Top 10 Species Finds on iNaturalist.ca

iNaturalist.ca has reached 1 million!

iNaturalist Canada (also known as iNaturalist.ca) has hit a major milestone – more than 1 million verifiable observations in Canada. These confirmed sightings span from Canada’s East Coast to the western edges of British Columbia, and from Southern Saskatchewan all the way up to the most northern reaches of the country.

This proves that Canadians are interacting with nature using their smartphone or digital cameras to document and geo-locate wildlife in our vast country.

Canadians are also reporting some really cool discoveries.

Not only does this help provide valuable information for conservation, there are some interesting tidbits in there for all of us. Also, with iNaturalist’s auto ID feature you can hold a field identification tool in the palm of your hand.

To celebrate, let’s take a look at 10 fascinating species reported on iNaturalist Canada:

1. New Species to Canada!

Paintedhand mudbug | Photo: colindjones
Paintedhand mudbug | Photo: colindjones

The Paintedhand Mudbug. This is actually a species of crayfish, not a bug at all. Thanks to some hard work by Colin Jones from the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre the first ever occurrence of this species was recorded in Canada using iNaturalist.ca.

2. Carnivorous Plants

Purple Pitcher Plant and the Great Sundew. These carnivorous plants are not species from an exotic corner of the world. In fact they are entirely native to Canada and you can find one or both of these in every province and territory. Don’t be alarmed, they only feed on small insects!

3. The Monarch Butterfly

Monarch | Photo james_cwf
Monarch | Photo james_cwf

The Monarch Butterfly is the most reported species at risk on iNaturalist.ca with more than 4,400 observations! Only the Mallard, Canada Goose and Grey Squirrel were reported more times than this at-risk butterfly.

4. The Spiny Softshell Turtle

Spiny Softshell Turtle | Photo Samuel Brinker
Spiny Softshell Turtle | Photo Samuel Brinker

This freshwater turtle is also probably one of Canada’s most unique. Found in only a handful of places in the country, its shell is flexible and leathery, as its name suggests, as opposed to the typical hard shell of most turtles.

5. The Fjaeldmark Dwarf Weaver

This arachnid is the most northern record of all the observations in the global iNaturalist system! It was recorded on a tiny island off the northern tip of Ellesmere Island – that’s over 2,100 kilometres north of Iqaluit!

6. Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed | Photo cchapman
Giant Hogweed | Photo cchapman

Possibly the tallest herbaceous (non-woody) plant to be found in Canada, the Giant Hogweed grows up to 5.5 metres (that’s 18 feet)! But it’s not from Canada, thus an invasive species. It is also highly poisonous. Getting the sap on your skin can cause burns, kind of like poison ivy but much worse.

7. The Wood Duck

Wood Duck | Photo jaliya
Wood Duck | Photo jaliya

This dabbler is one of the most colourful birds we have in Canada. It can be found in every province, as well as in Nunavut.

8. The Cougar

Cougar | Photo by kokanee
Cougar | Photo by kokanee

Also known as the North American Mountain Lion, this feline is one of the more elusive animals in Canada and getting a photo at a safe distance can be tricky! A trail camera managed to snap a unique close-up of this feline.

9. The Magnificent Bryozoan

Bryozoan | Photo alisonforde
Bryozoan | Photo alisonforde

This is not algae. A colony of organisms — called zoids — forms a solid mass called a bryozoan. This one was found during the 2017 Stanley Park Bioblitz (as part BioBlitz Canada 150) and made headlines as “The Blob of Lost Lagoon.” There are only 34 of these recorded in iNaturalist.ca.

10. Ochre Sea Star

Ochre Sea Star | Photo imcote
Ochre Sea Star | Photo imcote

This heap of sea stars was recorded on the ocean floor off the western coast of Vancouver Island. iNaturalist.ca can be used anywhere — even under water!

Think of it as social media meets conservation science.

iNaturalist.ca is a place where users can upload sightings of what they’ve seen in nature. The community can then comment on the find and help with identifying the species. This adds to the growing database throughout the country to provide a clearer picture of Canada’s biodiversity. The information can then be used for conservation purposes, such as keeping track of endangered species.

Once you have the free app and an account, snap a photo of what you see in nature and upload. The built-in auto ID can recognize most species. The app works entirely offline, but you’ll need a data plan or wifi to upload any observations you’ve logged in the app. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can upload straight to iNaturalist.ca on your desktop computer (the image recognition works there too).

iNaturalist Canada is a member of the iNaturalist Network, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society, which means that this information feeds into an initiative to track biodiversity worldwide.

What do you think is the most interesting observation on iNaturalist Canada? Head to iNaturalist.ca to check out what people are recording and then paste a link to the observation’s url in the comment section below!

A Good Start for Monarchs

The overwintering Monarch population in Mexico has increased. Let’s help them when they make their trip home to Canada!

The monarch butterfly boasts a 4,000 kilometre migratory trek – that’s 95 marathons! They begin their journey in the north, at the end of summer or early autumn. While western Monarchs aim to overwinter in California’s pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees, Monarchs east of the Rockies head to Mexico’s oyamel fir forests for the winter months.

Losses and Gains

The overall Monarch population has declined about 90 per cent since the 1990s. The Monarch was assessed as Endangered in Canada in 2016 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC).  The federal government has not yet decided whether to accept this recommendation and list the species officially as Endangered.

However, a recent count has shown that after years of declines, the number of Monarchs in the Mexican wintering area has increased.

© Donna Cook

“The latest assessments in Mexico show that 14 colonies of overwintering butterflies occupied a total area of 6.05 hectares of the oyamel fir forest,” says Carolyn Callaghan, Senior Conservation Biologist, Terrestrial Wildlife with the Canadian Wildlife Federation “This is a 144 per cent increase over the 2018 result, and the highest area recorded since 2006.”

The World Wildlife Fund Mexico in collaboration with partner organizations has been conducting the annual assessment of the oyamel fir forest since 1995.

The observed increase is thought to be due to favorable weather conditions across the eastern range throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2018. It may also be due in part to recent widespread and large-scale efforts across the US to restore thousands of hectares with milkweed and nectar plants.

“This is a much-needed and promising result indicating that Monarch did have the good year that many of us observed in southern Canada. However, millions of hectares of Monarch habitat have been lost in recent decades due to increases in herbicide use, changes in agriculture and other development. If positive Monarch population trends are to continue, then Canada needs to do its part in improving Monarch habitat at a landscape scale.”

Canadian Habitat is Key

A recent study using stable isotopes showed that a significant percentage of the Monarchs overwintering in Mexico originated in southern Canada. Yet Canada lags far behind in recovery efforts for the beleaguered species, says Callaghan.

Habitat restoration is already happening across the United States, where thousands of hectares of roadsides and utility corridors are being planted with milkweed and other nectar-bearing wildflowers to act as both breeding areas and fuel stops for migrating butterflies. State and federal departments of transportation, energy and agriculture are all actively involved.

The roadsides and utility corridors are also mowed and sprayed less, providing cost savings as well as crucial habitat for Monarch and many other pollinating insects. And now governments in the US are providing support for farmers to grow milkweed and nectaring plants to help the Monarch recover.

“CWF and dedicated partners are working hard to improve and increase habitat for Monarch in eastern Ontario,” she says. “We are hoping to expand our pilot project to help restore more of the migration network in southern Canada. With support from the Ontario Trillium Foundaton and the partnership of HydroOne, Lanark County, and the National Capital Commission, we are making habitat gains. With the partnership from the federal and provincial governments, we can play our part in restoring the Monarch migration network across the whole breeding range.” And that really would be good news for Monarchs.

Learn more about how CWF is helping the Monarch Butterfly and how you can get involved.

Hola Monarcha!

Guest blogger Donna Cook is a nature interpreter who writes about her recent visit to the Monarch Butterflies’ overwintering grounds in Mexico.

Lying down in a high mountain meadow looking up at the sky, we are thrilled to see thousands of Monarch Butterflies flying in a stream above us.

Orange, black and white wings flutter along in a light breeze heading for the large fir trees where the Monarchs roost from late October through March of each year. Fellow visitors speak in hushed voices so as not to disturb the insects and there is a sense of excitement in the air.

Like many Canadians, we love visiting Mexico. This February we headed inland to see where the Monarch butterflies overwinter.

Mariposa Monarcha

The butterflies are called “Mariposa Monarcha” in Spanish — a fittingly beautiful name for a brilliant insect that has an incredible life cycle.

Like us, they have flown all the way from Canada. Unlike us, they have had to dodge hurricanes, find enough food to fuel their flight and deal with changing weather. Monarch numbers have been decreasing over the past two decades and there have been calls to add them to the Canadian endangered species list.

Cerro Pelόn

© Donna Cook

There are a handful of Monarch Reserves in Mexico. We decided to go to Cerro Pelόn first. It is one of the least visited areas.

Horses lead us along a steep trail through the forest passes and dense patches of wildflowers. Our mounts stop for us to dismount and we walk to the roosting trees. I imagine the butterflies feeding on these colourful plants, storing up energy for the journey north.

The roosting trees are large with millions of butterflies clinging to the branches. The branches droop with the weight of so many insects. A few roosting trees are visible from the trail and I wonder how many there are in total.

We continue walking uphill to an open meadow where we lay down to watch the skies. Here, about 50 other visitors share the experience.

It was a spectacular day. We came down from the trail covered in dust and walking on air.

El Rosario

© Donna Cook

Our second destination was El Rosario. This is where thousands of visitors arrive each weekend from Mexico City and abroad.  As we hike from the village to reach the trailhead, a couple of local kids skip along beside us. They greet us with “Hola” then sing a Monarch song. We smile as we share their enthusiasm.

The Monarch reserves are important to the local communities, providing them jobs and income. These kids are hoping to sell us butterfly souvenirs to help support their families.

As we hike into the reserve, it appears that the old growth trees have been logged nearly all the way to the roosting trees. Deforestation is one of the threats to the Monarchs’ survival here. New trees have been planted and there is a determined effort to protect these wintering grounds.

The environment at El Rosario is similar and there are more butterflies here. We are fortunate as it is mid-week and the crowds are thin. Butterflies engulf us and some land on the people in the group. Cameras are clicking, and binoculars are passed around. Another amazing day!

Regresando al norte

We will return to Canada, but this generation of Monarchs will not. They will fly north in April and find wild milkweed plants to lay eggs on. The next generation will continue the trip reproducing along the way.

The grandchildren of the butterflies we saw in Mexico will arrive in southern Canada in late May. I plan to welcome them here by planting some native milkweed and wildflowers to help them along.

Say “Hola Monarcha” in your garden too! Learn how with CWF’s Gardening for Wildlife.

 

 

 

 

Devastating Downfall for Western Monarchs: A Harbinger of Things to Come?

All along the California coast in fall and winter, there are places you can visit where colonies of adult Monarch butterflies overwinter.

At the ocean’s edge, dozens or even hundreds of the brilliant orange butterflies gather, lighting up the coastal vegetation. I have always intended to visit with my kids. Sadly, recent survey results suggest that it would be best to hurry.

Many people are aware that Monarchs overwinter in Mexico. And this is true: the Mexican overwintering site contains mainly the Monarchs that migrate from breeding areas in central and eastern North America.

 

Monarch migration map
Map of the Monarch Butterfly migration. There are two distinct migrations: western and eastern. The western migration terminates on the California coast (see red highlighted area). Map © Xerces Society

Lesser-Known Western Monarchs

Much less known to Canadians is the fact that there is also a western migratory population of Monarchs. Most of these Monarchs breed on western species of milkweed as far north as southern BC, Oregon and Idaho, and aggregate every fall in hundreds of small clusters of coastal Pacific forest from northern California to Mexico.

Monarchs breed on western species of milkweed as far north as Oregon and Idaho.
Monarchs breed on western species of milkweed as far north as Southern B.C., Oregon and Idaho.

By November, most western butterflies have arrived on the coast and have formed stable colonies that will persist until February.  Every year at American Thanksgiving, the Xerces Society coordinates volunteers to conduct a census of these overwintering populations.

“Devastating” Downfall in Numbers

western monarchs on pink flower

Preliminary census results for the 2018 western Monarch counts are nothing short of alarming.

Counts this past Thanksgiving showed that California’s overwintering butterfly population has declined 86% over the previous year, which was already one of the lowest on record.

In the 1980s, the California coast hosted over 4 million butterflies. Early estimates from 2018 data are projecting just 30,000. Words like “catastrophic” and “devastating” are emerging from normally-restrained senior scientists.

Why Are Western Monarchs Declining?

What has caused such a tremendous decline? The precise reasons for the 2018 decline are unclear, but California’s devastating wildfire season, combined with historic droughts in the west could be to blame.

Wildfires in California
The 2018 wildlife season was the most destructive wildfire season on record in California. Approximately 8,527 fires burned over an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha).

The uncomfortable truth is that Monarchs across their entire North American range have faced many unrelenting threats for at least two decades. Loss of larval milkweed plants due to herbicide and pesticide use, crop intensification, and climate-related changes have already brought Monarch numbers across North America to all-time lows.

Foretelling the Future

monarchs-flying-blue-sky

Do the western survey results predict the future of the eastern migratory population? Time will tell.

Every February, scientists at MonarchWatch estimate the amount of area in the Mexican Oyamel fir forests that is occupied by overwintering Monarchs from central and eastern North America.  This population has also declined by around 90% since record keeping began.  

In 2018, many of us observed an excellent summer for Monarch in eastern Canada. But migration is risky, and intense tropical storms or prolonged drought during the fall migration can lead to high mortality.  We are both hopeful and anxious about this year’s results.

Working Towards Restoration for Monarchs

monarch restoration sign

Still, at the Canadian Wildlife Federation, we are not intending to sit and wait for the news. It is unthinkable that a beloved species that was previously abundant could be facing a perilous future. In 2018, with the help of the Ontario Trillium Fund, CWF launched a pilot habitat restoration project. With fantastic partners including Hydro One, Lanark County and the National Capital Commission, we are restoring 10 acres of native meadow habitat along roadsides and rights of way. Four sites are prepared, and are ready for seeding with native plants in the spring of 2019.

It’s a small start, but we have a vision to expand habitat along linear migratory networks through southern Ontario and beyond.

We Must Act Now

monarch-on-child-hand

One thing is clear: the Monarch across North America is in  a precarious situation, and it will take all hands on deck to prevent its further decline.

If we are to succeed, it will be due to hard work and commitments by all levels of government, industry partners, the agricultural community and private citizens.  That is the best way to ensure that our children and grandchildren will be able to witness the spectacle of Monarch migration and overwintering.

It can’t wait anymore.

Stay tuned for further updates on the status of Monarch Butterfly and CWF’s Monarch Habitat Restoration Project.

Monarch Butterflies Hit Hard This Winter

The latest news on the Monarch Butterfly is cause for deep concern.

Surveys conducted this winter in the Mexican Highlands, where the bulk of the Monarch population overwinters, has revealed that the Monarch population dropped 15% from December 2016 to December 2017.

The population now occupies only 2.48 hectares (ha) of land. Since the counts were initiated, the greatest amount of land occupied was 18.19 ha. The current area of occupation represents a decline of almost 90% since the highest count in 1996. The figure below provides details of the overwintering counts.

monarch overwintering population in mexico
The graph depicts ups and downs in the population over the years, which likely was normal for this species. However, the downward trend without recovery years is very concerning. Over the past six years, the three lowest populations ever were recorded!

Why are Monarchs Declining?

monarch on orange flower

Scientists have listed the main cause of the decline to include habitat destruction on both breeding and wintering habitat. Also, use of pesticides and herbicides on agricultural lands, and climate change impacts have hurt this species. More recent research in the U.S. points the finger at yet another issue: diminished sources of nectar-rich plants along the migratory pathway. Nectar is the fuel that Monarchs need on their incredible journey from Canada to their overwintering grounds. Monarchs need to refuel regularly. The loss of nectaring wildflowers along their migratory path makes it hard for Monarchs to restore their depleted energy reserves. It would be similar to the removal of about one half of all gas stations along our vacation route. We would have difficulty refueling and might run out of gas.

Why did the Monarch Population Decline this Year?

Many of you rejoiced last summer when you saw many adult Monarchs flying in southern Canada. It seemed to be a banner year, especially in Ontario and Quebec. Here at the Canadian Wildlife Federation, we held hope that this would be a recovery year. So what happened to the population? One of the main culprits was the fall hurricanes that struck the southern U.S. this fall. Another culprit was the warmer than usual weather, which delayed migration in some parts of Canada and the United States. Both may have also contributed to reduced numbers in 2017.

Climate change brings extreme weather and increasing variability in weather. Climate change scientists predict increasing extreme weather events and more variability of weather. This will not likely be an advantage for the struggling Monarch population.

What is Being Done About the Decline?

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which is tasked with assessing species and recommending listing to the federal government, has recommended that the Monarch be listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. In Ontario, the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO), the group of experts tasked with listing species under the province’s Endangered Species Act, will likely decide this year whether to list the Monarch as Endangered. An endangered listing will spark the creation of a Recovery Strategy with specific conservation action plans.

In addition to government action, there is plenty of good science happening for Monarchs. Maxim Larrivée’s team at the Montreal Insectarium and colleagues are researching whether milkweed is limited in Canada. Milkweed is the host plant that Monarch larvae depend on for survival, and there are several species of Milkweed in Canada. The results of this research will help us to understand the impact of changing land use on Monarch as well as whether we should target restoration of milkweed host plants to aid the recovery of Monarch.

Monarchs grouped

On other science news, a Canadian study led by Tyler Flockhart determined that habitat in Canada contributed a relatively high proportion of the overwintering Monarchs in Mexico, considering Canada comprises a small portion of the total range of Monarch. The research team looked at chemical isotope signatures from Monarchs on the overwintering habitat to determine where the butterflies were born in the previous summer and fall. They found that 12 per cent of the insects were born in the northwestern U.S. and Canadian Prairies, 17 per cent in the north-central States and Ontario, 15 per cent in the northeastern U.S. and the Canadian Maritimes.

What is CWF Doing for the Monarch?

It will take large scale restoration efforts to increase breeding and nectaring habitat. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is forming partnerships with right-of-way corridor (e.g. roadways and hydro-electric) managers to conduct habitat restoration trials, including:

We aim to document the cost and conservation benefits of restoring Monarch habitat, which will inform restoration practices at a large landscape scale.

CWF also continues to engage school groups and citizens like you to plant milkweed and native wildflowers to provide for Monarch during breeding and migration. Everyone can help to restore Monarch habitat!

Let’s Do More for the Monarch!

To compensate for ever increasing impacts of climate change and agricultural intensification, habitat restoration throughout breeding and overwintering habitat will need to overachieve conservation outcomes. In other words, restoration efforts will have to be bigger and better than ever before. It will take a concerted effort of federal, provincial, federal governments as well as private landowners to make this happen. Together, we have to knock it out of the park for the Monarch!

Learn how you can Help the Monarch!

Momma’s Monarch Watch

Like so many good things, it all started on a languid summer day at the cottage. The kids had fished and caught frogs, and it was still too cool for a swim. It was time to check the milkweed!

Ever since my Grade 3 teacher brought in Monarch caterpillars to the classroom, I’ve casually checked the undersides of milkweed leaves for the familiar stripy larvae. I never found much. But then last summer my neighbour, who has reared generations of Monarchs and Swallowtails, suggested we search for the eggs because they can be quickly predated. In his experience, caterpillars are much harder to find. And so this summer, voila, success. The first was named Savanna, quite aptly I thought, who was quickly followed by Sunny, Summer, Tiny and Sunset. It turns out that once you start on this road, it’s hard to stop. We watched our eggs hatch, caterpillars grow by orders of magnitude and fledgling butterflies emerge. It was all incredulous and addictive.

But with summer camps and busy work schedules, the one stage we had not yet had the luck to observe was the appearance of the chrysalis. Only once in my life had I witnessed a Monarch pupating. I knew that this was a natural phenomenon so incredible, so miraculous, that everyone should see it at least once. Unfortunately that can be difficult because the entire process can happen at any time, and it’s so fast that you can almost blink and miss it.

Pupation in Monarchs is not the lengthy cocoon-building process that you might imagine. The entire chrysalis is fully formed under the hanging caterpillar’s skin. The visible stage of pupation, most amazingly, is really a shedding of the stripy outer skin, which is shrugged off, antennae and all, by the lumpy lime green pupa underneath. Once it has wiggled into its final shape, the chrysalis becomes still for a week-long, silent internal transformation. The whole thing takes perhaps two minutes, and cannot fail to leave you in a state of complete and utter amazement.

So when our very last caterpillar was hanging in its familiar J-shape ready to go late one evening as we packed for our summer canoe trip, my husband and I had eagle eyes on the jar.  Of course, at ten minutes to midnight, my husband called: “I think the antennae are looking straggly.” According to our recently acquired web-expertise, this indicated that the skin had loosened for the final shed of pupation, which was imminent.

And so the watch began. There was no way I was missing this one. I made a cup of tea and sat down next to the jar like an anxious parent in a waiting room.  With an early morning drive and a long day to come, by 12:30 a.m., I was pretty sure I was nuts. 12:45….1:10… Hmm, perhaps certifiably insane. Was I prepared to wait all night?

By 1:15, some squeezing movements began, and my long-suffering husband was summoned from slumber. At first, there was the tiniest split in the outer skin. Should we wake the kids? They had tended to these fragile creatures for weeks, and the answer was clear to both of us – of course we should! So there we all were, at 1:20 a.m. on a dark summer’s morning, huddled around a Mason jar, watching a miracle.

Within just a few minutes, the skin lay cast off and the pupa was still. “That was so cool,” enthused our 11 year old. Her younger brother, who was not so wide-eyed, murmured a yawning “Yah,” followed by “Sleep is cool, too,” and then shuffled off wordlessly in the direction of his bed.

At least as cool is the final emergence of a perfect adult butterfly from its transparent chrysalis. Each emergence was a bittersweet celebration as we released our delicate, unblemished charge for what we knew to be a long and arduous journey to the Mexican highlands.

With our newfound skill at egg-finding, we’ve now spread the Monarch love to several neighbourhood families. As a Monarch Momma friend says, it never gets old. Like a solar eclipse or the coral spawn, watching this metamorphosis first-hand should be on everyone’s life list of natural phenomena. It’s well worth the wait!

Learn more about Monarch Butterfly and what you can do to help these at-risk migrators.

Save Space in Your Heart for These Species at Risk

We all appreciate wildlife, but there are a few species that could use some extra love this Valentine’s Day.

The Monarch Butterfly, American Eel, Barren-ground Caribou, and Burrowing Owl are just a few Canadian species facing some serious challenges. Read on to find out what’s causing these threats. We hope you’ll be inspired to save a space in your heart for Canadian wildlife this Valentine’s Day.

Monarch Butterfly (COSEWIC Status: Endangered)

Monarch Butterfly

Every year, the Monarch Butterfly makes a gruelling 4,000 kilometre migratory trek to its wintering grounds and back. That’s like completing 95 marathons! Besides sheer exhaustion, these majestic butterflies are struggling to find a place to land when they reach Mexico (as their habitat is being robbed by deforestation). And in Canada and the United States? Agriculture and citizens spray their crops and gardens with pesticides and herbicides – killing off their primary food source – the milkweed.

The fact of the matter is, the monarch could use a little help. To protect the monarch, we truly need to protect all of the places they call home throughout the year in all their life stages. You can help by pledging to make your garden a safe space for monarchs this spring.

American Eel (COSEWIC Status: Threatened)

American Eel

They might have a face only a mother could love, but these little creatures are in serious trouble — and we have to act fast if we want to help the American Eel. This species is in decline worldwide, but one of the most dramatic declines has been in Ontario, where the American Eel is at less than one per cent of its historic abundance. This species is listed as Threatened on a national level, but is severely Endangered in Ontario.

Eels from the St. Lawrence River, Ottawa River, and Lake Ontario are particularly important to the global population. All eels found in these areas are female and they grow to be the largest American Eel in existence. These large females carry so many eggs that, until recently, they contributed 25 to 67 per cent of the global population’s reproduction. The loss of so many highly reproductive females is a major threat to the survival of the entire species.

Barren-ground Caribou (COSEWIC Status: Threatened)

Barren-ground Caribou

The Caribou is an iconic Canadian species, but many of the great northern Caribou herds have fallen to all-time lows. In December, COSEWIC assessed two populations for the first time and found each to be at-risk: the rare Torngat Mountain caribou population was assessed as Threatened and the Barren-ground population was assessed as Endangered.

Several caribou populations migrate hundreds of kilometres between their calving and wintering grounds every year. These caribou are very sensitive to human disturbances. Development has affected the caribou’s migratory habitats, as well as the areas used to birth their young. Warming temperatures in the north also put a strain on the caribou’s natural habitat and its ability to thrive.

Burrowing Owl (COSEWIC Status: Endangered)

Burrowing Owl

The Burrowing Owl was once a common sight in the short-grass prairies of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as in British Columbia. Today, the Burrowing Owl is Endangered. The Canadian population of this little bird of prey has declined over 95 per cent since 1987, and now occupies a mere 36 per cent of its original distribution in Canada.

Although the exact reason for this rapid decline is still unknown, several threats are thought to have had a negative impact on the Burrowing Owl. The conversion of native grassland to cropland, the fragmentation and degradation of the owl’s habitat, as well as pesticide use, has taken a toll. Find out what CWF is doing to help the Burrowing Owl.

There are a few #SpeciesAtRisk that could use some extra love this #ValentinesDay. Find out how you can help.

Share This

Share the love

There are many ways to share your love for wildlife this Valentine’s Day.

  • Symbolically adopt one of the wild species on the CWF shop. Every purchase goes towards conservation and education in Canada.
  • If you haven’t already, become a monthly donor.
  • Help raise awareness by sharing this blog post with your friends and family. The more people know about species at risk, the more support we can give these animals.

Monarch Generations Followed: We’ve Finally Tracked Down These Elusive Butterflies

2_Debbie_Oppermann

It’s no secret that the Canadian Wildlife Federation has been worried about the monarch butterfly for quite some time. After their numbers dropped to their all time lowest in 2012, our hearts dropped along with them. We needed to do more. We absolutely needed to protect these majestic butterflies. So we paired up with the Department of Integrative Biology at University of Guelph to delve into the reasoning behind this dramatic population decrease.

 

The answer lay with their migration and the many generations it takes to make the trip to and from their overwintering grounds. Until recently, scientists could only estimate the monarch butterfly’s migratory patterns, and many believed individual monarchs made the migratory journey. That just wasn’t good enough for us. We needed to know, once and for all, where these winged wonders were going and where they had come from.

 

The University of Guelph team clocked 35,000 kilometres driving across 17 states and two provinces to accomplish this. They netted more than 800 monarchs and quickly began analyzing the chemical elements in their wings. You see, monarchs primarily eat milkweed in their larvae state and since the plant’s chemical signature varies from one place to another, they were able to find out each butterfly’s birthplace by analyzing their wings. Remarkable, right?

 

What they found was that monarchs make their long migration northward through successive generations, not all in one go. So the parents lay eggs that hatch along the way (up to five generations to make it to Canada) then their young continue on. Moreover, they found that

many of the successive generations of monarchs were born in Texas and Oklahoma, while others were in the U.S. Midwest and finally a larger area of the northeast coast and the Midwest. That tells us that it is critical for the monarch’s future to foster the butterfly’s habitat in these areas first by conserving their food (either planting more milkweed, or at the very least, not destroying the milkweed grown there), and secondly by keeping a close eye on the negative impact genetically modified corn and soy is having on the species.

 

So what can you do? You can start by pledging to make your garden a safe place for monarchs! When you pledge to help monarchs, you’ll get the dos and don’ts of gardening for monarchs including what blooms to plant, what common gardening tool you should ditch, and more. Take the pledge today!

 

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Suivi des générations de monarques :Nous avons enfin retracé le parcours de ces papillons insaisissables

 

Ce n’est pas un secret que la Fédération canadienne de la faune est préoccupée par le sort des papillons monarques depuis un certain temps.Depuis que leurs effectifs sont tombés à leur plus bas niveau historique en 2012, nous avons le cœur brisé.Nous avons alors ressenti la nécessité de nous investir davantage.Nous devions absolument protéger ces papillons majestueux.Aussi avons-nous établi un jumelage avec le département de biologie intégrative de l’Université de Guelph dans l’optique d’expliquer cette diminution spectaculaire de la population de monarques.

 

La réponse réside dans leur migration et les nombreuses générations nécessaires à l’accomplissement de leur voyage depuis et vers leurs aires d’hivernage.Jusqu’à récemment, les scientifiques ne pouvaient qu’estimer les habitudes migratoires des papillons monarques, et beaucoup croyaient que de simples individus étaient en mesure d’effectuer seuls ce parcours migratoire.Mais ces données ne nous suffisaient pas.Nous devions savoir, une fois pour toutes, où ces merveilles ailées se rendaient et d’où elles provenaient.

 

L’équipe de l’Université de Guelph a parcouru un total 35 000 km, sur les routes de 17 États et de deux provinces pour accomplir cette tâche.Ils ont capturé au filet plus de 800 monarques et ont rapidement commencé à analyser les éléments chimiques présents dans leurs ailes.En effet, les monarques se nourrissent principalement d’asclépiade à l’état larvaire, et étant donné que la signature chimique de la plante varie d’un lieu à l’autre, ils ont réussi à établir le lieu de naissance de chaque papillon par l’analyse de ses ailes.Remarquable, non?

 

Ils ont donc découvert que les monarques effectuent leur longue migration vers le Nord par générations successives, et non d’une seule traite.Les parents pondent ainsi des œufs qui éclosent en cours de route (il faut jusqu’à cinq générations pour se rendre au Canada), puis leur progéniture poursuit le voyage.Ils ont en outre constaté qu’un grand nombre de générations successives de monarques sont nées au Texas et en Oklahoma, tandis que d’autres sont nées dans le Midwest américain, et d’autres enfin dans une région plus étendue de la côte Nord-Est.Ces résultats nous indiquent qu’il est essentiel pour l’avenir des monarques de favoriser leurs habitats dans ces régions, d’abord par la conservation de leur nourriture (soit en plantant davantage d’asclépiades ou, à tout le moins, en ne détruisant pas les asclépiades déjà présentes), et d’autre part en surveillant de très près les effets néfastes que les plantations de maïs et de soja génétiquement modifiés ont sur cette espèce.

 

Alors, que pouvez-vous faire?Vous pouvez commencer à vous engager à faire de votre jardin un endroit sécuritaire pour les papillons monarques!En vous engageant ainsi, vous intégrerez des choses à faire et à ne pas faire pour la survie des monarques à vos activités de jardinage, comme le choix de plantes appropriées, l’abandon d’outils de jardinage ordinaires, et plus encore.Engagez-vous dès aujourd’hui!

 

 

 

Long Distance Darlings

In the upcoming days, Canadian athletes will take part in various cross-country events ranging from Relay to Men’s 50 kilometre Mass Start. After learning how far Canadian wildlife travels, the distances these athletes cross won’t seem so impressive.

 

Bronze Medal- Caribou

 

Zak Richter/NPS
Zak Richter/NPS

Caribou deserve the bronze medal for travelling more than any other land animal. As many as half a million of these long distance runners will travel together for 5,000 kilometres in search of food and suitable breeding grounds each year.  The 2.4 million Caribou that live in Canada must trek through rocky terrain, water, and snow.

 

Silver Medal-Leatherback Sea Turtle

 

Wildlifeppl
Wildlifeppl

The Leatherback Sea Turtle is an experienced traveler who can swim 10,000 kilometres a year! They have even been known to cross the Atlantic Ocean and beyond from the east coast of Canada to Indonesia. As the world’s largest reptile they have a speed unmatched by many.  

 

Gold Medal- Monarch Butterfly

 

Derek Ramsey
Derek Ramsey

There is no cross-country journey more incredible than the Monarch Butterfly migration.  These bright orange butterflies travel by the millions more than 7,000 kilometres to meet in the forested hills of Mexico. Much like the relay events in cross-country skiing, a single Monarch won’t complete the entire migration. They will stop to lay eggs along the migration route, die, and their offspring will continue the journey. It can even take three or four generations of Monarch to reach their destination!

 

 

Monarchs Still In Decline

PicMonkey Collage

[CWF PHOTO CONTEST PICTURES SUBMITTED BY –  LEFT: BILL MCMULLEN, MIDDLE: DEBBIE OPPERMANN, RIGHT: MARY HINDLE]

In an article I read this morning, monarch numbers in last winter’s annual survey are the lowest they’ve been in 20 years. This low number is being contributed to poor weather conditions and loss of habitat. In fact, this summer not many monarchs made it to Canada with one citizen scientist north of Toronto noted as saying she has only seen one monarch this year.

While monarch numbers are predicted to stay low, there is hope. Because monarchs have a healthy reproductive capacity and given the right conditions they can make a come back. And you can help! Although monarchs are now migrating to central Mexico, here are some tips for when they make their journey back north:

  • Grow lots of flowering plants throughout the warm months for adults looking for nectar
  • Grow milkweed for monarchs to lay their eggs on. Try common milkweed, swamp milkweed or butterfly weed
  • Remember that monarchs use trees as roosting sites
  • Pesticides are a butterfly’s worst enemy – avoid or reduce your use of pesticides
  • Create basking spots for butterflies by placing a few flat stones in sunny, sheltered locations
  • Help satisfy the thirst of butterflies on hot summer days by supplying water in a shallow dish or a bird bath with half submerged stones as perches

Have you seen many monarchs this summer?