Archives > July 2017

A Visit to Frank Lake

So, you want to go birding? Today’s blog is going to be all about a great location just outside of Calgary, that you can visit to enjoy the outdoors and see several bird species, and if you’re lucky, some mammals as well.

Let us introduce you to Frank Lake! Frank Lake is only about 45 minutes south of Calgary. To get to the lake, take Highway 2 southbound for about 50 km, turn off on the eastbound exit to Highway 23, and head east for another 5 km. The turn-off for the lake will be on the south side of the road and will lead you to the parking lot.

(Image courtesy of Google Maps 2017a)

Frank Lake is considered to be a wetland complex and boasts thick vegetation along the shorelines that provides excellent habitat for waterfowl, marsh birds, shorebirds, and other wildlife. The wetland complex consists of three basins that total 3,100 acres of wetland, and an additional 1,700 acres of surrounding managed upland (Ducks Unlimited 2017). The surrounding landscape is mostly agriculture and pasture land.

(Photo courtesy of Google Maps 2017b)

This location attracts several animal species: a total of 194 bird species and 16 mammal species have been recorded here, as well as 190 plant species (Ducks Unlimited 2017).

Frank Lake is currently a managed and monitored wetland and is considered one of the most important wetlands in southern Alberta for breeding water birds (Bird Studies Canada 2017). Prior to management of Frank Lake, the area had seen several years of complete dryness, and on the complete opposite end, had also seen several years of flooding. By managing the wetland complex that is Frank Lake as a permanent waterbody, wildlife habitat is maintained. Ducks Unlimited worked with industry, municipal, provincial and federal governments in 1988 to determine a long-term plan to maintain and protect water levels of the lake from drought and flooding (Ducks Unlimited 2017). Fast forward almost 30 years and you will see the thriving wetland that it is today!

Furthermore, many artificial structures such as nest boxes, nest platforms, and rock islands have been placed throughout the wetland to enhance the habitat for wildlife that nest and live here (Bird Studies Canada 2017).

My personal favourite thing about Frank Lake is the observation blind (a little hut on the water that shields you from the view of birds on the lake). The observation blind allows you to be able to see birds closer up, as they won’t swim away from you like they would if you were out in the open. This is also a great spot for those who are fond of photographing birds and waterfowl! The observation blind makes it so you don’t have to stay still for hours on end to be able to catch a great photo!

Several thousand Franklin’s gulls have also been known to nest here, with the colony population at upwards of 10,000 individuals reported in 1971 (Bird Studies Canada 2017). Some of the other more common species that are frequently observed here include the eared grebe, black-crowned night-heron, California gull, ring-billed gull and common tern (Bird Studies Canada 2017). Some of the more uncommon or unexpected sightings include the black-necked stilt, Baird’s sparrow, white-faced ibis and Clark’s grebe (Bird Studies Canada 2017; Smith 1993). Several listed species (Alberta Government 2015) have been observed here, such as the peregrine falcon (At Risk), ferruginous hawk (At Risk), long-billed curlew (Sensitive), and short-eared owl (May be At Risk)(Bird Studies Canada 2017).

Pictured here are a yellow-headed black bird, a ruddy duck, an eared grebe, an American avocet, and a muskrat.


(Photos courtesy of Tayler Hamilton)

Before you venture out to Frank Lake, we encourage you to:

     First, check the weather and wear appropriate clothing; and,

     Second, but more importantly, check out this guide created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

This handy tool allows you to see what bird species have been reported at the lake and during what times of the year! 

As stewards of wildlife we ask you to be respectful while visiting Frank Lake (or any natural area) and to stay on the designated pathways, to not purposefully disrupt any wildlife that may be present, and to make sure you leave no garbage behind.

As always, if you see any wildlife in distress, please don’t hesitate to call us at 403-946-2361 to seek advice or assistance in the matter. Stay safe and have fun!

For specific directions on how to get to Frank Lake, follow this link:,+AB/Frank+Lake,+Foothills+No.+31,+AB/@50.8057356,-114.1727583,10z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x537170039f843fd5:0x266d3bb1b652b63a!2m2!1d-114.0708459!2d51.0486151!1m5!1m1!1s0x5371ecedfd7a943f:0x20cbda3ccfccfbba!2m2!1d-113.7109326!2d50.5609413



Alberta Government. 2015. Alberta Wild Species General Status Listing – 2015. Available at: Accessed July 18, 2017.

Bird Studies Canada. 2017. Frank Lake (south), High River, Alberta. Available at: Accessed July 18, 2017.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015. eBird Canada: Bird Observations, Frank Lake. Available at: Accessed July 18, 2017. 

Ducks Unlimited. 2017. Frank Lake. Available at: Accessed July 18, 2017.

Google Maps. 2017a. Map data. Available at:,+AB/Frank+Lake,+Foothills+No.+31,+AB/@50.8057356,-114.1727583,10z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x537170039f843fd5:0x266d3bb1b652b63a!2m2!1d-114.0708459!2d51.0486151!1m5!1m1!1s0x5371ecedfd7a943f:0x20cbda3ccfccfbba!2m2!1d-113.7109326!2d50.5609413. Accessed July 18, 2017.

Google Maps. 2017b. Map data. Available at:,-113.7178315,11751m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x5371ecedfd7a943f:0x20cbda3ccfccfbba!8m2!3d50.5609413!4d-113.7109326. Accessed July 18, 2017.

Smith, Wayne, W. 1993. Frank Lake. Revised in 2012. Available at: Accessed July 18, 2017.

Wagner, G. 2012. Map of Frank Lake. Birds Calgary. Available at: Accessed July 18, 2017.

Escaping Wildfires


The current wildfire situation in British Columbia has resulted in the devastating loss of many homes and has displaced tens of thousands of British Columbians who have been forced to evacuate. But what about the animals who inhabit the areas affected by wildfires? Do they also evacuate?

While a wildfire almost certainly means that some animals will lose their lives, some species may be able to escape. For example, raptors, with their superior eyesight and ability to fly well above the inferno, may be able to escape the affected area and flee to safety. Sadly, birds that fly at a lower altitude may succumb to due smoke inhalation, or exhaustion. Some burrowing species may be able to survive by digging themselves deep into the earth where they will remain until the danger has passed (“Campbell”).

Young animals and smaller creatures are most likely to perish during a fire; however, some predatory animals, such as bears and raccoons, have actually been spotted taking advantage of the fires by hunting other animals that try to escape the affected area (“Zielinski”).

While a fire is devastating to wildlife, life returns to the affected areas quickly. In one to three years, bears actually can benefit from the fire, as the increased sunlight in areas affected by fires means abundant berry crops (“Heidenreich”). Slowly, wildlife will begin to return to the area and adjust to their new homes in a much-changed landscape.

For more information on how forests and vegetation recover from wildfires, visit

Are you interested in learning about how you can support AIWC rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife? Visit for more information!


Campbell, Meagan. “Where the Wild Things Are”. Macleans. Rogers Digital Media, 9 May 2016. Web. 17 July 2017.

Zielinski, Sarah. “What Do Wild Animals Do in a Wildfire?”. National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 22 July 2014. Web. 17 July 2017.

Heidenreich, Phil. “Fort McMurray Wildfire Likely Killed All Wildlife in its Path”. Global News. Corus Entertainment Inc., 12 May 2016. Web. 17 July 2017.

World Zoonosis Day

Last week marked World Zoonosis Day, which is observed annually on July 6, the anniversary of the first use of a rabies vaccine. Louis Pasteur began developing zoonotic vaccines by studying fowl cholera and bovine anthrax before successfully administering a rabies vaccine to a victim of a rabid dog attack in 1885 (“Louis Pasteur”).

Zoonosis is defined as a disease that can be spread from animals to humans directly through bites or scratches, like rabies and cat scratch fever, or indirectly through bug bites like Lyme disease, Zika or West Nile. Other varieties may be contracted through spores in the air or contaminated water. Many devastating epidemics through human history resulted from zoonosis including the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1919, which originated in birds, and the plague in the 1300s which was spread by infected fleas carried by rats (“World Zoonosis Day”). While these facts may be alarming, World Zoonosis Day aims not to frighten people, but to encourage awareness and preventative measures.

Today, many options are available for preventing exposure and contraction of zoonotic diseases. Protective equipment like masks and gloves, vaccines against certain viruses, and even bug spray to avoid mosquito bites can reduce the instances of human infection. Wildlife rehabilitators must be careful when handling species like skunks, foxes, and bats, which may carry rabies. Although cases of rabies are low in Alberta, should you find a rabies vector animal in need of rehabilitation, it is best to contact AIWC directly as our staff and volunteers are specially trained to handle wildlife, and those volunteers that handle rabies vector species are vaccinated against the disease. It is important for anyone who is not vaccinated against rabies to avoid scratches and bites from animals that may be infected, as tests for the disease can only be completed post-mortem, which means the animal may have to be euthanized for testing, rather than released.

With due care and attention, people and animals can happily coexist.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can support AIWC rehabilitate injured wildlife? Visit for more information!

By Stephanie Ruddock, AIWC Volunteer


“World Zoonosis Day.” Merial, Web. 06 July 2017. <>.

“Louis Pasteur.” Chemical Heritage Foundation, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 06 July 2017. <>.

Respecting Wildlife

Imagine this: you are driving down the road when you see a grizzly bear feeding in the ditch. It would make the perfect photo; there’s no one around, you could easily get closer to the bear and the pine trees make the perfect background. But is taking that photo the right thing to do?

There has been significant coverage over the recent weeks about the growing number of visitors in Alberta parks who put themselves in harms’ way, with the hope of getting that “perfect” wildlife photo. One such recent incident in Banff National Park involved a group of about 20 to 30 people who stopped to take photos of a grizzly bear, when one individual broke away from the group and put themselves within mere metres of the bear, attempting to get the perfect shot (Fletcher, Robson).

Alberta Parks’ Safety Around Wildlife guide recommends that spectators keep a distance of at least three bus lengths, or 30 metres, away from large animals, such as elk and moose, and about three times that distance, or 100 metres away, from bears. While wild animals may look cute, they are, of course, wild creatures and are unpredictable and potentially dangerous, and need to be treated as such. Spectators should always remain in their vehicle.

But there’s more to consider than safety, when deciding whether or not to take that photo. Wild animals that spend too much time in the vicinity of humans can become habituated to humans. An animal who becomes habituated to humans may venture further into more populated areas in search of food, or no longer flee when he/she sees a vehicle or comes into contact with humans, which is dangerous for the animal. When deciding whether or not to take a photo of a wild animal, consider that even though there may not be an immediate threat to you as the photographer, simply being in the vicinity may make the animal feel more comfortable around humans (“Alberta Bear Smart”).

So the next time you stumble across a wild animal, though it may be tempting to get closer to get the perfect photo, consider helping to keep that wild animal wild by moving along.

Are you interested in learning how to support AIWC as they rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife? Visit for more information!

Fletcher, Robson. “’Unbelievable’: Banff visitor walks right up to grizzly in apparent bid for closeup photo.” CBC News Calgary, 26 June 2017. Web. 3 July 2017. <>.

“Safety Around Wildlife.” Alberta Parks, Web. 03 July 2017. <>.

“Alberta Bear Smart.” Alberta Environment and Parks, May 2011. Web. 3 July 2017. <>.

Photo Credit: Alberta Environment and Parks