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Alberta Wildlife Recoveries: Greater Sage Grouse

What are greater sage grouse?

Greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasiansus urophasianus) are a species of grouse (a member of the Galliformes order; related to chickens and turkeys) that gets its name from the sagebrush prairies they inhabit. The greater sage grouse is the largest grouse species in North America, and they are distinguished by their rounded wings, long pointed tails and a mixture of brownish-black plumage with white/gray patches on their abdomen (Schroeder et al 1999).

Where are they found?

In Canada, they are usually found in silver sagebrush (Artemesia cana) ranges, specifically in the mixed-grass regions of southern Alberta. While their historic range was once more extensive, the sage grouse population now resides in a 4,000 square kilometre area centred south and east of the hamlet of Manyberries (Alberta Sage Grouse Recovery Plan 2013) and the sage grouse is currently listed as endangered under the Alberta Wildlife Act.

The sage grouse’s habitat selection has been shown to be dependant on local factors such as availability of nesting and brood locations, and nearby leks (open, relatively flat areas that males use to display for prospective mates) (Petersen 1980).

What is being done to protect the greater sage grouse?

In 2005, a provincial recovery plan for the greater sage grouse in Alberta was drafted with the goals of both “enhancing and maintaining habitat for sage grouse to satisfy life-cycle requirements in support of a viable population within its historic range” and to “achieve recovery of the sage grouse population to a level that provides for sustainable recreational viewing and hunting”.

However, this plan was reviewed in 2013, as the population was still declining. The previous goals were thus considered to be long term targets, and new short-term goals were implemented in the recovery plan of 2013 to complete these goals, including the restoration of sage grouse habitat, through increased land use standards and stewardship; reclamation of potential land areas; and predator management. These goals seek to achieve a positive trend in sage grouse active leks by 2018 (Alberta Sage Grouse Recovery Plan 2013).

What more needs to be done, and how can we help?

According to the Alberta Sage Grouse Recovery Plan (2013), the greatest limiting factor in increasing the sage grouse populations is the reduction in suitable sagebrush habitats. Human activity and land development are the biggest contributor to habitat change so reducing these impacts or perhaps ensuring that they are adequately controlled or legislated may do a great deal in helping to preserve the populations already present in fragmented habitats.

As is usually the case with endangered or at-risk species, the best way the general public can help is by raising awareness. Landowners are also encouraged to care for potential habitat usage and stewardship programs, with help from governmental and conservation organisations.

By Jonathan Poll, AIWC Volunteer

References

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Research Development. (2013). Alberta Greater Sage Grouse recovery plan 2013-2018. Alberta Environment and Sustainable Research Development, Alberta Species at Risk Recovery Plan no .30. Edmonton, AB. 46pp.

Petersen, B.E. (1980). Breeding and nesting ecology of female Sage Grouse, in North Park, Colorado. M.S Thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. 86pp.

Schroeder, M.A., et al. (1999). Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in: The Birds of North America, Number 425. (A. Pool and F. Gill, eds.) American Ornithologists Union, Washington, D.C., Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, P.A.

Photo Credit: Alberta Environment and Parks

Litter and Wildlife

As we work through our candy left over from last month, we all know that post-Halloween is a time that’s notorious for stomach-aches and sugar highs caused by excess candy. Even scarier than these nutritional nightmares, though, is the havoc that candy wrappers and other forms of litter can wreak on Alberta’s wildlife.

While litter may seem harmless, it can have myriad unfortunate effects on the animals (and plants) that we share this world with. Here are just a few ways that litter affects Alberta’s wildlife:

  1. Small bits of plastic-based litter can often look appealing to foraging birds, but can prove dangerous and even fatal to them if ingested. Instead of being digested and processed as food, these bits of plastic often remain in a bird’s digestive tract and block food from being processed later on, which inevitably leads to starvation. This means that a harmless-seeming Ring Pop base or other small and disposable piece of plastic can transform into a lethal weapon as far as local avian life is concerned.
  2. Discarded chewing gum can become problematic when an animal gets chewed gum stuck in its fur or feathers. Depending on the size of the animal, the effects of this sticky situation can range from annoying to crippling if the gum inhibits the animal’s range of motion. If you’re chewing on that Hubba Bubba gum you scored on Halloween and need to spit it out during a fall nature walk, make sure to do so properly – by wrapping it in paper and disposing of it into the proper receptacle – to save an animal a whole lot of grief.
  3. Too much of a good thing is bad, and that goes double for too much of a bad thing – especially when on the topic of litter. If an area is heavily littered, the long-term consequences can include a loss of habitat for animals on the ground that would normally have nested there, as well as polluted waterways if the litter reaches a local water source. With the depletion of available resources in a particular area, animals may have to migrate from heavily-polluted areas to an area that may be less-than-ideal or overcrowded, meaning they may not have access to enough resources to survive.

While litter is certainly an all-year problem, we implore you to keep an eye out for a potential increase in Halloween-related detritus and to clean up what you can to help our furry and feathered friends to stay safe. And if you see an animal in distress, please contact AIWC at 403-946-2361 for assistance.

By Giselle Wedemire, AIWC Volunteer

Sources:

Walkthrough: A Shift at AIWC

Today’s blog is going to walk you through a typical shift at AIWC as a rehabilitation assistant volunteer. Keep in mind, we are currently in the slow season and have fewer patients in our care than we have during the spring or summer, so this blog will cover a very basic shift.

At the beginning of any shift as a rehabilitation assistant at the centre, volunteers check in and talk with the staff in charge for the day. We are incredibly fortunate to have an amazing team of staff members at AIWC who not only care for the animals, but do everything they can to help educate the team of volunteers. The staff are incredibly thankful of the volunteers and donors who help keep AIWC a well-greased machine, but I truly believe we wouldn’t be a functioning clinic without our staff and their commitment to patients and coaching to volunteers.

The staff will have specific duties assigned to the volunteers for their shifts, and will do a run-down of everything with them in case there are any special or out-of-the-ordinary patients or tasks for the day. I never know what animals will be in care at the centre or which ones I will be assigned to until I arrive on the day of my shift. There are some restrictions when it comes to certain animals, for example, rabies vector species can only be looked after by staff members, and volunteers who have been rabies vaccinated; and some patients may be quarantined due to contagious conditions and only certain staff members can care for them. 

Above is a photo of one of the patient boards. It tells us where the patients are located, their food and medicine requirements, which staff or volunteers are assigned to them, and anything else that might be important.

Once we know what our tasks are for the day and which patients we will be helping, the first thing that needs to be done is to feed the patients. We prep food according to our nutrition manual. Each type of species has a specific diet plan, and we follow the nutrition manual to ensure they are being fed the right amount of food, and the right type of food. For some patients who may have to stay at AIWC for a longer period of time (e.g., over winter, or until a full feather moult occurs), it might be necessary to create a tailored feeding schedule so we don’t feed them the same thing every day. This is to provide a form of enrichment and prevent boredom while in our care.

  Nutrition manual (left) and part of the food prepared for a cedar waxwing (right).

For my shift these photos are from, I was assigned with helping one of the staff members with various raptors we have in care.

 Osprey being release back into enclosure after a full clean (left), and the same osprey eyeing up her meal (right).

For the patients that are self-feeding (the ones who eat on their own), we temporarily take them out of their enclosures so we can do a full clean before we feed them. A full clean involves removing any uneaten food, removing soiled materials or fabrics and perches, and wiping down or mopping the enclosure. We replace soiled materials or fabrics and perches with clean ones, place the food we have prepped for them in the enclosure, and then release the patient back into their temporary home.

 Saw whet owl in enclosure (left), enclosure after a full clean for the saw whet owl (right). This patient was having issues being able to see and was bumping their eyes into the hard walls. We fashioned some softer materials to act as bumpers and hopefully reduce the impact for any further bumps. This little owl is receiving treatment for their eyes and although slow, seems to be recovering. Fingers crossed for this little one!

Sometimes patients need to be tweezer fed if they aren’t self feeding or eating by themselves (this could be due to a variety of reasons). The great horned owl below is an example of using a towel to wrap the patient to be safely fed.

 Great horned owl wrapped in towel for tweezer feeding.

Special handling procedures are always required to ensure the safety of both the patient, and the staff or volunteer who handles them. For some examples, using a towel to wrap bird patients holds their wings close to their body to reduce the risk of a wing injury; towels also provide a barrier between the patient and volunteer or staff to mitigate biting; leather gloves and a proper grip of talons are used to hold birds of prey to ensure they won’t be able to grip anything or anyone while they are being held (for feeding or examinations).

Once patients are cleaned and fed, there is lots of cleaning that needs to be done. We generally try to keep tidy and clean as we go if we are able to, but there seems to be a never-ending pile of laundry, bottomless kitchen sink of dirty dishes, sweeping, mopping, snow shovelling…the list goes on!

 

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or contact us with any questions you might have. As always, we are a non-profit organization who relies on you, our followers and supporters, to help us care for wildlife in need. If you would like to make a donation, please visit our Support Us page to see how you can help!

By Tayler Lafreniere, AIWC Volunteer

Meet the Northern Flicker!

Despite being classified as a woodpecker, don’t be surprised if you startle a northern flicker up from the ground on your next hike! These striking auburn birds use their specialized beaks to dig up dirt and a 2-inch long tongue, which wraps around the flicker’s skull when retracted, to extract insects and larvae. These birds will also eat fruit and seeds, especially over winter when ants in particular become harder to find. In the spring, northern flickers can be heard drumming on tin flues, siding, gutters, and other materials to attract mates.

Both males and females help to excavate dead or diseased trees for nests, which will be lined with little more than a thin layer of woodchips for a clutch of 5-8 eggs. Northern flickers are quite happy in nest boxes and in reusing tree cavities created by other animals. Nestlings will tend to cling to the wall of their nest between the second to third week after hatching.

These hardy birds are brown in colour with dark spots and a black collar. The nape of their neck is highlighted with a deep red crescent. In flight, bright feathers on the underside of the northern flicker can be seen. These feathers are orange in the red-shafted flicker subspecies of western North America and yellow in the yellow-shafted flicker that dominate further east and north.

 

Northern flickers cover a large range across most of North America and can be found in suburbs, marches, forest edges of the prairie foothills, and all the way up to the treeline of the Rockies. Some northern flickers remain in the United States and coastal regions of Canada year-round while others will migrate further, as far north as Alaska for breeding and into parts of Central America to overwinter. Like most woodpeckers, northern flickers fly in an undulating motion featuring a few quick flaps followed by glides with tucked wings.

 

Although northern flickers are currently listed as a low concern species, habitat loss, insecticides, and other urban hazards can threaten these woodpeckers. Additionally, despite having adaptations, including a reinforced skull and specialized brain cushioning that allow them to withstand the sustained force of pecking, northern flickers and other woodpeckers are still vulnerable to window strikes.

 

If you would like to support the care of these and other native birds brought to AIWC for rehabilitation and release, donate to our Wish List, get organized with a 2018 Calendar, or send your holiday greetings on an AIWC Christmas Card.

 

By Stephanie Ruddock, AIWC Volunteer

 

Sources:

 

https://www.thespruce.com/fun-facts-about-woodpeckers-387095

 

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Flicker/lifehistory

 

http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/facts/northern_flicker_k6.html

 

https://cosleyzoo.org/northern-flicker/

Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions in Alberta peak in November

The Swainson’s hawk in this photo is a current patient at AIWC after being found near a roadway emaciated and with many injuries consistent with trauma. Like most of our patients, we can’t know precisely what happened to him, but it is very likely he was hit by a vehicle. He was admitted in August, but because his injuries were not healed in time for him to meet migration south with the rest of his species, he will now over-winter with AIWC and be released back to the wild in the spring.

According to the provincial government, approximately half of all rural vehicle accidents in Alberta involve wildlife, with most of these accidents happening between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. There are over a thousand crashes each month, but that number more than doubles each November, with over 2,600 accidents happening on rural Alberta roads.

Here at AIWC, we often see patients brought in with serious injuries following collisions with vehicles, both on highways and on busy city streets. Frequent patients include raptors, such as hawks and owls, who take advantage of roadside perches such as light posts to watch for prey who try to dart across the roadways without cover. Scavengers, such as crows, ravens, and skunks are also at high risk, attracted to litter and garbage in the ditch, or carcasses on the road. In some cases, roads were built through popular migration routes making the likelihood of seeing wildlife crossing high during peak migration times.

So what can you do to minimize vehicle collisions with wildlife?

  • Avoid throwing any litter/garbage out your window which may attract wildlife
  • Be alert and slow down when driving at dusk/dawn when wildlife is most active
  • Slow down once you see wildlife near the road – you can never be sure where they’re going or how many of them there may be
  • Pay attention to posted wildlife warning signs
  • Use your high beams when driving at night for best visibility
  • Avoid distracted driving; paying attention to your surroundings is the best way to prevent a collision!

What to do if you find injured wildlife on the side of the road:

Resources & Further Reading:

“Drivers reminded to be aware of wildlife on roads” www.alberta.ca, November 1, 2013: https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=35284CD81198C-031F-D478-65CE4D0DE75DDA4F

The Sneaky Neighbour You’ve Never Met!

As today is Halloween, it seems appropriate to profile an animal that is typically associated with all things sneaky and dark: the raccoon!

Many southern Alberta residents may never have seen a raccoon, as these creatures are nocturnal, so are not often spotted during the day. It is a commonly held belief that raccoons cannot be found in the Calgary area; however, they actually have been living in and around Calgary for approximately 25 years (CBC News).

Raccoons are famous for their black “masked” face and striped tail, and measure approximately 60-95 centimetres from nose to tail, and weight six to eight kilograms, with females being approximately 25% smaller than males (Wild Safe BC).

These masked creatures are omnivores and will eat just about anything they can get their hands on. They do, however, have preference for nuts, insects and berries. A raccoon in the wild has a relatively short life span. While a raccoon in captivity may live in excess of 15 years, a wild raccoon has an average life expectancy of three to five years, due to high mortality rate amongst their young (Wild Safe BC).

Raccoons in many parts of Canada have a “winter denning period”, or a period of inactivity that enables them to survive the harsh Canadian winter, when food is scarce. Do not be alarmed if you see a raccoon roaming around during the winter though! These clever creatures are adept at finding food sources and may not have a winter denning period in urban centres or warmer regions, where food is regularly available (Wild Safe BC).

While racoons are typically shy creatures, it’s not uncommon for them to become comfortable around humans or pets. These masked bandits are experts at stealing food from our garbage cans, and can quickly learn to associate humans with good food sources. As they become more habituated to humans, conflicts can occur. You can help discourage raccoons from moving into urban areas by ensuring your garbage cans are closed and secured, harvesting fruit trees and berry bushes as soon as the fruit is ripe, and by leaving pet food inside your home where raccoons cannot access it. If you are having problems with raccoons frequenting your property, installing motion-activated lights may be a sufficient deterrent (Wild Safe BC).

If you are fortunate enough to see a raccoon in the wild, keep your distance. Though they look cute and cuddly, like all wild animals, they become aggressive if they feel threatened, and can inflict serious harm.

As always, if you see injured or orphaned wildlife, please call us at 403-946-2361!

CBC News. “Raccoons spotted in and around Calgary”. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/raccoons-spotted-in-and-around-calgary-1.2789177. Accessed October 29, 2017.

Wild Safe BC. “Raccoon”. Available at: https://wildsafebc.com/raccoon/. Accessed October 29, 2017.

Photo Credit: Alberta Environment and Parks

The American Crow

As Halloween approaches, it’s a perfect time to talk about one of our favorite creatures that is typically associated with all thing spooky – the crow! Crows are a part of the corvid family and are a very intelligent bird. They don’t have the best reputation, and are often thought of as a nuisance – perhaps a little too often. I’m hoping that after reading this blog we will have enlightened some of you who may be on the not-so-fond side of the crow.

Crows can be found globally, and the species here in Alberta is the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos). These birds are opportunists and will eat almost anything they find in the wild (or in their urban jungle) including insects, worms, carrion (carcasses), seeds, nuts, grains, and eggs or chicks of other bird species’ (Cornell University 2015).

Crows prefer to nest in the top third of an evergreen tree. Both parents of a pair (and sometimes their young from a previous year) will build their nest out of sticks and branches, pine needles, weeds, bark and even animal hair (Cornell University 2015).

Crows are extremely social birds and are rarely seen alone. Crow families consist of parents and their offspring from the past two years, the offspring will help raise new young before starting their own families (Cornell University 2015).

If you live in the northwest of Calgary, you might have seen a large group (100+) of crows that gathers in the fall and winter. This could be due to the interesting fact that crows will often congregate in large numbers (sometimes up to TWO MILLION!) in winter to sleep in communal roosts (Cornell University 2015). Some of these roosts have been established for 100 years or more, and will stay in an area even after it has become urbanized (Cornell University 2015).

Now is the time of year that crow fledglings (and other types of birds) start leaving their nests! AIWC is here to inform you that the crow hopping around on the ground may just be newly out of his or her nest! Crow fledglings are very large and look like they could be adults. Don’t be immediately alarmed if you spot one if these birds as just described, but take a minute or two and observe the bird’s behavior. If the behavior seems abnormal at all (lethargic, injured, or other), PLEASE don’t hesitate to call us (403-946-2361) to help! Always remember, it is unlawful to keep any wildlife without a proper license and training to do so.

Other interesting facts:

–          The American crow is closely related to the black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia) and both species are in the same family (Corvidae).

–          Both crows and magpies are known to create and use tools (e.g., putting water on dry food, dropping pine cones on predators near their nests) (Cornell University 2015). Tool usage in the animal kingdom is a sign of intelligence, and not all animals have the ability to use tools.

–          Mobbing is a behavior that crows demonstrate where groups of crows will work together to chase away a predator. Some owls are predators of crows and will eat their eggs or young if they have the chance, and as a result, crows can often be seen mobbing an owl.

–          Crows can learn how to speak (another sign of intelligence)! Peg Leg, a crow and wildlife ambassador of the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge lived to be 23 years old (Ho 2015) and often greeted visitors with a friendly ‘hello’!

By Tayler Hamilton, AIWC Volunteer

Resources:

Cornell University. 2015. American Crow. Available at:  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/lifehistory. Accessed June 13, 2017.

Ho, Clara. 2015. Peg Leg, talking crow at Lethbridge’s nature centre, dies at 23. Calgary Herald. Available at: http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/peg-leg-talking-crow-at-lethbridges-nature-centre-dies-at-23. Accessed June 13, 2017.

Six Things to Know about Red Squirrels!

With fall officially here to stay (for the time being), you’ll no doubt spot a variety of animals scurrying about as they make their winter preparations. One such critter you’ll likely spy this season is the beautiful, yet feisty red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). A native to Alberta, this industrious rodent can be easily identified by its signature reddish coat that thickens considerably as cooler weather approaches. But did you know that the red squirrel is closely related to chipmunks? Or that a litter of red squirrels usually clocks in at four or five babies?

In case you can’t get enough of these lovable yet territorial rodents, here are six facts you may not know about red squirrels:

  1. Though their name hints at a totally red coat, red squirrels aren’t actually fully red in colour. The coats on their backs can range from a grey-brown to a shock of rusty red, while their throats, bellies, and rings around their eyes provide a contrast of stark white.
  2. Red squirrels don’t hibernate during the winter – in fact, they stay active throughout the season. If you spot a red squirrel hurrying about during the fall, it’s likely because he’s on a mission to prepare for the upcoming cold months by collecting and storing food for future consumption.
  3. While we all imagine squirrels munching merrily on nuts or acorns, the red squirrel’s diet is much more varied than those singular items. True, their main source of nutrition comes from some nuts and the seeds from pine cones. But, by definition, red squirrels are omnivores, and their diets extend to include flowers, berries, mushrooms, bugs, mice, eggs, and small birds.
  4. Red squirrels have a firm grasp on food storage. Using tree cavities, underbrush piles, or dens as their own pantries, red squirrels can ensure that the food they’ve gathered for the winter will be kept safely and out of the way of trespassers. Before storing mushrooms that they’ve foraged, red squirrels have been known to lay them out to dry on tree branches.
  5. Red squirrels are feisty and territorial towards intruders, and confrontation between two red squirrels often entails a lot of tail flicking, chattering, and foot stomping. Though these actions may seem adorable to us as onlookers, it can mean that things are getting heated in a squirrel argument.
  6. There’s a reason why a red squirrel’s tail is so big and bushy: when it’s not being flicked around to intimidate a rival, the tail of a red squirrel is primarily used for balance as the animal jumps from tree to tree in wooded areas. With a tail that measures to be about half the size of an average red squirrel (six and 12 inches, respectively), half of the animal’s body’s length is devoted to helping it keep balance and intimidating other squirrels.

If you happen to see a red squirrel – or any injured wild animal, for that matter – that’s injured or abandoned, please contact AIWC at 403-946-2361 for assistance.

By Giselle Wedemire, AIWC Volunteer

Sources:

  • https://natureedmonton.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/the-red-squirrel/
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/rabbits-rodents/red-squirrel.aspx

Women and Wildlife

October is Women’s History Month in Canada, “a time for Canadians to celebrate the achievements of women and girls throughout our history and recognize the trailblazing women who have shaped our country and way of life.” Among those women are a number of biologists, ecologists, and conservationists including AIWC founder Dianne Wittner.

Dianne completed a degree in biology at the University of Calgary and began working as a wildlife rehabilitator in British Columbia. Later she returned to Alberta where she opened the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation in her basement. Dianne received the Western Legacy Award in 2012 for her work which recognizes Albertans that “promote western values and aim to preserve western heritage, pride and integrity within their community” (Leaving a lasting western legacy). Dianne’s contributions to conservation activities consistently exemplified these characteristics.

AIWC is now located next door to her former residence and continues to admit thousands of wild lives every year. The centre is currently managed by a talented team of committed women with complementary skills and expertise that contribute to public engagement, classroom education, volunteer coordination, and animal welfare all while supporting the centre’s primary focus of rehabilitating and releasing injured or orphaned wildlife. You can read more about these capable women who inspire us daily on AIWC’s Staff page.

You too can contribute to the centre’s activities by volunteering your time, donating goods from our Wish List or sponsoring a patient. Further opportunities for assisting AIWC’s efforts are also available under the Support Us tab of our website.

“Today, women, girls, men, and boys continue the quest for equality and inclusion in all areas of Canadian life.” Let us know how you will celebrate this year’s Women’s History Month and heroines of conservation in the comments!

By Stephanie Ruddock, AIWC Volunteer

Alberta Wildlife Recoveries: Wood Bison

What are Wood Bison?

Albertan wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) are a subspecies of the American bison, distinguished by their larger size, darker and woollier fur, and less hair on the forelegs and beards (Bork et al 1991).

The boreal forest, specifically wetland-meadows and open savannah-like shrubland are the most important habitat types, but this can vary from season to season (AEP profile).

Where are Wood Bison found?

Historically, wood bison in Canada were found across the boreal forests of North America, including Alberta and the Northwest territories. In Alberta, they are found in the upper Northeast, primarily in the Wood Bison National Park and surrounding areas. Estimates taken between 2010 and 2015 showed ~9000 free-ranging wood bison left in Canada (Wood Bison recovery strategy 2016).

A carefully managed herd of wood bison reside in the area surrounding the Hay-Zama lake region, and they are kept separate from the free-roaming bison found in the northwest and national park (Alberta Wilderness Association)

What is being done to protect the Wood Bison?

Wood bison are currently listed as “At Risk” by the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report, but the protected herd of the Hay-Zama area are listed as endangered under the Wildlife Act. Wood bison that are free-roaming and found in the northwest Alberta protected area are illegal to hunt without a license. However, a proportion of free-roaming bison found in and around the national park carry strains of tuberculosis and brucellosis, which are introduced livestock diseases. Because of this, they receive no hunting protection, to prevent the spread of these diseases to the Hay-Zama population and domestic bison (AEP profile).

What more needs to be done, and how can we help?

The main threats to the protected wood bison populations are the spread of livestock diseases, with the more general threats of increases in agrarian land, climate change and increased predation close behind.

The Recovery Strategy for Wood Bison in Canada (2016) outlines both short-term and long-term objectives for the protection and recovery of both the free-roaming and managed herds. Short-term management of the disease-free populations in the original Canadian range, establish self-sustaining populations and increase genetic diversity. The long-term objective is “to ensure the existence of at least five disease-free, genetically diverse, connected, self-sustaining free range local populations distributed across the natural range, with at least 1000 individuals per population” (Recovery Strategy 2016).

In terms of what the public can do, it is important that we focus on greater consultation with landowners (as many are opposed to the somewhat destructive nature of grazing herds) and increased awareness of where wood bison are protected and how our activities may impact them.

By Jonathan Poll, AIWC Volunteer

References

http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/wild-cattle-related/wood-bison.aspx

https://albertawilderness.ca/issues/wildlands/areas-of-concern/hay-zama/

Bork, A. M.; et al. (1991). Genetic Relationship of Wood and Plains Bison Based on Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms. Canadian Journal of Zoology 69: 43-48

Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2016. Recovery Strategy for the Wood Bison in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act. Recovery Strategy Series. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Ottawa. Viii + 52pp

Photo Credit: Alberta Environment and Parks

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