Notice of permit

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Regional or Local Number: WB-2012-11275

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to the provisions of section 74 of the Species at Risk Act permit no. WB-2012-11275 is issued.

Purpose:
Scientific research for the conservation of the species

Description:
This project involves aerial surveys by fixed or rotary wing aircraft over the whooping crane summer range in and around Wood Buffalo National Park. Annual breeding pair surveys are conducted from May 15-30, hatching success surveys from June 1 to 30, and chick survival surveys from July 15 to Aug 15. Ground based monitoring of crane breeding behaviour and habitat attributes may be conducted, e.g. recording of crane vocalizations or incubation behaviour using automated devices, or monitoring of habitat attributes such as pond depth. Collection of biological and environmental samples may be conducted, including: unhatched or imperiled eggs, scats and moulted feathers; measurement of pond depth and other habitat attributes; collection of water samples potential food items, fecal pellets, prey remains, dead cranes and regurgitates. Live trapping of invertebrates, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and minnows may take place on a limited basis. These activities have been conducted by Environment Canada in WBNP since 1966. During whooping crane migration, monitoring of whooping cranes within Canada (Saskatchewan) will be used to confirm the status of marked birds and to determine habitat and site use.

Start Date: 2012-05-17   End Date: 2014-10-31

Issuing Authority: Parks Canada Agency

Authority Used:

  • Species at Risk Act
  • Canada National Parks Act

Location of Activity (province, territory or ocean):

  • Alberta
  • Northwest Territories

Affected Species:

Pre-Conditions:
a)All reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the species have been considered and the best solution has been adopted: Aerial Surveys: given the extent and remoteness of the whooping crane nesting range, there are no reasonable alternatives to aerial surveys for detecting and monitoring crane nests and productivity. Least intrusive survey methods have been chosen to reduce or eliminate potential impacts to the cranes. Surveys of this nature have been conducted annually on the breeding and wintering grounds since 1966 and results to date do not indicate that there is any adverse impact. Ground based monitoring: given the proximity required to obtain behavioural data from whooping cranes, there are no presently reasonable alternatives to ground-based monitoring. Least intrusive monitoring techniques have been chosen to reduce or eliminate potential impacts. For example, in most cases, crews will deploy automated devices (e.g., recorders, cameras) near nests during pair surveys and pick them up during chick survival surveys; use of automated devices will reduce disturbance during the breeding season. In a few cases, monitoring will require the presence of a crew member, but least intrusive methods will be used (e.g., crews will remain distant from birds they are observing, blinds and high power optics will be used, etc). Collection of biological and environmental samples: given the specificity and uniqueness of this species and its habitat requirements, there are no presently reasonable alternatives to collection of biological and environmental samples. However, these activities are non-intrusive because cranes are not disturbed during collection of samples. Egg collection, if conducted, will be limited to eggs that were abandoned, are not fertile so will not hatch, or are imperiled by fire or flood. Migration Monitoring: observations of whooping cranes during migration are conducted at a minimum setback distance of 500m (as recommended in Saskatchewan Activity Restriction Guidelines for Sensitive Species, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, February 2013). Staff visits to migration sites are infrequent to minimize disturbance to individual birds. b)All feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species or its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals: Aerial surveys: aerial surveys are normally conducted from an altitude of about 300m agl. except lower passes may be required to determine colour leg band information and presence of chicks. These are standard techniques used during aerial surveys of breeding birds, including whooping cranes. This population is accustomed to being surveyed intensively by aircraft in Canada and the USA, and given the altitude at which we perform surveys, birds usually do not flush off nests when we are above them. When they do flush, birds usually return to the nest within a few minutes. All proposed methods have been approved by the Environment Canada Animal Care committee. Ground based monitoring: As noted above, automated devices will be used when viable to reduce human presence in breeding territories. When it is necessary for humans to be present, researchers will observe birds from a distance of several hundred meters, to reduce disturbance. The researchers will land the helicopter away from the cranes and proceed on foot to within a safe distance. All research will be directed and/or conducted by the principal investigator, who has several years of experience with endangered cranes and with the techniques involved. All proposed methods have been approved by the Environment Canada Animal Care committee. Collection of biological and environmental samples: no removal of surplus eggs is planned, unless the eggs are abandoned or in immediate danger of destruction (e.g., fire or flood). In that case the eggs will be removed, determination of viability will take place, and eggs sent to the Calgary Zoo. Viable eggs will be hatched and nonviable eggs will go to Veterinary Pathology for analysis. All proposed methods have been approved by the Environment Canada Animal Care committee. Migration Monitoring: to minimize disturbance to whopping cranes during migration, observations of cranes are conducted at a minimum setback distance of 500m (as recommended in Saskatchewan Activity Restriction Guidelines for Sensitive Species, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, February 2013). Staff visits to migration sites are infrequent to minimize disturbance to individual birds. c)The activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species: There is no scientific evidence to suggest that aerial surveys, ground-based monitoring (including nest visits), collection of biological or environmental samples (including collection of eggs), and migration monitoring have any negative effects on the population. In fact, scientific studies conducted in Wood Buffalo National Park, suggest that many of these activities, including egg collection, may enhance recruitment of juvenile whooping cranes. Since Environment Canada began conducting many of these activities in 1954 (aerial surveys since 1966) this population of whooping cranes has grown at an average rate of 4% per year. The monitoring activities described have contributed to the remarkable recovery of this species.

Contact Person(s)
Sharon Irwin
Resource Management Officer
Parks Canada Agency
PO Box 750
Fort Smith, NT
X0E 0P0
Tel: 867-872-7948
Fax: 867-872-3910
sharon.irwin@pc.gc.ca

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