Notice of permit

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Regional or Local Number: WB-2017-23857

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to the provisions of section 74 of the Species at Risk Act permit no. WB-2017-23857 is issued.

Scientific research for the conservation of the species

This permit allows for a continuation of the Whooping Crane monitoring project in Wood Buffalo National Park. The project centers around conducting aerial surveys by rotary wing aircraft over the whooping crane summer range in the park and surrounding areas. Breeding pair surveys are May 15 to 30 and chick survival surveys and capture/banding will be July 15 to August 15. Supplemental to the breeding ecology, the project also includes potential collection of unhatched eggs, scats, moulted feathers, fecal pellets and dead cranes. In addition to the surveys, the team will be banding 15-20 juvenile whooping cranes with a GPS transmitter annually for 3 years. This is being done to quantify, explain and mitigate the risk from oil sands mining and other industrial resource developments to whooping cranes. Techniques used for capture and banding will be the same as for work conducted by the Canadian Wildlife Service from 1977-1988, and from 2010-12, when 134 and 31 juveniles were banded at Wood Buffalo National Park, respectively. Cranes will be captured by hand before they are capable of flight at breeding sites.

Start Date: 2017-05-15   End Date: 2019-08-31

Issuing Authority: Parks Canada Agency

Authority Used:

  • Species at Risk Act
  • Canada National Parks Act

Location of Activity (province, territory or ocean):

  • Northwest Territories

Affected Species:

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: 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. Capture and banding is the most logistically feasible and least intrusive method to monitor movement and habitat use of whooping cranes during migration in remote areas, such as the oil sands region. The alternative of not doing this work at all is not considered reasonable because (a) the risk to whooping cranes from the proposed work is extremely low yet (b) the risk of not doing the work is moderate to high because it would result in Canada (i) not being able to identify new nesting areas in regions lacking protection (e.g., those not included in currently designated critical habitat) and (ii) not being able to provide information to mitigate potential risk to cranes from existing and proposed industrial developments such as oil sands mining. 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 are normally conducted from an altitude of about 300m above ground level, except lower passes may be required to determine colour leg band information and presence of eggs or 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 United States, 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. To minimize any impact of disturbance during aerial surveys, attempts to identify or count a nest, eggs or colour leg bands will be aborted under the following circumstances: 1) time for an attempt exceeds 5 minutes; 2) birds are pursued more than 300 meters from the location they were first detected; 3) where there is potential that fledged young become separated from their parents. During capture and banding, pursuit on foot will be timed by a biologist observing from a helicopter and if unsuccessful the pursuit will be aborted after 12 minutes. From 2010-12, when 31 cranes were banded using this same protocol, only one pursuit was abandoned, and no cranes were observed in distress once captured. We will not attempt to capture a crane on a second occasion if the first attempt was unsuccessful. Once captured, a crane will be held during banding and health checks for no more than 25 minutes. From 2010-12, when this same protocol was employed, most cranes were released in 15 minutes or less. c)The activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species: There is no evidence to suggest that the permitted activities have had any negative effects on the population. From the time that the Canadian Wildlife Service begun the monitoring and recovery activities for whooping cranes (1954) the population has grown at an average rate of 4% per year. Banding cranes is not expected to negatively impact the population. In order to conserve a migratory species it is important to protect breeding grounds, wintering grounds, and stopover sites along the migration corridor. In its yearly cycle, the least understood and most vulnerable period is during migration. Whooping Cranes suffer the highest mortality during migration as determined by counts in the breeding and wintering areas, however, the exact causes or locations are not known nor documented. Understanding migration ecology and threats to Whooping Cranes during migration has been considered a priority of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team for several years.

Contact Person(s)
Parks Canada
Species Conservation and Management
Natural Resource Conservation
Parks Canada
30 Victoria Street 3rd floor
Gatineau, QC
J8X 0B3
Tel: 888-773-8888
Fax: 819-420-9273

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