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!

 

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.

Five Fun Facts About Pacific Salmon

Pacific salmon are some of the most iconic fish species in Canada.

Every year, adult pacific salmon make remarkable migrations from the ocean. They swim  up coastal rivers to their spawning grounds where they spawn once then die.

bears snacking on salmon
The carcasses of pacific salmon feed animals like bears and wolves, and ultimately their nutrients nourish coastal forests and streams.

There are five species of pacific salmon, and of these, Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) are king. They are the largest of the pacific salmon. Individuals over 45 kg (100 pounds) were once occasionally caught in some rivers, hence the moniker “king salmon.”

Unfortunately, the oldest and largest individuals are disappearing. The exact reasons are unknown. But the fact that humans have targeted and removed the biggest fish for decades is almost certainly a contributing factor.

Five Fun Facts about Pacific Salmon

Here are five other amazing facts about the king of the pacific salmon:

  1. Chinook Salmon are also sometimes called spring salmon. This name is due to having an early run in May/June and a second run in late summer or fall. In the north, most rivers only support a single run during summer. However, some rivers in California host three separate runs each year!
  2. Each tributary of a spawning river contains its own genetically distinct population because individuals almost always return to where they were born. The Canadian waters of the Yukon River host 100 different Chinook Salmon populations! Further south where rivers have multiple runs in the same year, the fish in each run almost never breed with each other. This creates even more genetically distinct populations from the same habitat.
  3. Southern Chinook Salmon and those that spawn in rivers near the ocean produce ocean-type fry that migrate to the ocean soon after they are born. Those spawning in headwaters and in the north are stream types;  they overwinter once before migrating to the sea.
  4. Like some other fish species, two types of males have evolved. Females primarily breed with large dominant males but when they do, smaller males take the opportunity to sneak in and release sperm. Both are successful; therefore their genes are passed on and both sizes persist in the population.
  5. Chinook Salmon in the headwaters of the Yukon River near Whitehorse make the longest migration of any salmon in North America. They swim more than 3,000 km from the Bering Sea, all the way across Alaska and the Yukon and almost to the British Columbia border.

Climbing the Ladder

In Whitehorse, the Canadian Wildlife Federation is partnering with Carcoss/Tagish First Nation, the Yukon Energy Corporation, Carleton University and several other local First Nations and stakeholders to conduct research on the movements of Chinook Salmon. The Whitehorse Hydro Plant is the only hydroelectric facility on the Yukon River and boasts the world’s longest wooden fish ladder. It  has passed fish since 1959! We are working together to understand more about whether it creates a challenge for migrating pacific salmon. Also, we are looking into where fish go after they pass the dam.

For more information on fish migrations and freshwater ecology, visit the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Lakes and Rivers

Wow, that was one amazing year! Celebrating Canada’s 150th with Hinterland Who’s Who

What a year we’ve had! Here at Hinterland Who’s Who, we’re wrapping up a super busy -but fun- year. Of course, we wanted to celebrate Canada’s 150th with you, and after all, what is more Canadian than our natural heritage!

It all started in January, when we started the year by celebrating the heritage of Indigenous peoples in Canada. We released videos about freshwater turtles and the Wolverine in six Indigenous languages spoken in different regions from coast to coast to coast. These species were chosen since are important to Indigenous culture and present in many First Nation, Métis, or Inuit legends.

We continued celebrating throughout the year by releasing special videos about some of our most iconic wildlife, of course, but with a twist: not only did we talk about their natural history, we also highlighted their impact on our country’s history and culture.

The first featured species was the North American Beaver. This large rodent is found throughout Canada’s freshwater systems. Since it has played a prominent role throughout our history that it has become our national symbol!

The second featured species was the North Atlantic Right Whale. These extremely rare whales spend the summer in Canadian waters. For thousands of years, whales have provided Indigenous peoples with food and tools and was believed to be the master of life in the sea by the Mi’kmaq people.

The third species was the Pacific salmon! This amazing fish undergoes an impressive migration from the freshwater habitat where it’s born to the ocean and back. This keystone species is of foremost importance for the West Coast Indigenous peoples.

The fourth featured species was the Atlantic Cod. This fish is found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off the Canadian coast. Fished by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, cod would later become one of the most important parts of our fisheries with the arrival of Europeans in North America.

The fifth featured species was the American Bison. Historically, bison could be found in Canada from the grasslands and woodlands of the Prairie Provinces to the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains and up into the rugged Yukon. It was of foremost importance to Prairie Indigenous peoples, and its near-disappearance caused significant changes in their way of life.

The last featured species was the Snowy Owl, which came out just last week! There are few creatures that symbolize the beauty and ruggedness of Canada’s Arctic as well as this majestic white bird.  While it is well adapted to life in -50°C, some individuals will migrate to southern Canada for the winter months. Throughout history, the Inuit peoples of Canada have shared territory with Snowy Owls, and because of that, these owls appear in their legends, art and traditions.

2017 is ending, and so are the Canada150 celebrations. But it is never too late to celebrate our wildlife and its impact on our country’s history and culture! A great first step is learning about our amazing biodiversity. To start, visit us at www.hww.ca!

Breeds with Speed

The speed skating competitions begin today in Sochi, Russia. Canadian athletes such as Charles and François Hamelin are out to prove they are the fastest in the world. But how does Canada’s wildlife stack up against these speedy challengers?

 

Bronze Medal – Pacific Salmon

 Dan Cook (USFWS)
Dan Cook (USFWS)

The Pacific Salmon may by small but its features make it very speedy. Pacific Salmon can reach speeds up to 35 kilometres per hour which is useful when escaping the claws of a Grizzly Bear, their greatest predator. Their pectoral fins allow them to abruptly turn left, right, up, and down while their dorsal fin stabilizes them in rushing waters.

Silver Medal- Pronghorn Antelope

 Yathin S Krishnappa
Yathin S Krishnappa

 

This speedy land animal can reach speeds of 100 kilometres per hour; second only to the Cheetah. The Pronghorn Antelope is so speedy in fact, that has white racing stripes along its neck! Unlike speed skaters who compete for sport, Pronghorns need their speed to outrun predators like Bobcats and Coyotes.

 

Gold Medal- Peregrine Falcon

 

Juan Lacruz
Juan Lacruz

As the fastest animal in the world, the Peregrine Falcon can reach up to 300 kilometres per hour while diving for prey.  Its streamline body, compact feathers, and long pointed wings make this predator capable of great speeds. Speed skaters have learned from these birds and now wear spandex suits to mimic the falcon’s compact and streamline body.