can protect — and ideally restore — the population back to its original numbers.

Learn more about river barriers and how they affect our aquatic species.

Love Your Lake

This summer was busy with Love Your Lake shoreline health assessments. The 2018 summer season brought the program total to 157 lakes and approximately 37,830 shoreline properties! Thanks to our seven regional partners spread across three provinces, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and national partner Watersheds Canada were able to:

  • Be active on 18 lakes in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  • Assess the shoreline health of approximately 3,570 waterfront properties.

In early 2019, the shoreline property owners on these lakes will receive a personalized shoreline property report with details on the state of their shoreline and recommended actions for improving the health of their shoreline.

For more information on the joint CWF and Watersheds Canada Love Your Lake program, please visit LoveYourLake.ca

Helping the Bats

The Canadian Wildlife Federation’s bat team worked hard this spring and summer to promote bat conservation. The goal of this program is to ensure the long-term survival of Canada’s at-risk bats. A large portion of our season focused on bats that inhabit anthropogenic structures, like barns or attics.

CWF had the pleasure of teaming up with some wonderful students from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University to promote bat conservation. Our summer research included:

  • Developing and disseminating Best Management Practices and Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Identifing maternity roosts that contain Endangered Little Brown Myotis so we can understand what habitats might need protecting.
  • Collecting biophysical data of the roosts in order to advise on preferred habitat creation and recovery strategy.
  • Testing the effectiveness of different bat house designs to determine the best designs for different species and different areas such as urban versus rural.
  • Promoting bat observations via citizen science, and outreach to our communities across the country.

By getting the word out there and learning the best ways to help these at-risk species, we’re hoping to reduce the amount of times their habitats are destroyed, and of course, reduce the impact habitat destruction has on these mammals. We continue to work to support Through effective messaging, outreach, and management strategies, we hope to reduce the frequency and impacts of habitat destruction and support the health, recovery, and survival of at-risk bats.

Learn more about Canada’s bats at HelptheBats.ca

Helping the Turtles

The Canadian Wildlife Federation turtle team was very busy this year! Our field work season included:

  • Conducting surveys for the endangered Blanding’s Turtle. Our goal was to find new locations which included this declining species in order to increase the amount of protected habitat. In so doing, we received permission from many land owners to surveys wetlands on their property and found Blanding’s Turtles in 10 different private and government-owned wetlands.
  • Surveying roads to find frequent turtle road-kill locations. Identifying these locations can help us push for road mitigation — such as wildlife fencing — in these sections of road. This would protect turtles and other wildlife. This year we found over 500 dead turtles on the roads around the Ottawa area, including over 60 dead Blanding’s Turtles.
  • Collecting turtle eggs that were laid in at risk locations, such as roadsides. By collecting and incubating the eggs and releasing the hatchlings back at the nearest wetland, we helped to compensate for the number of turtles killed on roads. The eggs were successfully incubated and we released almost 400 Blanding’s and Snapping Turtle hatchlings!

Learn more about our turtle work at HelptheTurtles.ca

Helping the Birds

This year, the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Biologist Nathan Clements spent 10 days traversing the Queen Maud Gulf region of Nunavut. His work included:

  • Banding of Greater White-fronted Geese and Cackling Geese in order to monitor Arctic and sub-Arctic geese and their migrations throughout the continent. More than 2,500 geese were banded, which is slightly above the banding program targets set by the Arctic Goose Joint Venture.

The lead organization, the Arctic Goose Joint Venture (AGJV), works cooperatively with partners to provide a coordinated and cost-effective approach to meeting high priority information needs for the management of northern-nesting geese. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a supporting partner of the AGJV, along with the Canadian Wildlife Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, state and provincial wildlife agencies of all four flyways, and other non-government organizations. This partnership approach is especially valuable for conducting Arctic research where logistics are more costly and where maximum return from available funds is highly desirable.

Helping the Salmon

The Canadian Wildlife Federation, along with Carleton University, Carcross/Tagish First Nation, and the Yukon Energy Corporation, is studying the migration of Chinook Salmon in the furthest reaches of their run near Whitehorse. These fish have travelled nearly 3,000 kilometres from the Bering Sea. They face many challenges during their spawning migration. Compared to historic records, populations have been depleted for decades and we are undertaking research to find out why and what we can do to help. Chinook are the king of the Pacific Salmon, and this is a very special population of the species. We take care to minimize the effects of our research on the individuals that we encounter, and are honoured to work with the local community towards their conservation.

For the past two summer seasons, we have been:

  • Implanting fish with acoustic transmitters
  • Tracking their movements as they approach the Whitehorse Hydro Plant, pass the world’s longest fish ladder, and continue to their spawning grounds.
  • Tagging as many fish as we can. Thus far we have tagged 138 fish. We will know how they fared by mid-September once their spawning run is complete and we retrieve data from our acoustic telemetry array.

Read more about this work.

Helping the Pollinators

To investigate the role of natural habitats on wild pollinators, the Canadian Wildlife Federation initiated a three year study in Norfolk County, Ontario. The goal of the project is to examine the relationship between the diversity and abundance of insect pollinators and three habitat types: forest, hedgerow, and grassy field margins.

Conserving a diversity of beneficial insects, like bees and hoverflies, in intensively cropped systems is important for providing ecosystem services to farmers such as pollination. We believe that natural habitats such as forests and hedgerows likely play a significant conservation role within intensively managed agricultural landscapes.

Summer 2018 was our first field season, where we were:

  • Collected pollinating insects using specialized traps on 11 farms in Norfolk County, southern Ontario. Each trap collected thousands of insects that then had to be sorted and identified by hand.
  • Compared the results of hand identified insect samples to results using DNA barcoding. If DNA barcoding gives us similar results to hand identification we will have a fast and efficient way to determine abundance and diversity of pollinators in different types of habitats on agricultural lands. The hope is that we can provide advice to farmers on what types of natural habitats will be good for farming and good for wildlife.

Results of the research will be shared with farmers and governments to inspire sustainable agricultural practices, policies and programs.

Helping Whales

Using our knowledge of whale biology and basic principles of collision impacts, we are developing a computer model to predict whether the forces on a whale during a collision with a ship could cause serious harm. The computer model will take into account specific features of Right Whales (e.g. blubber thickness) and of small vessels (e.g. ship weight). This new collision impact prediction tool will provide industry and regulators with the ability to explore how the risk of harm to right whales from small vessel strikes changes depending on the size, speed, and design of the vessel.

Ultimately this work will lead to recommendations on how the risk may be avoided. This requires good science, backed up with real numbers. We will have the opportunity to expand this work in more detail as we better establish the important factors to consider during collisions, and to suggest how the risk may be reduced.

Learn more about marine animal response in Canada at the Canadian Marine Animal Response Alliance website.

We Have So Much More to Do

With the financial support from our dedicated donors, the Canadian Wildlife Federation has been able to make leaps and strides in wildlife conservation in Canada. But with increasing habitat loss and a climate that is quickly changing, Canada’s wildlife needs your support more than ever.

Thank you for caring about Canada’s wildlife and please consider supporting the work we do.

A Red Tide of Death for Turtles

Since October, hundreds of dead and sickened sea turtles have been washing ashore on the beaches of Southwest Florida.

The cause? An annually occurring natural phenomenon known as Red Tide.

red tide california
A Red Tide near La Jolla, California.

What is Red Tide?

Red Tide is the result of excessive growth of the algae Karenia brevis. As the name suggests, it often turns the sea a rusty red colour.

So what is it that makes Red Tide so deadly? The red algae produces a chemical that is toxic to marine organisms. This can be fatal when the algae is present in great enough quantities.

This year has been worse than most for the seasonal algal bloom. Most blooms begin in the late fall and dissipate by April. Sadly, this Red Tide is still going strong well into the summer. It is suspected to remain a problem for several months to come.

CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife)
CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife), Florida

At-Risk Sea Turtles Dying

Two at-risk sea turtles are most affected by this Red Tide: Loggerhead and Kemp Ridley. Many of the turtles found on beaches have been adults — part of what makes this bloom so devastating to their conservation. Turtles can take between 25 to 30 years to reach maturity, and will lay thousands of eggs over decades. Only about one in 1,000 of these eggs will survive to adulthood. So the death of so many adults has the potential to stunt the recovery of these protected sea turtles for decades to come.

Red Tide isn’t the only type of algal bloom that poses a risk to wildlife. While you won’t see a Red Tide in freshwater, you may have observed scummy, foamy or discoloured water in a pond or lake near you. These unsightly features are also caused by algae blooms.

Freshwater algal bloom
Freshwater algae blooms may produce toxins, but can also lead to anoxia.

Freshwater Algal Blooms

Freshwater algae blooms may produce toxins, but can also lead to anoxia (a depletion of oxygen available in the water) when the algae dies and decomposes — killing fish. These blooms can also be harmful to humans, and can irritate the skin and eyes of swimmers or even make you sick.

Caused by Humans

There are some human-caused factors that may in part be responsible for the severity of this year’s Red Tide.

  1. Climate change has been increasing ocean temperatures worldwide, favouring algae growth.
  2. Nutrient pollution is largely the result of human activities, like farming, where fertilizers can contaminate nearby water through run-off. Nutrient pollution increases levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, and provides algae with the food it needs to grow out of control.

Prevented by Humans

Luckily there are some things we can all do to help prevent nutrient pollution:

  • Avoid using fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn or garden.
  • If you have a septic system, ensure that it is properly maintained, so that leaking sewage doesn’t contaminate local bodies of water.
  • Use phosphate-free detergents, cleaning products and personal care products.
  • Build a shoreline buffer on your property using native vegetation to intercept contaminants.

Learn other ways you can help using CWF’s Love Your Lake Shoreline Property Resources. Or, learn more about our turtles at HelpTheTurtles.ca.