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Underwater noise in the Arctic - A state of knowledge report

Author(s): William D. Halliday, Matthew K. Pine, and Stephen J. Insley
Year: 2019

Bat activity and richness in beetle-killed forests in southern British Columbia

Author(s): Kirstie J. Lawson, Cori L. Lausen, Kristen A. Mancuso, Logan A. Volkmann, T. J. Gooliaff, Jenna Hutchen, Kristine J. Teichman, Angelina J. Kelly, and Karen E. Hodges
Journal: Journal of Mammalogy
Year: 2019

A boreal songbird's 20,000 km migration across North America and the Atlantic Ocean

Author(s): William V. DeLuca Bradley K. Woodworth Stuart A. Mackenzie Amy E. M. Newman Hilary A. Cooke Laura M. Phillips Nikole E. Freeman Alex O. Sutton Lila Tauzer Carol McIntyre Iain J. Stenhouse Scott Weidensaul Philip D. Taylor D. Ryan Norris
Journal: The Scientific Naturalist
Year: 2019

Studying the Elusive Wolverine, a Threatened Species in Northern Ontario

Author(s): Matthew Scrafford
Journal: Nature Northwest
Year: 2019

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Latest Feature

Ontario turns Endangered Species Act into an empty shell


With a million species worldwide now on a path to extinction according to a new UN report, this might be a good time to think about what we can do to lessen human impacts – including climate change – on wildlife and wild places.

But the Ontario government has chosen a different direction. The government has buried 20 pages of changes the Endangered Species Act in an omnibus bill about housing.  The proposed amendments are very bad news for species struggling for survival:  It seems like in its rush to prove the province is “open for business,” the government is ready to essentially waive many of the most important protection measures for vulnerable species in the Act.

Our President, Dr. Justina Ray, has written a short commentary on the proposed changes to the bill and their damaging impact on species at risk that you can share.

If you live in Ontario, contact your MPP and urge them to call for the government to remove Schedule 5 from Bill 108, and go back to the drawing board to consider how to implement the Act more effectively.  We are facing a worldwide extinction crisis, and this is not the time to push species further out on a limb.

The amazing journey of a little bird

Research has told us that blackpoll warblers living on the east coast embarked on 3,000 km. non-stop journey over the Atlantic Ocean to reach their winter homes in the Amazon.  Now, new research has found that their western cousins add a close to month-long cross country odyssey to this amazing journey.  WCS Canada researchers, in collaboration with Bill DeLuca (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Ryan Norris (University of Guelph) helped unravel the story of this incredible journey by capturing and attaching tiny geolocator backpacks to blackpolls in southern Yukon.  We are simply in awe of this tiny bird’s achievements, but also very worried about its future.

Blackpoll warblers are one of the fastest declining North American landbirds, with an estimated 95% population decline since 1970. In addition to the stress of their annual journey, they contend with predation by cats, collisions with buildings and vehicles and poor habitat quality. Understanding their migration routes can help us better understand the threats they are faced with throughout their life stages. In order to help these amazing little birds, and other songbirds, we must preserve habitats so they have safe places to overwinter and breed.

Speak up for endangered species!

The Ontario Government recently launched a 10-year anniversary review of the provincial Endangered Species Act.  While the government has stated that it wants to ensure protection and recovery for endangered species, its discussion paper places a heavy emphasis on ensuring economic development is not hindered by species at risk protections.
WCS Canada has responded with a detailed summary of the real problems with endangered species protection in Ontario, including poor implementation of many of the measures in the current Act.  We point out that the Act itself is farsighted and well balanced. Therefore, rather than seeking amendments to the legislation, the focus should be placed on better using its full suite of existing tools, and improving implementation to provide more meaningful protections for species at risk in the province.  Helping species at risk is vital to our efforts to address the global biodiversity crisis and we need to move forward, not backwards, in this work.  
You can participate in the review until March 4th.   Please speak out for endangered species!  Here is some information that can help you with your response:

WCS Canada response to Review of Endangered Species ActCommentary by WCS President Dr. Justina Ray in iPolitics on why a strong ESA mattersWebinar on ESA review with presentations from Ontario Nature, WCS Canada and David Suzuki Foundation (recording).

Another big year for conservation


Wow, what a year.  WCS Canada scientists were busy as usual and we have some big results to show for it.  Here are just a few highlights of our work in 2018:

The Alberta government committed to protecting the majestic Bighorn Backcountry with a new Wildland Park and other protected areas. You can support this plan to protect species such as grizzly bears, bull trout, bighorn sheep and wolverine by taking the government’s short survey.

Our newly launched wolverine research project in northern Ontario turned up the first den found by scientists in the province and has located (and tagged) a number of these elusive creatures.  Off to a great start.

Our work to highlight the risks to whales of increasing noise in the Arctic, due in no small part to an increase in shipping as Arctic ice recedes as a result of climate change, is getting decision makers talking about speed limits and other measures that can help prevent major problems before they develop.

We released The Water We Share story map, a great graphical interpretation of life below the surface in Ontario’s northern lakes and rivers and how connected these systems are to surrounding land uses and how vulnerable they are to climate change.

The spring of 2018 saw a spectacular migration through Yukon’s Tintina Trench, which reminded us how important it is to help migratory birds by protecting key resting and feeding areas.

Seeing the plan for protection of Yukon’s Peel Watershed revived was a sweet moment for WCS Canada Scientist Dr. Don Reid, who helped develop the scientific rationale for keeping the vast majority of this watershed wild.

Our work to protect western bats from deadly white-nose syndrome gained momentum both with our work on a probiotic preventative and through the release of our Bat Friendly Communities guide.

We worked with First Nations in Ontario to look at how Community Based Monitoring could enhance their efforts to address new threats to traditional lands, from resource development to climate change.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  More great work to come in 2019.  Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter, On the Wild Side, to keep up.


A big step forward for wildlife protection in Alberta's Bighorn Backcountry

Responding to the scientific evidence developed by WCS Canada, the Alberta government has announced plans to create a major new Wildland Park and three new provincial parks in the Bighorn Backcountry. The Bighorn is nestled between Banff and Jasper National Parks and is an integral part of the Canadian Rockies. The new Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park would encompass 3,843 square kilometres of remote and diverse landscapes, mountain headwaters of the mighty North Saskatchewan River, and key habitat for grizzly bears, wolverine, bighorn sheep, and bull trout. Three smaller areas totaling 149 square kilometres would be established as Provincial Parks along the North Saskatchewan River and adjacent to the Ya Ha Tinda ranch area operated by Banff National Park.

In the face of rapidly warming climate, we need to protect and connect large landscapes that have high levels of both topographic and environmental diversity – joining areas from river valley to mountain peak. The new parks in the Bighorn Backcountry will help provide options for a suite of vulnerable fish and wildlife species to shift in response to changing environmental conditions. Two of the provincial parks, meanwhile, could help facilitate safe passage across the David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11) for grizzly bears. At a larger scale, these new parks will secure a key link for connectivity in the Yellowstone-to-Yukon region.

The Bighorn Wildland Park, however, would exclude an area covered by coal leases that, if developed, would fragment the watershed, and would also continue to allow off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in several key remote areas important to grizzly bear families and wolverines. These shortcomings threaten security for wildlife and the ecological integrity of the Park.

We want to congratulate the Alberta government on taking vital steps to protect the majestic Bighorn. However, we also hope to convince the Alberta government to address the shortcomings in its plan during the upcoming 60-day public comment period. You can support our call for strong protection for threatened grizzlies and other species by participating in the government’s online survey or by emailing  aep.bighorncountry@gov.ab.ca

Declining caribou populations and biodiversity crisis in the news


The worrisome future facing caribou and biodiversity at large is making headlines across Canada. WCS Canada’s work with Canadian Geographic to map out the steady decline of iconic caribou (see above) across the country triggered stories in the Globe and Mail and on CBC Radio’s Day Six. These stories also highlighted findings from the WWF Living Planet report stating that wildlife populations have declined by 60% since the 1970s. The common thread in all these stories is how the ever-expanding human footprint has fed our current biodiversity crisis and how carrying on with business as usual could drive species like caribou to extinction. In fact, another map from WCS shows how Canada is one of just a handful of countries that continues to have large, intact wild areas. But to save these places and the wildlife that depends on them (as do we), we need to quickly find ways to lower our impact on these remaining wild places to ensure a healthy future for our planet.

We need bats.  Now bats need us.

Help us save bats from a deadly disease.

Bats glued to windows, dangling from porches, and adorning the yard are part of the classic scary sights of Halloween. But bats are the ones that should really be afraid.  They are facing a deadly disease that has wiped out millions of bats in eastern North America and that is steadily creeping west.  Our bat team has been working on ways to help bats survive deadly white-nose syndrome, but it’s an enormous task.  Your donation this Halloween will be like filling our bat team’s treat bag with goodies, including more resources to test a potential life-saving solution.

WCS Canada a finalist in the Nature Inspiration Awards! 


We are proud to announce that WCS Canada has been selected as a finalist in the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Nature Inpiration Awards! Since 2011, WCS Canada scientists have been working around the clock to help bat populations in western Canada. All over eastern North America bat populations are being decimated by an invasive species of fungus that causes a disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS). WNS has not yet reached  BC and Alberta, but may arrive any day. Our bat team has launched a multi-pronged effort to protect western bats from the disease and help them recover. This work will be showcased by the museum until a finalist is announced in early November, but we are already convinced that our scientists deserve a medal for their huge efforts to help bats!

Going to great lengths for endangered species

A thought provoking article from the Narwhal looks at the increasingly elaborate and expensive efforts governments are going to to try to save endangered species, such as caribou.  From pens surrounded by electric fences, captive breeding in zoos and even a stuffed cougar, these efforts are last-ditch attempts to restore species on the brink.  But will these efforts work without addressing the issues that drove these species to their precarious position in the first place?  Our Chief Scientist (and caribou expert) Dr. Justina Ray helps to outline the underlying problem

Thank you for helping us help bats

Thanks to generous supporters like you, we met 80% of our fundraising goal
 to support critical bat conservation research in western Canada

This Halloween, WCS Canada’s supporters went above and beyond and raised an amazing $4000 in support of Bat Specialist, Cori Lausen and her team as they continue pioneering research that is helping to prevent white-nose syndrome (WNS) from killing western bats.  The funds raised by our bat-lovers will go a long way to help us to cover the costs of essential research materials such SD memory cards for roost loggers, bat house occupancy monitors and lab costs such as the analysis of guano samples.  From all of us at WCS Canada, we want to say a big “thank you” to our donors for supporting this important work.  See the posts below to learn more about Dr. Lausen’s research and remember – it’s never too late to donate!



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