Species-at-Risk Assessment

Species-at-Risk Assessment

The Ontario Endan­gered Species Act (ESA, 2007) pro­hibits harm to listed species. We rou­tinely carry out desk-top screen­ing risk assess­ments for clients to iden­tify poten­tial issues on prop­er­ties being con­sid­ered for major projects. Desk-top assess­ments involve use of exist­ing infor­ma­tion and knowl­edge of species ranges and habi­tat require­ments to deter­mine a like­li­hood of a species’ occur­rence. Where there is a like­li­hood, and a desire for a project to move for­ward, we carry out field stud­ies applic­a­ble to indi­vid­ual species. We have, for exam­ple, car­ried out numer­ous stud­ies of Bobolink and East­ern Mead­owlark over the past few years in the Ottawa area. We have also car­ried out stud­ies of Lake Stur­geon and Amer­i­can Eel.


Westslope Cutthroat Trout
Westslope Cutthroat Trout is a SARA listed species. We are working in the Elk Valley, providing third-party independent of monitoring that is being undertaken there related to elevated selenium concentrations in surface water.

The photo below is of a Westslope Cutthroat Trout caught on a dry fly one of the tributaries to the Elk River in June of 2016. A small clip of adipose tissue was collected from the fish and was submitted to a professor at Lethbridge University for genetic testing and analysis.

Cutthroat Trout from an Elk River tributary


Lake Sturgeon Assessment

Kilgour & Associates carried out extensive studies of lake sturgeon in the Spanish River in the vicinity of three hydroelectric facilities. Studies determined the presence/absence of spawning sturgeon in the spring of the year near each facility. Sturgeon that we collected were PIT tagged for identification in the event the fish were collected at some later point. Spawning habitat was further characterized using Sonar, and geo-referenced visual observation. A hydrodynamic model of the Spanish River was developed and used to further identify and quantify the extent and quality of spawning habitats for sturgeon. The work addressed data requirements identified through consultation with[/one_half_last] the local Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, for the Species-at-Risk permitting process. The data, further, are to be used in the event of upgrades to facilities in the provincial environmental assessment process.

Spanish River at High Falls, Fall 2011

Spanish River at High Falls, Fall 2011

We presented a poster of our work on the Spanish River Lake Sturgeon work at an international conference in Sault Ste Marie in December 2012. Here is the poster we presented at the meeting

We are into the next stage of our studies, and are now focussed on understanding the biology and habitat use by juvenile and adult Lake Sturgeon in the lower river. We have just completed tagging several adult sturgeon, and have begun monitoring their movements in and around spawning habitats.


Bobolink Inventories

Working for area developers, Kilgour & Associates has carried out desk-top and field studies that have determined the presence/absence of this bird species, and the quality of habitat that various land parcels provide to bobolink. Desk-top analyses have involved examination of the breeding-bird atlas database. Field studies have used the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources protocol for conducting surveys for bobolink, involving three site visits during the breeding season for the bird. We have consulted with the various regulatory agencies including Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and City of Ottawa, and have developed mitigation plans to avoid impacts to the species.

Spanish River at High Falls, Fall 2011

Boblink

Whip-poor-will
We have completed numerous inventories of Whip-poor-will in the Ottawa area in support of land development and proposed aggregate operations. Surveys for this bird species are best done at night, in late May to early July, on nights when the sky is clear and the moon is large. Recordings of the birds call can be played to lure these birds to reply, and or to defend their territories. Surveys of this bird species can often be timed to co-occur with surveys of frogs, effectively ‘killing’ two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Chorus Frogs
Chorus frogs are listed federally, and protected under the Species at Risk Act. The species is important, therefore, on federal lands, or to projects that have been funded by the federal government. The City of Ottawa also requires that Environmental Impact Statements consider whether this species is present. We therefore routinely conduct surveys in the spring for this species. Watercourses that do not contain fish are possible locations for this species. Therefore, if there is water on a site, it may either be habitat for fish, which can be constraint, or it may contain Chorus Frogs, which may also be a constraint depending on the regulating agency.

Blanding’s Turtles
These ‘yellow-throated’ turtles are a lot more broadly distributed than historical survey information would suggest. That said, it is important to protect this, and other, species of turtle. Like most turtles, this species is relatively shy. The turtle is most likely to be spotted in the spring when water temperatures are cool, and the air is warming up. The Ministry of Natural Resources highly recommends a minimum of 5 visits to a site in the spring to determine if the species is present; more are preferred, and conditions need to be just right. Construction sites with watercourses that have the potential to contain this species need to be ‘isolated’ using some kind of barrier, potentially snow fencing. We recently worked on one site that had potential to contain Blanding’s turtles, and the creek running through the site was not ‘isolated’ prior to October 15, when the species is considered likely to commence hibernation. We developed a protocol for ‘muddling’ for the species; a protocol which required searching on hands and knees for turtles in the mud of the creek that flowed through the construction area. That protocol proved to be acceptable in demonstrating the absence of the species, allowing construction (realignment of the channel) to proceed on time.

Barn Swallow
Barn swallow are protected provincially. The species is known to associated with various kinds of infrastructure including barns and bridges. The province has developed a Barn Swallow Regulation, which provides clarity as to what is protected habitat. Barns and bridges that have hosted Barn Swallow can be demolished, or renovated, and the nest of the birds can be removed, but only under strict conditions: (1) nests need to be replaced in an area that would naturally support Barn Swallow; (2) nest re-locations need to be monitored; (3) the success of 1 and 2 needs to be monitored for a time, as per what the Ministry of Natural Resources might instruct. The timing of nest removal is also critical, since it must[/one_half_last] occur at a time of year when the birds are not going to be present and trying the nest. Issues related to constructing around nest of Barn Swallows are, therefore, reasonably well defined, and feasible. Well-timed surveys are critical, however, to ensuring there are no surprises, and no delays in construction activities. Barn Swallows, like so many of the listed species, seem to be everywhere, and there is often good likelihood that a project in urban or rural areas will interact with this species.

Roosting Barn Swallow