HCTF project leader Michelle Evelyn looks at a new painted turtle hatchling on the Sunshine Coast.
Sunshine Coast residents are being asked to keep their eyes open for one of the most wonderful signs of spring: tiny baby turtles emerging from their underground nests.
The coastal population of Western painted turtle is federally threatened and provincially red-listed and faces many threats. For over a decade, the Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project has been working with the community to ensure the survival of this species at risk.
Painted turtles lay their eggs in June and the babies hatch in the fall but remain in their underground nest all winter and don’t leave their nests until the following spring. Baby turtles emerge from distinctive rectangular holes and each tiny hatchling is the size of a loonie.
Identifying nest sites and monitoring nest success is critical to conservation efforts to project the species. If you have seen a baby turtle or a nest emergence hole, please report your sighting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 604-989-1007.
Turtle stewardship efforts on the Sunshine Coast are supported by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Gencon Foundation, and the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk. For more information visit www.facebook.com/coastwildlife or www.coastwildlife.ca
Thank you to project leader David Stiles for providing this project update.
Fisher Habitat Extension Program wins Silver Award
Rich Weir is awarded the Silver Award by HCTF Board member Don Wilkins
HCTF project leader Rich Weir has been awarded the HCTF Silver Award for the Fisher Habitat Conservation Provincial Extension Program. This extension project has made great strides in increasing forest managers’ awareness of fishers and their habitat needs.
“Forest management has the single largest human-caused effect on the sustainability of fisher habitat in British Columbia,” says Weir, who is a carnivore conservation specialist with BC’s Ministry of Environment. “It accounts for over 120,000 ha of habitat changes within the range of fishers each year. Fortunately, opportunities exist during all phases of forest management to incorporate decisions that may positively affect the supply of habitats for fishers.”
The program organizes forest planning workshops for licensees, government regulators, and contractors working in areas where fishers live. Workshop participants learn how to identify fisher habitat and how they can help meet habitat retention targets within their operations. The program has also developed information and tools for timber cruising crews, layout personnel, operational foresters, machine operators, and others who make fine-scale forest management decisions that affect the future supply of habitat for fishers. Learning resources and tools are available on the program’s website at https://www.bcfisherhabitat.ca/
The Silver Award was created in 2006 in honour of HCTF’s 25th anniversary and in recognition of the contributions of long-time manager, Rod Silver. It is awarded to projects that have truly made a difference for conservation in BC and that best exemplify the work of the Foundation.
Province Grants $2 million to create Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund
The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has received $2 million dollars from the Province of British Columbia to help restore caribou habitat. Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, announced the funding this morning at the BC Wildlife Federation Conference in Kamloops. The funding is part of the Province’s comprehensive caribou recovery program, designed to conserve BC’s 54 caribou herds, some of which are in serious jeopardy.
“There were about 40,000 caribou in B.C. in the early 1900s. Today, there are only about 19,000 caribou left,” said Donaldson. “We need to do whatever we can to help enhance and recover caribou habitat to rebuild the numbers of this iconic species.”
Caribou require large home ranges and have complex habitat requirements. Many of the areas where caribou live have been affected by human disturbance, negatively impacting caribou survival. Restoring caribou habitat has been identified as a key component of caribou population recovery efforts.
The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) has a long history of managing funding for projects restoring habitat in BC. Since 1981, HCTF has funded over 2500 projects benefitting BC’s wildlife, freshwater fish and habitats. HCTF CEO Brian Springinotic said he was pleased the Province had chosen to partner with HCTF in its efforts to recover caribou habitat. “The goals of the provincial caribou recovery efforts directly align with the Foundation’s mandate to improve conservation outcomes for British Columbia’s wildlife,” said Springinotic.
Over the next month, government staff will be working with HCTF to develop the funding program. Additional information will be posted on HCTF’s website as details are confirmed.
GO Grants to Get Thousands of Students Outdoors This Spring
HCTF School GO Grants in the snow
There may still be snow in parts of BC, but spring GO Grant field trips are just around the corner! We’ve just awarded $75,000 in GO grants to 216 teachers in 34 different school districts to get more than 5500 BC students learning outdoors this spring.
This photo was submitted to us by Amy Woodland Elementary School in Cranbrook. The school used an HCTF GO Grant for its “Wilderness Wednesdays” initiative. Each Wednesday, the school hired a bus to take several classes to Jim Smith Provincial Park and Idlewild Park to participate in outdoor, place-based learning experiences. The main goal of “Wilderness Wednesdays” was to provide children with regular access to natural spaces for child-directed, inquiry-based learning. Kindergarten teacher Leah Draper reports that the opportunities for learning were endless. “We were fortunate to have guest educators teach us about bats in the fall, and Dave Quinn from Wildsight facilitated the program, Nature Through the Seasons. All of the learning and free-play activities were rooted in the features of and changes in the local forest environment, ” says Draper.
Students learned about local plants and animals and how they adapt to changing seasons. They built shelters, had weekly campfire stories, went snowshoeing, ice-fishing, created art from natural elements and played cooperative games. Outdoor education students from the University of Victoria also participated in the field trips to apply their learning with the classes.
“This was a transformative experience for our school,” says Draper. “Because of our school’s central location in Cranbrook, we don’t have many natural spaces within a reasonable walking distance. These field trips provided children with learning experiences that they will remember, and reports from children, parents and staff have been positive and full of appreciation.?”
Teachers have reported increased levels of student engagement and improved student relationships as a result of collaborative problem solving during field trip activities. Students were also allowed time to play and explore independently, providing welcome opportunities for using their imagination. Draper observed Kindergarten students becoming families of wolves and creating and maintaining an icy “otter” slide, as well as constructing numerous “homes” for other animals. The wilderness experience also led students to build resilience when faced with obstacles, including inclement weather.
This was the school’s second year of Wilderness Wednesdays and teacher participation has grown immensely. The school hopes to continue getting their students outdoors and plans to apply to HCTF Education’s Wild Schools program to build upon their students’ ecological literacy.
Last April, HCTF, FFSBC and the Province of British Columbia provided funding to hire a coordinator to lead the province’s efforts in preventing Whirling Disease from entering BC. Stephanie Whyte and her team sampled over 880 fish in the Columbia Basin for the presence of Myxobolus cerebralis, the parasite that causes whirling disease. The fish were sampled at six different sites:
Lower St Mary River
Kootenay River (near Creston)
Columbia River (near Castlegar and Trail)
The team used sampling methods similar to those used in Alberta and by Parks Canada to create continuity in methodology in Western Canada. Because whirling disease is a reportable disease in Canada, Canada Food Inspection Agency collaborated with the Province of BC on a sampling methodology and to identifying priority sample sites in the Columbia Basin. The samples were sent to a FFSBC or a CFIA lab to test for the presence of Myxobolus cerebralis using PCR. All results came back negative for the presence of Myxobolus cerebralis.
In addition to testing for whirling disease, the team has developed effective decontamination procedures to help prevent the spread of the disease by human activity. They also created an Early Detection Rapid Response Plan (EDRR) to provide detailed direction on the decisions and actions required if whirling disease is detected in BC. This document is based on similar plans created for invasives such as Zebra and Quagga Mussels.
For 2018, the team have put together a plan that will continue to focus on areas of high human activity in and around the Columbia Basin.
Report Suspected Cases of Whirling Disease
While there are still no documented cases of Whirling disease in British Columbia, it has been confirmed in several locations in Alberta near the BC border. Fish infected with whirling disease may exhibit a “whirling” swimming behavior as the parasite attacks cartilage and impairs the nervous system. Fish may also show signs of physical malformations including head and tail deformities and darkened coloration near the tail area. If you see fish seeing any of these symptoms, please contact Front Counter BC Toll free: 1-877-855-3222; email: FrontCounterBC@gov.bc.ca
Tue, 30 Jan 2018
Update on the Fisher Den Box Project
Can’t get enough fisher footage? HCTF project leader Larry Davis has put together another video update on the artificial den box project with some fantastic video captured with some innovative use of a Go-Pro and a selfie-stick:
Larry writes: “Work at the start of this fiscal year focused on identifying any den boxes that were being used by fishers for reproductive purposes. We monitored all den boxes on a monthly basis by inspecting the inside of each box with a Go-Pro camera inserted through the door. In addition, hair-snaggers installed at the entrance of each box are examined and these were collected when any hair was present. Den boxes that were receiving attention by fishers also had motion detection cameras positioned to capture video of any fisher using the structure.
DNA samples from the winter of 2016-17 and the 2017 denning period were submitted for analysis in July 2017. Results of the analysis indicate 26 fisher samples were obtained out of the 39 samples submitted. Other species in the samples included red squirrel (8), American marten, (4), and one black bear. Of the fisher samples, we had 9 different individuals leave DNA at the denboxes (7F and 2M) during this period. Similar to the last two years, the denboxes appear to be selective for females. Out of the 9 fishers, 5 were individuals not previously identified.
During the reproductive denning period (April – June 2017), we observed females and kits at 4 different den boxes over the natal denning season. Three of the boxes used were in the Bridge Watershed and one was in the Chilcotin. The females had 1 at 2 denboxes and 2 at the remaining 2 denboxes. One of the fishers has used reproductive dens for three consecutive years at two different den boxes and a second has reproduced the past two years using two different denboxes.
A cannibalism event was also recorded on video at one denbox. A female with two kits had left to forage for several hours when a male fisher arrived at the structure. The male chewed at the opening to the denbox and, over approximately 0.5 hours, enlarged it sufficiently to enter the structure. The male was then observed to remove one kit at a time from the structure with one eaten on top of the denbox. Female fishers are selective for denbox entrance size, in theory, to prevent the larger males from entering and killing kits. However, to my knowledge, no one has recorded an actual cannibalism event. The female returned to the denbox that day and several other times over the next week.
Many of the denboxes have had the entrances enlarged by squirrel chewing over the years of the project and I suspect that this prior chewing may have aided the male fisher in entering the denbox. To address this problem, we have installed 2cm thick by 4cm wide door frames made from solid wood on every denbox. Future monitoring will seek to determine if this addition helps address the problem of squirrel chewing at the entrance. Another possible fix would be to embed galvanized metal sheets at the entrance during construction. Two metal sheets could be waffered between the 3 plywood layers at the opening. Plans for the final report are to update denbox construction plans to reflect these changes.
Other work this year includes visiting known fisher den trees to determine the potential supply of natural denning structures. Some delays for this component of the project were caused by the wildfires and my evacuation this summer. However, we have also commenced with this portion of the project and have some limited data to report. Near the Williston Reservoir, 6 out of 10 cottonwood den trees were still standing roughly 20 years after discovery. In the Chilcotin, only 2 out of five den trees are still standing approximately 10 years after they were identified. For the cottonwood trees, advanced decay appears to be the primary cause of all fallen trees. In the Chilcotin, recent fire has taken two trees and advanced decay impacted the third. There are 10 additional trees we plan to examine in the Chilcotin this winter and a biologist in the Peace has information on fisher den trees in that area that will help support this portion of the project.
Winter monitoring will commence in January 2018, when the boxes will be examined for chewing since last June. All den boxes will have lure added to attract fishers to the structure with trail cameras and hair snaggers used to monitor use over the winter. In late February / early March, we will move the cameras to den boxes that are receiving interest from fisher to prepare for the reproductive denning season.”