During the 2016/17 school year, Earth Rangers is teaming up with conservation partners to protect woodland caribou, eastern small-footed bats, bees, pine martens, and midland painted turtles.
One out of every three bites of food that we eat in Canada is made possible by pollinators. Pollinating insects include bees, butterflies, moths, and even some flies and beetles. Bees are the top pollinators in Canada, with over 855 native species and more than 700,000 managed European honey bee colonies across the country. Pollinators are critically important, not only to sustaining our ecosystems, but to producing Canadian crops like apples, blueberries, grapes, squash, canola, cherries, and peaches – just to name a few!
Pollinators in Canada face many challenges, including habitat loss. Expanding urbanization is also eating up the habitat of many of these creatures as exotic garden plants, lawns, and roadways replace the native vegetation necessary for pollinators’ survival. Luckily, we can help ease this pressure for both wild and managed pollinators with some strategic gardening.
Earth Rangers is teaming up with Pollinator Partnership to develop local native plant species lists for attracting different types of pollinators, and create pollinator habitat planting guides to provide information on how to create pollinator habitat in diverse ecoregions across Canada.
Eastern Small-footed Bat
Eastern small-footed bats are the smallest bats in Ontario, and one of the rarest bat species in North America. True to their name, their feet are only 6-8mm long. Due to their rocky cave habitat being threatened by human development, these bats were recently added to the list of endangered species in Ontario. Eastern small-footed bats have a very strong homing instinct compared to other bats, and return to the same cave to hibernate every year. This makes protecting their current habitat especially important!
The rarity of eastern small-footed bats has led to a lack of knowledge about their habitat, making conservation planning challenging. In an effort to learn more about this species, Earth Rangers is teaming up with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) to find eastern small-footed bat roosting sites and identify areas for us to protect. This important study will not only contribute to identifying and monitoring the endangered Ontario population of eastern small-footed bats today; it will also provide other bat researchers with an inventory of locations that will be the basis for future studies of this species in Ontario. This includes the important task of stopping the spread of white-nose syndrome in Canada, a deadly fungus that has not yet been identified in Ontario eastern small-footed bats but that is rampant in populations across the United States.
Midland Painted Turtle
Seven of Ontario’s eight turtle species are included on the province’s Species at Risk List. The Midland Painted Turtle is a species that isn’t officially listed but its population is rapidly declining and may become listed if we don’t take action. Midland Painted Turtles’ preferred habitat is ponds, marshes, lakes and slow-moving creeks that have a soft bottom and lots of basking sites and aquatic plants.
One of the biggest threats facing turtles in Ontario is the destruction of wetland habitat across the southern part of the province. In order to ensure the Midland Painted Turtle and others, including the Snapping Turtle, continue to have a safe place to live in southern Ontario, Earth Rangers and the City of Toronto are collaborating on a major wetland restoration project, focused on an area called Habitat Pond, on Toronto Island. The Habitat Pond restoration project is approximately 0.5 hectares and will include planting over 500 native trees and shrubs and over 800 wetland plants, installing basking logs to provide turtles with a place to warm up, and the ongoing management of water levels.
Pine martens, also called American martens, are members of the weasel family. These curious and solitary animals have a long, slender body with short limbs, and a bushy tail that helps them balance when exploring the tree tops. The best habitat for pine martens is old growth forests, which feature a thick canopy that keeps the forest floor dark and damp; ideal habitat for hunting mice, voles and squirrels. Manitoba contains one of the largest intact old growth boreal forests in the world that not only provides critical habitat for pine martens, but for other animals like wolves, caribou and river otters. Unfortunately, Manitoba’s boreal forest is facing increasing pressure from human disturbance.
To ensure that pine martens continue to have a safe place to call home, Earth Rangers is supporting TNC Canada as they collaborate with local First Nations communities, the Manitoba Government and industry to develop a land-use plan within 22 million acres of boreal forest. The land-use planning process will be developed and defined by First Nations communities, and will involve scientific research, GIS mapping, Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and extensive community engagement. Once completed, all parties will work together to have the land-use plans formally adopted.
Woodland caribou are the largest of Canada’s three caribou sub-species. They are shy, reclusive animals that require large areas of undisturbed, mature forests to survive. Unfortunately, woodland caribou are at risk across Canada. Over half of their range has been lost to activities like road development that disturbs and fragments their habitat and makes them easy targets for predators like wolves.
In the past, caribou could be found across two-thirds of Alberta, but suffered a major population decline in the early 1970’s, from which they never recovered. Current population estimates of woodland caribou in the province are just 2,500 to 4,200 individuals. In order to ensure their population survives and grows, Earth Rangers and the Pembina Institute are collaborating to help identify caribou habitat and propose conservation areas across Northern Alberta.