Earth Rangers is teaming up with Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to protect gray foxes and salamanders and the University of Alberta to protect snowshoe hares. Our latest project focuses on protecting the endangered Kootenay white sturgeon population in collaboration with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
A survivor since the age of the dinosaurs, the white sturgeon has evolved – relatively unchanged – for about 170 million years. Growing to be as long as a canoe and weighing over 600 pounds, this amazing fish can live to be 100 years old. But its impressive size and long lifespan won’t make much of difference if we can’t figure out better ways to protect them in the wild.
That’s why this summer Earth Rangers is supporting research, led by the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, into the endangered Kootenay white sturgeon population. The Project’s main area of focus is on evaluating the white sturgeon hatchery program in BC through gill net sampling and sonic telemetry to describe hatchery and wild sturgeon behaviour and habitat use patterns. Anticipated results include:
- Improved management of release strategies (locations, the season of release, size of release and numbers released) to optimize the program for the target adult population
- Identification of wild juveniles to detect natural recruitment of the wild Kootenay population
As part of the BC government’s annual white sturgeon monitoring program, the research will help scientists monitor the small remaining wild population, as well as gain a better understanding of how well the hatchery-introduced sturgeon are doing.
Snowshoe hares are larger than rabbits with longer ears, stronger hind legs and much bigger feet that help them move easily on top of the snow. Their incredible legs and feet also make them capable of jumping as far as 3 meters at a time and reaching speeds up to 45 kilometers an hour – that’s faster than the top speed Usain Bolt reached when he set the 100m world record in 2009! Their large feet also make them excellent swimmers, a skill they put to good use when escaping predators or grabbing food from ponds and streams.
Primarily a northern species that’s found in boreal forests or mountain ranges with similar cool climates, these speedy hares are also known for their white winter coats that transform to reddish brown in the summer. In the winter, the hare’s thick coat matches the snow, while in the summer it blends in with the greens and browns of the forest, making it difficult for predators to spot them. But impacts of climate change – including earlier snowmelt in the spring and later arrival of winter conditions in the fall – is making them more vulnerable to predators and impacting the species survival rates.
To help better understand the issue, Earth Rangers is working with researchers to examine how climate change is impacting snowshoe hares, and what changing weather patterns mean for the species’ survival rates across boreal Canada. The research will help determine if snowshoe hares are:
- Spending more time in thick vegetation, away from predators
- Searching out patches of forest where snow cover provides them better camouflage
This project will result in a better understanding of how climate change is impacting snowshoe hare behaviours and survival rates.
The gray fox has a typical fox-like appearance, but can be distinguished by its grizzled grey fur and a prominent black stripe running down its back and tail. It is the only canid in the western hemisphere that can climb trees, thanks to sharp, hooked claws that allow it to jump from branch to branch. Gray foxes are highly omnivorous compared to other North American canids and may play a role in seed dispersal of fruiting trees and shrubs. They also help to regulate small mammal populations, including pest species.
The gray fox can be found in deciduous marshes from southern Canada to northern South America. Despite their large range, this species is threatened in Canada, with only one breeding range in the country confirmed. Pelee Island is the largest stronghold of the gray fox population in Canada and may be an important stepping stone and source population for natural spread of the species onto the mainland. Therefore, habitat protection and stewardship on Pelee is key to the protection of this species at-large in Canada.
That’s why Earth Rangers is working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to restore 1,000 acres of gray fox habitat on Pelee Island. This project will include:
- Creating a mosaic of open areas and brush, ideal for gray foxes to hunt and make their dens, through a combination of native planting and excavation work to create wetlands which would have once been naturally present
- Implementing a plan to control invasive species (e.g. garlic mustard, common reed, and honeysuckles) that are overtaking native plants important to the gray fox diet
This project will result in quality habitat and secure food sources that will give gray fox populations a better chance at stability and growth.
Salamanders are a diverse group of amphibians characterized by slender bodies, smooth skin, and long tails. Species can range from 1-2 inches to 6 feet in length, and have adapted to a wide range of habitats all over the world. Because they live both on land and in water and have thin skin that is susceptible to the absorption of toxins, salamanders are a sensitive species that can act as an early warning of negative impacts on the environment, and are often used by biologists as an indicator species to show when pollutants threaten local ecosystem health.
There are 21 species of salamander native to Canada, and 10 of those can be found in Québec, including the threatened Allegheny Mountain dusky salamander. At the southern border of the province, deep in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, the ecologically-rich Covey is considered a true biodiversity hotspot for salamanders and is the only place where one can find all 10 species of salamander that exist throughout Québec.
Earth Rangers is teaming up with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to help conserve a 148-acre property located in Covey Hill. One of the unique features of this area is a 15,000-year-old peat bog, which stores rainwater between layers of sphagnum moss, feeding an underground network of springs located in the foothills of Covey Hill. The bog and the springs both provide unique habitat to the diversity of salamanders that live there. The conservation of this property will consolidate the protection of the Covey Hill peat bog, and bring NCC’s total lands protected in this area to approximately 1,000 acres.