Landowners asked to watch for returning endangered species

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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With spring weather on the horizon, animals are on the move north.

The burrowing owl is one of the most commonly known endangered animals Nature Saskatchewan is asking landowners to be on the look out for as migrating animals return north for the summer.

Nature Saskatchewan is asking landowners to be on the lookout for endangered animals on their land.

“It is that time of year where it is starting to warm up so we have our Stewards of Saskatchewan program and those are people who have already let us know that they have species at risk on their land,” said Ashley Fortney, Habitat Stewardship co-ordinator.

“We are just giving the shout out to them to keep in mind that those species are coming back but also for people who may not be in our programs to be on the look out for species that may be coming and nesting on their land.”

The Stewards of Saskatchewan has four sub-programs for the better-known endangered animals and plants -- Operation Burrowing Owl, Plovers on the Shore, Shrubs for Shrikes and Rare Plant Rescue.

“I believe there are about 16 threatened or endangered plants in our Rare Plant Rescue program,” Fortney said. “Stewarts of Saskatchewan as a whole is a program that is basically for any species at risk.

“If you don’t necessarily have burrowing owls on your land or shrikes on your land, but you do have barn swallows or monarch butterflies … you can be part of the Stewards of Saskatchewan program, just not as a specific sub-program,” she added.

The purpose of the program is to engage landowners in the conservation of their own land because most of the native prairie is now privately owned, she explained. 

“We try to encourage good stewardship of the land to allow those species to still survive on the remaining patches of prairie,” Fortney said.

There are many different factors that could put a species at risk.

“The biggest causes are habitat loss and habitat degradation,” Fortney said. “Of course, as people who need to eat food, we have converted a lot of land to agricultural crops and we have also obviously done a lot of urban development, which eliminates their habitat that the species needs.

There is only 15 per cent of native prairie left in the province and species who have adapted to live on the prairies have limited habitat.

“The biggest one is habitat loss but there are a lot of little things like climate change or extreme weather events even for populations that are at risk or endangered,” Fortney said.

Other factors, like pesticide or herbicide use, can affect the prey some endangered species rely on, she added.

The most commonly known endangered animals is the burrowing owl.

“They are the one most people would think about if they thought about a prairie species at risk,” Fortney said. “The other ones … people wouldn’t even think would be at risk and they would be really surprised to hear that barn swallows, tiger salamanders and northern leopard frogs are at risk.”

Many do not understand these other species are at risk because when they are present, it is in a large numbers.

“For example, if you have barn swallows on your land, you usually have a lot of them,” Fortney said. “These species are at risk because in general their numbers are declining, the ranges are detracting or the populations are not interspersing between populations. IF we start to lose little pockets of these populations, there may not be any recovery for them.”

Those who would like more information or would like to report an endangered animal sighting, can visit their website at www.naturesask.ca or call 1-800-667-HOOT.

“They can call to report any species at risk sightings, but they can also use that number if they just want to get information from us as well,” Fortney said.

Anyone who does call, Fortney said they keep their information private.

“If someone reports a species at risk, whether it is on their land or not, we definitely do not share anyone’s information without their permission.”

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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