Team up for Wildlife!
Use team power! Pair high school students with younger children. Teens can provide the muscle and know-how for more challenging jobs, while younger children can do the easie tasks. Both age groups will be learning about wildlife — and each other.
Are you discouraged by the thought of taking on a challenging project with your class? Don't forget you have a largely untapped source of support in your retired community! Connect with local senior citizens for help with brainstorming, planning, publicizing, and executing ideas.
Recovery versus Prevention
It's hard to feel optimistic about the future when so many species and their habitats have been harmed or are disappearing, but we have encouraging news.
Across Canada, more and more groups are helping species in trouble. Some recovery efforts are small and quite local, such as the relocation of 18 Yellow-bellied Marmots that lived in a vacant lot in North Vancouver. When their home was threatened by the construction of a huge shopping centre, B.C.'s Wildlife Rescue Association stepped in. The developers agreed to delay construction until the little colony of burrowing rodents could be moved. Before long, they adapted to a new home in a protected refuge 160 kilometres east of the city.
It is truly inspiring to hear about successful recovery programs. However, prevention — not recovery — is the best solution. It is far, far simpler to prevent wildlife from disappearing than it is to bring it back. Once gone, many species can never be recovered, no matter what we do. So, where wildlife is concerned, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
Recovery Means Teamwork
Recovery calls for time, money, expertise, and a lot of effort and teamwork. For instance, a recovery team worked for over 10 years to reintroduce the Swift Fox to Saskatchewan and Alberta in the 1980s – 1990s. All levels of government, private companies and agencies, and hundreds of volunteers have co-operated in the effort.
This little canine, no bigger than a house- cat, disappeared from the Prairies back in the 1930s, when much of its habitat was ploughed up. It was also trapped for fur or poisoned accidentally when it ate bait meant for wolves, coyotes, and ground squirrels. Now, the Swift Fox is once again streaking across the Prairies.
Five "Ws for Wildlife Recovery
- Where is your community, school, or home located?
- Which wildlife species have been disrupted in your area?
- When did the disruption occur?
- Why should you promote wildlife recovery?
- What can you do to help?
Some Key Players
To help you help wildlife, it's important to know about some of the dedicated groups working to protect Canadian species at risk. All of them pay close attention to habitat conservation. That's because every species depends on a particular habitat for its survival. So, to prevent wildlife from disappearing, its habitat must first be healthy. Here are some important examples of who's who in Canadian wildlife conservation:>
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada is a federal agency. It identifies species that are nationally extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened, or vulnerable and provides vital information about each of them. This data helps governments and other organizations plan programs to save disappearing wildlife. Most provinces also have their own designations for imperilled wildlife because populations vary from one area to another.
The COSEWIC categories are:
- Extinct: A species formerly indigenous to Canada that no longer exists anywhere, such as the Passenger Pigeon, Great Auk, and Sea Mink.
- Extirpated: A species no longer existing in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere. A few examples are the Paddlefish, Greater Prairie-Chicken, and Black-footed Ferret.
- Endangered: A species threatened with imminent extinction or extirpation throughout all or a significant portion of its Canadian range, such as the Eastern Cougar, Wolverine (Eastern population), Leatherback Turtle, and Small White Lady's Slipper.
- Threatened: A species likely to become endangered in Canada if the factors affecting its vulnerability are not reversed. Some examples are the Wood Bison, Blanding’s Turtle, and Lake Simcoe Whitefish.
- Vulnerable: A species particularly at risk because of low or declining numbers, small range, or some other reason, but not a threatened species, such as the Grizzly Bear, Gaspé Shrew, and Northern Prairie Skink.
- Not at Risk: A species that has been examined and not designated in any risk category.
- Indeterminate: A species that has been examined and not designated in any risk category because of sufficient information.
Learn more about: Species at Risk!
Conservation Data Centres
Wildlife populations are often wiped out accidentally just because no one knows they exist. Imagine a subdivision being built on a wetland where rare amphibians live, or a stand of endangered trees being chopped down to make way for a road. Believe us — it happens regularly!
A small patch of a rare lupine plant species (Lupinus lepidus) was almost destroyed a few years ago. B.C. Tel had plans to lay a transmission line on Vancouver Island. The company had no idea that this special wild- flower grew there. Luckily, the province had developed a computer database, or Conservation Data Centre, to keep track of rare and endangered wildlife. When the computer was asked to check out the planned path of the transmission line, it quickly zeroed in on the potential mishap. B.C. Tel engineers then rerouted the trench so the rare lupine plant could bloom in peace.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can lend a hand to CDCs:
- Tell landowners and other community members about your province's CDC. Encourage them to check with the centre before starting any construction or agricultural work.
- Post information signs around special habitats.
- Inform your community and your provincial CDC about unusual plants or habitats in the area.
- Raise funds for your provincial CDC.
- Organize a "neighbourhood watch" for a habitat that needs protection from poaching or vandalism.
- If there is no CDC in your part of the country, write to your provincial or territorial government, urging it to establish one.
Contact your closest CDC to find out what else you can do to help out!
Double Trouble for Migrants
Whenever a species moves from one place to another as the seasons change, it is migrating. Migration can occur over long or short distances. Lots of animals move to new places to mate, find food, or give birth. The Arctic Tern, for instance, travels phenomenal distances. It breeds in the Arctic, then flies south almost non-stop to overwinter in the Antarctic. That adds up to about 40,000 kilometres of wing flapping a year! Other migrations are tiny in comparison. Some toads, frogs, salamanders, and snakes hop or slither only a few hundred metres to the wetlands where they mate. After laying eggs or hatching young, they migrate back into the forest. Bats, caribou, seals, eels, and a lot of other animals migrate too!
Mighty Migrating Monarchs
The survival of many migratory birds and insects depends on two habitats or more — often thousands of kilometres apart. The Monarch Butterfly is a good example. Western Monarchs migrate to sunny coastal California for the winter, while eastern and central North American Monarchs fly to the mountain forests of Mexico. For years, these forests were being steadily chopped down. Now the Mexican government is protecting the habitat. At the same time, however, Canadian provinces have laws stating that "noxious" weeds like thistle, milkweed, and Chicory must be destroyed. (A weed is considered noxious if it is difficult to control and a problem for agriculture.) Unfortunately, the larva of the Monarch feeds only on milkweed. It's clear that we have a duty to protect all habitats used by migratory species.
Here's how you can help:
- Find out if there are laws in your area requiring the destruction of noxious weeds.
- If such laws exist, what plants does your municipality consider to be a problem and why? (The list may differ from one municipality to another.)
- Find out everything you can about these plants. What species depend on them for food? Are any of them migrants?
- Do you suspect that wildlife could suffer because these plants are treated as "outlaws"? If so, lay the foundation for change with a letter-writing campaign. Communicate your concerns to the media, landowners, and the local government office responsible for weed control.
- Present your findings to your municipal council.
Most birds migrate at night, using the rotation of the stars to adjust their magnetic "compasses". These feathered travellers are often confused and thrown off course by the bright lights of city buildings and towers. Then they crash into windows or flutter against them until they drop in exhaustion. Fog, rain, and clouds can make the problem even worse. Many thousands of migrating birds often die in one spot in a single night. The survivors get lost in a maze of skyscrapers and eventually starve to death. One of the most tragic cases occurred in 1981, when 10,000 birds collided with two floodlit Ontario Hydro smokestacks near Kingston. Only after a public outcry did the company switch to strobe lighting on the stacks, and the bird collisions decreased remarkably.
Many of the casualties are species in serious decline, such as the Red-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird, and Swainson's Thrush. In Toronto alone, over 100 bird species have been recorded dying this way.
In that city, a group called FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) is making a big flap about the ongoing crisis. Volunteers look for feathery victims at the feet of downtown skyscrapers between 4 and 8 a.m. during the migration months (April to June and August to November). Birds that are just stunned are put in safe resting places, then freed outside the city. The seriously injured are sent to a bird rehabilitation centre. Dead specimens are collected for scientific research.
There are several ways you can help migrating birds in Toronto and other cities. Here's how:.
- Write to the owners and property managers of big buildings or towers that are lit up at night. Explain the problem and ask them to turn out the lights between midnight and dawn.
- Write to the headquarters of the power company in your province. Ask them to encourage towers and buildings to turn off their lights at night. It will save birds and precious energy.
- Prepare a one-page fact-sheet about the problem. Talk to the experts and gather details.
- If your parents, relatives, or neighbours work in a brightly lit city building, give them copies of your fact-sheet to distribute to co-workers. Perhaps one person on each floor could be responsible for turning out lights or closing blinds after work.
- Let the local media know what you're up to.
- Make a presentation to your city council and ask for their support.
- Contact FLAP about other groups or individuals helping migratory birds in this way.
If a bird has collided with a window, here's how you can help:
- Pick the bird up gently if it is injured or stunned. Put it on a folded paper towel inside a bag or small box. Use a cloth or glove to pick up the animal if you don't want to touch it with your bare hands.
- Turn the bird upright so it rests on its abdomen. (It could suffocate if left on its back or side.)
- Leave it undisturbed in a warm, quiet place for about an hour.
- Do not try to feed or water the bird.
- After an hour, if the animal is not yet alert, cannot fly, or shows signs of injury, call for help. Your provincial wildlife agency can direct you to a bird rehabilitation centre near you.
- If there is no centre nearby, contact local veterinarians or an animal shelter for advice. Some veterinarians do take in injured wildlife.
- If the bird is dead, check for a band and forward it to the Bird Banding Office, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0H3, or send it to your local wildlife office. Include your name and address, as well as the date, time, and place where you found the bird.
- Also, contact your local museum to see if they could use the dead specimen for research or education.
- Place streamers or netting in front of your windows to reduce bird collisions.
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