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:

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.





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!


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.

Rescued At-Risk Turtle Eggs Are Now Hatching!

Our Turtle Eggs Are Hatching!

This summer, our Conservation Science team has been conducting field work on pollinators, eels, bats and turtles (to name only a few projects!).

Added to the regular turtle surveying, our team collected the eggs of at-risk turtles (Blanding’s and Snapping) laid along roadsides. Roadsides may seem suitable to turtles as they look for open areas of sand or soil to bury eggs. Sadly, the eggs that are laid there have a high risk of being destroyed. So, our turtle team were out at all hours patiently gathering eggs once females had done their duty and left. (Please don’t try this at home as special permits and expertise are needed!)

Now, many weeks later, our little turtles are hatching quickly. Once all the eggs from a nest are hatched, the young will be released together in the area they were laid — only this time they will be a safe distance from the road!

CWF staff and interns have been in awe of these little wonders. We are proud to be a part of helping these at-risk-species, even if indirectly (watch our live turtle cam feed below!).

CWF’s Role in Freshwater Turtle Conservation

The Canadian Wildlife Federation continues to work with regional partners, community groups, lake associations and individuals to reduce risks to turtles. We continue to carry out on the ground surveys to document at-risk turtle locations and HELP PROTECT their habitat. We have also undertaken an analysis of hotspots where turtles are more susceptible to being hit on the road. Finally, we continue to work with partners to outfit turtles with radio transmitters to track movement, habitat use, nesting sites and overwintering sites.

Turtle Eggs Hatching

All of our eggs hatched! We have released them back into the wild. This video is a recording of a batch of snapping turtles as they worked hard to hatch.

Learn more about freshwater turtles at HelpTheTurtles.ca

Ban With a Plan: Join us to #BanNeonics

It’s in our wildlife. It’s in our fields. It’s in our food. It’s in our water.

And, it’s toxic.

“For years now, neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides have been poisoning our pollinators and aquatic insects. There are hundreds of scientific studies that have demonstrated the serious harm of neonics to pollinators. When I was a child, DDT was a serious threat to our wildlife. I am concerned that history is repeating itself.”

~David Browne, Director of Conservation Science,
Canadian Wildlife Federation

At the Canadian Wildlife Federation, we are working fiercely against the harmful effects of these pesticides. Watch the video to learn how neonics spreads through our environment. » Download the Infographic PDF

Our solution?

Ban With A Plan: A five step plan to remove this threat. Sign our “Ban With A Plan” Petition! »

Step 1: Ban the use of neonics.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation calls for a legislated, national ban on the use of all forms of neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture, horticulture, turf production and golf courses. Under the ban, emergency use of neonics would be permitted for a limited number of years. However, this would only be under cases of severe pest outbreak and with a prescription from a certified agronomist.

Step 2: Give Farmers Alternatives and Incentives to Use Them

Share knowledge with farmers on alternate pesticides and pest management technologies and techniques – and provide incentives to use these, including crop insurance that protects farmers from crop failure for farmers who choose not to use neonics.

Step 3: Recover Affected Species

Recover species impacted by neonics, including wild bees, hoverflies, other insect pollinators and aquatic insects. Also help species experiencing the indirect effects of neonics due to reduced food availability, such as birds, bats and fish.

Step 4: Encourage Research and Development on Safer Pest Control Technologies

Support the development of pest-specific chemicals (or biological agents) with limited environmental effects – to encourage the development of longer term, directed products.

Step 5: Reform How the Government Protects Our Food Supply

Improve risk assessment methods for pesticides, including oversight and greater transparency in how pesticides are licensed and regulated, to ensure the seriously harmful pesticides are not licensed by the Canadian government. End the licensing of systemic pesticides.

  • Industry
    1. Develop pesticides that target particular agricultural pests, and refrain from producing systemic pesticides that are designed to be used prophylactically.
  • Consumers
    1. Sign the petition to support CWF’s plan to ban neonic pesticides
    2. Avoid buying garden seeds and plants treated with neonics, and garden or pet insecticides including neonics
    3. Avoid using household and gardening products that contain neonics

What You Can Do

Fruit seller
We’ve developed a five-step plan to not just ban neonics, but also help farmers, policy-makers and the environment recover from the devastating effects of this pesticide.

Sign the PetitionOur goal is to garner 100,000 signatures supporting the ban of neonics to the Minister of Health. This would support step one of the plan, moving us towards rehabilitating our environment from this neurotoxic insecticide.

We need to take action. All Canadians must and can be part of the solution: government, farmers, businesses, and consumers.

As Canadians, we can do better. We must do better.

Join with us. Sign the “Ban With A Plan” petition to support our plan for the future.

We’ve Got Turtle Eggs!

Turtles face many threats, including habitat loss, traffic mortality, and nest predation.

snapping turtle nesting on shoulder

Many predators, such as raccoons and skunks like nothing more than to feed on some freshly laid turtle eggs. While nest predation is a natural threat, in many areas nest predators occur at higher than normal levels and they can eat most of the turtle eggs laid every year. Protecting the eggs helps give turtles a fighting chance and offsets some of the road kill that occurs every year.

One way to protect a turtle nest is through a nest cage. While nest cages can be used to protect some nests in natural areas, those on roadsides cannot be caged, since cages may interfere with traffic and the work of road maintenance crews.


Download Nest Protector How-To

Unfortunately, gravel road shoulders make for attractive nesting locations for turtles. The loose gravel and sand make it easy for turtles to dig their nests, and sunny roadsides provide the necessary warmth the eggs need to hatch. Roadsides can be dangerous though, to both the nesting female, and the hatchlings that may end up on the road.

Excavating a nest
Excavating a nest

Another option is to collect the eggs once they have been laid and hatch them in captivity. That is what CWF is doing this year in the Ottawa area. Egg collection does require permits from the provincial government as incorrect incubation can cause the eggs to not develop or hatch.

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 in the process of laying her eggs. This can involve a lot of searching in the evening, when most 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 nights, the Turtle Team gathered more than 400 eggs from roadside nests!

Prepped eggs for the incubator
Prepped eggs for the incubator

The eggs are kept in a special reptile egg incubator that maintains a constant temperature. The incubator contains eggs from two species at risk: Blanding’s Turtles and Snapping Turtles.

Blanding’s Turtle eggs are oval, whereas Snapping Turtle eggs are round, like tiny ping-pong balls! Blanding’s Turtle clutches contain about a dozen eggs, whereas Snapping turtle nests contain 30-40 or more eggs. The eggs from each nest are placed in a separate container filled with damp vermiculite, an artificial potting soil mixture.

For most kinds of turtles, the sex of the hatchlings depends on the temperature of the nest. Colder summers will generally produce more male turtle hatchlings, whereas hot weather will lead to more females hatching out. Our incubator is set to a temperature somewhere in the middle to produce a roughly equal mix of male and female hatchlings.

Field researchers after preparing the incubator bins
Field researchers after preparing the incubator bins

The first eggs of the year were collected in early June, and will hopefully start to hatch in early August. After the eggs hatch, the hatchlings from each nest will be released near the site of their nest and close to water.

Road mortality and habitat destruction are some of the greatest threats facing turtles today. Protecting nests through caging and off-site incubation is an important step we can take to help preserve turtle populations.

Learn other ways how you can HelpTheTurtles.ca.

On a Collision Course: CWF Investigates Small Vessel Impact on North Atlantic Right Whales

For the North Atlantic Right Whale — one of the most critically endangered baleen whales in the world — 2017 proved to be a terrible year.

In 2017, at least 13 dead whales were recorded in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – likely representing the highest mortality since commercial whaling of this species was banned in 1937. For a population with fewer than 500 individuals remaining, this modern unprecedented loss has severe negative implications on population stability and potential population recovery.

In other words, this animal could go extinct very soon.

Whales are are dwarfed by large ocean-going vessels.
Whales are dwarfed by large ocean-going vessels.

Whales are Big. Boats are Bigger.

North Atlantic Right Whales migrate up and down waters off the eastern coast of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most heavily trafficked areas for shipping in North America. Although right whales are among the largest animals in the sea and can weigh up to 96 tonnes, they are dwarfed by large ocean-going vessels (e.g. container or cargo carriers) and stand little chance of survival when struck.

Recognizing this, efforts have been made to decrease the number of whales struck by large vessels, including rerouting shipping lanes around areas where whales are known to occur (i.e. critical habitats), and imposing speed restrictions on vessels travelling through these areas.

Less is known about the impact small vessels have on right whales
Less is known about the impact small vessels have on right whales.

Researching Small Vessel Impacts

Less is known about the impact small vessels (e.g. fishing boats) have on right whales. In particular, whether such a collision could harm or kill a whale. CWF is working to answer this question.

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

To protect North Atlantic Right Whales and recover the population, we have to look at all potential human activities, including small vessel strikes, quantify the risk and take action to eliminate any impacts. This requires good science, backed up with real numbers. This project will establish the important forces to consider during collisions and estimate the possible impacts on Right Whales.

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 measureable forces during collisions, and to suggest how the risk may be mitigated.

Learn more about the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s work in Canada’s Coasts & Oceans or Canadian Marine Animal Response Alliance.

Playing on Your Phone Can Help Conserve Wetlands

You can conserve wetlands.

That’s right. I said it. Just to be clear: You can conserve wetlands.

Many parts of southern Canada have lost more than half of their historical wetlands. ~David Seburn, Freshwater Turtle Specialist

Habitat loss remains an ongoing threat for many species. In particular, wetland loss threatens species since so many wetlands have already been lost. But everyone can do something to help conserve our remaining wetlands.

blanding's turtle
Blanding’s Turtle. © Dan McIntyre | CWF Photo Club

Report Observations of the Blanding’s Turtle

The Blanding’s Turtle is listed as a Threatened species under the Ontario Endangered Species Act. How does reporting an observation of a turtle help protect wetlands? The Endangered Species Act provides habitat protection for threatened and endangered species.

Wetlands up to two kilometres from an observation of a Blanding’s Turtle can be protected when there are multiple wetlands. At a minimum, the wetland closest to the observation is protected. The habitat protection does not interfere with day to day activities around a wetland, or building a cottage nearby, but it would make it difficult to drain the wetland.

Any valid observation can increase the amount of protected wetland. It can be a photo of a Blanding’s Turtle basking on a log, or even a dead individual on a road. Observations of Blanding’s Turtles need to be carefully collected to be considered valid by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry. A clear photograph of the turtle is needed, along with the specific location and the date.

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

Log Your Sighting on iNaturalist.ca

A simple way to collect that information and at the same time ensure it is submitted to the government is to use iNaturalist.ca. This is a citizen science project that allows people to easily document and upload photos of plants and animals.

Observations can be easily uploaded using the iNaturalist app on a smartphone. Using the app, snap a photo of a Blanding’s Turtle and then immediately upload the image and details about the observation. Or, take a photo with a digital camera that will zoom in for a close-up, and then submit the observation through the iNaturalist website.

The Right Info in Official Hands

Once an observation is submitted to iNaturalist, it will get into the right hands. The Natural Heritage Information Centre is the rare species tracking group of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry. They gather up observations submitted to iNaturalist and identified as a Blanding’s Turtle. Those observations will then contribute to habitat protection.

It is hard to know if one particular observation will increase habitat protection for the Blanding’s Turtle. Possibly someone else has already submitted an observation from that location, but in many cases, an observation will result in new protected habitat. Even if your observation does not result in new protected habitat, the observation can still be valuable, to confirm the continued presence of the species in a given area and to provide information on activity times. And while observations from rural areas are always valuable, even observations in populated areas can result in new habitat protection.

© Brandon Holden
Our turtle conservation team collects data on a Blanding’s Turtle found along the road.

Last year, during our turtle surveys, we added wetland protection from Blanding’s Turtle observations within the city of Ottawa. All observations are important. It is worthwhile submitting any Blanding’s Turtle observation to iNaturalist.

And you just never know when the next observation will protect a wetland and all the species that live there.

Learn other ways how you can HelpTheTurtles.ca.