Promoting Wildlife Awareness & Preservation
Through engaging education and stewardship programs, Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society introduces British Columbians to the wonders of the natural world in order to encourage an enduring respect for northwest North American wildlife and wildlife spaces. Our three main programs are Wildlife in Schools, Nature Walks & Workshops and Youth Estuary Stewardship programs. Details about each can be found by clicking the links to the left and testimonials from past program participants can be read here.
Wildlife in Schools programs take place throughout the school year and can be booked by contacting our office by phone at 604-568-9160 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Classes with NWPS membership and non-member classes making multiple bookings will receive a discount.
Nature Walks & Workshops take place throughout the whole year. Youth Estuary Stewardship programs take place annually each spring. They are both funding-dependent and classes involved are subject to eligibility requirements. Both programs target inner-city schoolchildren. The programs are both in high demand, generally booked several months in advance and often have a waiting list. Inquire early with our office if you are interested in signing up.
Wildlife In Schools
NWPS provides hundreds of unique wildlife presentations each year reaching thousands of people throughout the lower mainland. With 11 topics to choose from, our highly interactive programs are the right fit for any audience from preschool to seniors.
Bats are creatures humans have loved to hate. Often feared and maligned, misconceptions about bats have led to large scale declines in bat populations throughout the world. However our world just would not be the same without bats. Bats are among the most diverse of all mammals and are important for plant pollination, seed dispersal and insect control. Through this NWPS presentation, audiences will learn the truth behind common bat myths as well as the latest bat facts. Audiences will learn a great deal about these fascinating creatures and their remarkable adaptations.
- The true story behind bat myths.
- Bats as mammals and bat reproduction.
- The diversity of bats.
- What bats eat and where they live.
- Threats to bats and conservation efforts.
From the sun bear and the sloth bear of Asia, to the grizzly and the black bear of B.C., images of these fascinating mammals will captivate audiences as they learn about their biological characteristics, life cycles, diet and adaptations. After introducing audience members to the 8 bear species of the world, we will focus specifically on the bears we share our province with. Special attention will be given to survival needs and what humans can do to secure a safe and healthy future for bears.
- Bears around the world.
- Physical characteristics of bears.
- Bear habitat.
- Bear behaviour and life cycle.
- Human and bear interaction.
- Threats to bears and how we can help.
Climate change & wildlife
Climate Change is one of the greatest and most challenging problems facing our planet today. This encompassing presentation will examine the rise of climate change, the processes that fuel it and potential solutions to help solve it. We will explore the direct and indirect effects of climate change on many species including our own. This presentation will challenge the need for solutions and new ways of addressing this issue.
- Introduction to climate change.
- The effects of climate change on wildlife and habitats.
- What can be done? Solutions to our earth's changing climate.
Endangered at Home
Most people are aware of several of the endangered species found in tropical regions of the world. Unfortunately, we have many endangered species right here in B.C. Some of these species such as the Vancouver Island marmot and the spotted owl, are at critically endangered population levels and are in dire need of protection. This NWPS presentation will introduce endangered species concepts and terms and highlight many of the endangered animals in British Columbia. We will examine the reasons for endangerment and discuss ways in which individuals can help.
- Introduction to endangered species.
- Endangered species in British Columbia.
- Threats facing endangered species and reasons for their status.
- How humans can help.
Reptiles & Amphibians
They have been on Earth for over 250 million years and yet they are still misunderstood and even feared. Reptiles and amphibians are a wonderfully diverse group of vertebrates with many successful and interesting adaptations. Students will explore these creatures and learn about various species found in British Columbia, their natural history as well as ways in which they can be protected.
- Introduction to reptiles and amphibians.
- Biology of frogs and toads, where they live, what they eat and predators they face.
- Frog and toad species of British Columbia.
- Natural history and adaptations of reptiles.
- Snakes, lizards and turtles of British Columbia.
- Conservation measures.
Let NWPS show you a fantastic interactive presentation on owls, featuring the species found in British Columbia. Throughout the slideshow audience members will be introduced to 15 native species of owls and the traits that make each one unique. In addition, we will take an in-depth look at what makes owls different from other animals, including how owls use their extraordinary senses and adaptations to hunt prey. Students will also learn of threats that endanger owls, along with some of the measures being taken to help them.
- Owl myths, facts and owl adaptations.
- Owls of British Columbia.
- Owl characteristics, behaviour, diet and range.
- Threats to owls and potential solutions.
Salmon of the Pacific
Canada's northwest coast is one of the few remaining areas of great biodiversity. Pacific salmon are a vital part of the B.C. wilderness with over 150 species depending on them. Within the last century, salmon have disappeared from much of their original range along the northwest coast of North America and their population has drastically declined. Through this presentation, audiences will learn the importance of salmon in B.C. ecosystems, the uniqueness of their life cycle, habitat and population threats and ways we can help protect them.
- The life cycle of salmon.
- The 5 species of Pacific salmon.
- Aquatic habitats essential for salmon.
- Wildlife that depend on salmon.
- Threats to salmon and what we can do to help.
They are among the rarest ecosystems on earth, and they are our home. Students will explore the world of the temperate rainforest and learn more about what animals depend on them and how important they are to British Columbia and in fact all of Canada. We will discover the differences and similarities temperate rainforests have to their tropical counterparts, and learn ways in which we can protect these magnificent ecosystems.
- What are temperate rainforests?
- Where on earth are they located?
- Temperate rainforests compared to tropical rainforests.
- Wildlife of the temperate rainforest.
Wildcats of BC
Explore the mysterious world of wildcats living right in our own backyard. Learn amazing facts about the three species of cats inhabiting British Columbia. The cougar, lynx, and bobcat are featured in this presentation which looks at wildcat behaviour, adaptations, favourite prey, habitat, human interaction, conservation, threats, and the roles wildcats play in their natural ecosystems. Students will also learn what they can do to aid in the preservation of wildcats.
- Introduction to wildcats.
- Wildcats of British Columbia.
- Highlighting the cougar, lynx and bobcat.
- Wildcat diet, range, adaptations and behaviour.
- Threats and potential solutions.
Wildlife of BC
This interactive slideshow presentation takes audiences on a trip throughout the ecosystems of British Columbia to meet some of the amazing wildlife found in our province. From the marine environment, into forests and up to mountain tops, students will meet a great variety of animal species and learn about biodiversity, various adaptations, behaviours, and diet. Habitat requirements, threats to survival, and positive steps being taken to preserve wilderness and wildlife will also be discussed.
- Biodiversity in B.C.
- Why do we have so much biodiversity?
- Highlighting of selective mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species.
- Species interactions with humans, threats and conservation solutions.
Wolves, this species represents the very essence of wilderness. However they are a species that also evokes fear in humans. Let NWPS unlock the secrets of the wolf to learn why this species does not need to be feared. From the history of humans and wolves to wolf life cycle, range, diet, behaviours and adaptations, this presentation will educate audiences to one of the most iconic of species. Audiences of all ages will gain a deeper understanding of the roles that wolves play in their environment. Inspiring slides and the harmonious sound of wolves howling will excite audiences into learning more about them.
- The wolves of our imagination.
- The truth about wolves.
- Wolf characteristics, range, prey preferences, behaviours and adaptations.
- The life cycle of the wolf.
- Wolf-human interactions.
- Threats to their survival and how humans can help.
Nature Walks & Workshops Programs
These programs are educational workshops held outdoors in areas in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Some of the areas we visit include Lynn Canyon Park, Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Capilano River Regional Park, Deas Island, Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Boundary Bay and Tynnhead Regional Park. The programs are designed to make discovering and appreciating wildlife enjoyable. Students learn about animals' habitat, food sources, predators, and life cycle, and through various activities will also explore the threats facing the species. Walking within the animals' natural habitat provides a wonderful opportunity for students to understand wildlife and how they are connected to the ecosystem.
Any of our wildlife topics can be incorporated into a nature walk & workshop. Typical programs include a full day with a wildlife presentation, nature tour at a lower mainland park, wildlife observations and identification, stewardship activities, water quality testing, bird or bat box building, and other wildlife related activities.
Youth Estuary Stewardship Projects
The Fraser River Estuary, with its remarkable biodiversity, is a critical habitat for a myriad of invertebrate, fish, reptile, amphibian, bird and mammal species. Major development in this heavily populated area of British Columbia has resulted in alteration and ecological degradation of this vulnerable habitat.
Estuaries, which include rivers, wetlands, marshes and bogs, are extremely important as biological sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. They are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth and they store large amounts of carbon and when these wetlands are lost or degraded, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere in large quantities. Estuaries constitute a viable option to reduce greenhouse gas emission and conserving wetlands is an important way of maintaining existing carbon stores.
The YES project is an innovative, extensive hands-on program that provides students in grades 4 to 7 with the opportunity to design and implement a stewardship activity for the Fraser River Estuary. Students learn how important estuaries are to the health of many threatened plant and animal species, as well as to the entire ecosystem. They learn how conserving and restoring estuaries can avoid human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and positively impact climate change.
The YES Program includes several classroom sessions and two field trips. Participants will engage in estuary wildlife surveys and identification, water quality testing, industrial woody debris removal and various other activities.
To date students have removed over 20,000 kgs (44,000 lbs) of industrial woody debris from the Fraser River estuary ecosystem. This has allowed native vegetation to rebound and create suitable habitat for wildlife.
Wildlife In Schools
Starting Fall 2013, NWPS will be significantly increasing the number of programs carried on Vancouver Island through the hiring of a full time Educator based out of Victoria. Our Wildlife In Schools program consists of hour-long unique wildlife presentations in the classroom. With a variety of topics to choose from, our highly interactive programs are a great fit for any audience from preschoolers to seniors. Stay tuned for more information soon to come.
Nature Walks & Workshops
These programs are educational workshops held outdoors in local regional parks. The programs are designed to help students connect with the natural world that surrounds them. Students learn about animals' habitat, food sources, predators and life cycle. Through various activities, they will explore the threats and opportunities facing the species. Walking within the animals' natural habitat provides a wonderful opportunity for students to understand wildlife and how we are all interconnected with the ecosystem.
Any of our wildlife topics can be incorporated into a nature walk & workshop. Typical programs are full-day excursions with a wildlife presentation, nature tour at a regional park, wildlife observations and identification, stewardship activities, water quality testing, bird or bat box building and other wildlife related activities.
Under development. Please check back later for more information.
Howls and Growls
Hear animals howl and growl! Click on one of these:
- barn owl
- barred owl
- bats in cave
- bear cub (black bear)
- big brown bat
- boreal owl
- burrowing owl
- flammulation owl
- gray whale
- great basin spadefoot
- great gray owl
- great horned owl
- green frog
- grizzly bear growl
- hawk owl
- humpback whale
- long eared owl
- northern leopard frog
- northern pygmy owl
- pacific tree frog
- red legged frog
- saw whet owl
- sea lion
- short eared owl
- snowy owl
- spotted owl
- western screech owl
- western toad
- wood frog
Bat diagram colouring sheet
Connect the Dots
NWPS logo colouring sheet
Wildlife Word Search
Bats are amazing creatures, that are a very important to us! Here are some facts about bats:
- Bats are not birds or rodents, they are mammals like humans, but belong to a special group of mammals called "Chiroptera", which is Greek for "hand wing".
- The smallest bat, the Kitti's Hog-nosed bat, is the size of a bumble bee! It lives in Thailand.
- The largest bat is the Flying Fox bat from Indoneisa. It has a wingspan of up to six feet!
- Bats make up nearly one-quarter of the identified mammal species in the world.
- The Wrinkled-faced bat lives in Mexico and Central America and has a chin flap within built in transparent eye- windows that are pulled over its face and eyes when it sleeps.
- A Short- tailed fruit bat can scatter 60,000 seeds in a single night. This aids the growth of the forest.
- Frogs can be found on every continent in the world except Antarctica.
- Your tongue is attached at the back of your mouth. Frog's tongue's are attached at the front of their mouths.
- Frogs that live in very cold parts of the world will hibernate over the winter, which means that they go to sleep for a long period of time. Some of the frogs that hibernate have a lot of sugar in their bodies which they use as antifreeze!
- Frogs tongues are covered with a sticky substance that they use to catch their food.
- Some frogs retract their eyes when they swallow food. They will use their eyes to help push the food down their throat.
- Tree Frogs have sticky pads or suction like disks on the tips of their fingers and toes which aid in climbing.
- What do you call a group of frogs? An "ARMY" of Frogs.
- What do you call a groups of Toads? A" KNOT" of Toads.
- Humans get warts from viruses, not from frogs and toads.
- The longest lifespan known for a frog is 40 years.
- The largest salmon on record is a Chinook salmon that weighed 57 kilograms.
- When salmon are swimming upstream, they can jump 2 metres into the air!
- A female salmon can lay up to 6,000 eggs in one nest.
- Salmon return to streams to spawn by swimming upstream. During this time, they don't eat any food at all.
- The longest known trip ever taken by a salmon was a Chinook salmon that traveled 3,845 km upstream to spas.
Did You Know?
- When you visit a pharmacist, one in every four purchases will have come from a tropical forest.
- Energy saved from one recycled aluminum can will operate a TV set for 3 hours, and is equivalent to half a can of gasoline.
- In 2 weeks, Americans throw enough glass bottles and jars out to fill up what were the Twin Towers in New York City.
- Paper cups consume trees, water, and chemicals, and dump them into streams and landfills- they are not recyclable. Don't leave home without a reusable mug.
- One ton of carbon dioxide that is released in the air can be prevented by replacing every 75 watt light bulb with energy efficient bulbs.
- A full bus carrying 60 people removes about 40 cars from the road, saving 100,000 Litres of fuel and 18 tonnes of air pollution per year.
- Homeowners use up to 10 times more toxic chemicals per acre than farmers.
- If just 25 % of US families used 10 fewer plastic bags a month, we would save using over 2.5 Billion bags a year.
- Seventy-three different kinds of pesticides have been found in groundwater, which is potential drinking water.
- 15% of Canadian Energy use goes to heating our homes- mainly from non-renewable sources.
- It take several thousand years for a computer monitor to decompose in a landfill.
- Every year some 45,000 tons of plastic waste are dumped into the world's oceans. One of the results of this is that up to one million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals are killed each year by plastic trash such as fishing gear, six-pack yokes, sandwich bags, and Styrofoam cups.
- 30% of our water is wasted through leakage.
- North Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
NWPS had added this page to our website to educate the public about the waste in our world. We encourage you to think about the consequences to our wildlife and their ecosystems (and us too!) that result from our habits. Please click on the link below to see suggestions we have for reducing your impact on our world.
- Walk, bike or take transit to work.
- Bring cloth bags or reuse shopping bags when grocery shopping.
- Pack school or work lunches in reusable plastic containers.
- Reuse the backside of paper for scrap paper.
- Refill water bottles at home and use them again instead of buying new bottled water.
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth!
- Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
- Make a sign for your mail box requesting that 'Junk Mail' not be delivered.
- Put up bird boxes and bat boxes around your home so that animals have a safe place to live.
- Secure lids on trash cans so that wildlife can't get into the garbage!
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
- Turn down the thermostat at night and when you leave home.
- Do not use fertilizers on your lawn.
- Don't dump anything down storm drains!
- Never feed wild animals 'human food' like popcorn and bread!
- Use old newspaper to clean windows instead of paper towel.
- Recycle plastic, glass and cardboard and buy products made from recycled materials.
- Carpool to work. You can talk to your friends and avoid traffic.
Species Fun Facts
Here are some facts about a number of wildlife species:
- Arctic Fox
- Barn Owl
- Barred Owl
- Bighorn Sheep
- Black Bear
- Blue Whale
- Canada Goose
- Canada Lynx
- Clarks Nutcracker
- Common Dolphin
- Dall´s Sheep
- Douglas Squirrel
- Great Blue Heron
- Great Grey Owl
- Great Basin Gopher Snake
- Grey Whale
- Harbour Seal
- Leatherback Sea Turtle
- Little Brown Bat
- Marbled Godwit
- Mountain Goat
- Northern Flying Squirrel
- Northern Sea Lion
- Oregon Spotted Frog
- Pacific Giant Salamander
- Pacific Tree Frog
- Painted Turtle
- Pallid Bat
- Peregrine Falcon
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Ruffed Grouse
- Sandhill Crane
- Sea Otter
- Snowy Owl
- Spotted Bat
- Tailed Frog
- Townsend´s Mole
- Vancouver Island Marmot
- Western Grebe
- Wood Duck
Wolves of B.C.
The wolf, the largest wild dog in the world, stands up to 90 cm at the shoulder and can weigh up to 54.5 kg. Its pelt can be any colour from black to white or a mix. Very social animals, wolves live in packs of two or more, with some packs having up to 30. Wolves communicate within packs and between packs through body language, vocalizations, and scent markings. In B.C., prey includes deer, elk, caribou, moose, bison, and a range of other mammals. Hunting success is in the order of 10% - a wolf's lifestyle is one of feast or famine.
Breeding generally takes places between the pack leaders (the alpha pair), but can also occur amongst other members of the pack in when habitat conditions are good. Paw size is approximately 10 cm long and 9.5 cm across, skulls are 22 - 28 cm long. The hunting style of a wolf is one of endurance. Although they can travel at up to 60 km/hr for 20 minutes, their usual pace is 6 - 10 km/hr. Wolves have been recorded traveling 200 km in a single day!
|In B.C.||Considered healthy but may be declining.||Estimated population: 7,500|
|In Canada||Healthy||Estimated population: 52,000|
The past century has seen a drastic decline in the wolf. It has been exterminated from more that 95% of its range in the contiguous U.S. Historically, wolves have lived in every habitat in the Northern Hemisphere that supported large mammals - their main prey. Presently, they are found throughout Alaska and Canada except for the southern prairies and parts of the Maritimes. In the contiguous U.S., wolves are found mainly in parts of Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Reasons for decline
Seen as a threat to livestock, the tray wolf all but disappeared from the west by the 1930's. Large scale poisoning and other predator control activities were mostly to blame. Loss of habitat due to human development and reduction in the numbers of prey lowered wolf numbers as well.
Between 1890 - 1955 wolf bounties were offered by the government to lower population numbers (over 25,000 were paid). In 1966, the era of bounties ended, but the wolf was designated as a big game animal which meant it could be legally hunted.
Today hunting regulations in BC are fairly lax. Three wolves can be killed per person per year but only voluntary reporting of kills is required, making enforcement virtually impossible. Wolves are the only large game animal in B.C. for which a species tag is not required; nothing beyond a hunting license is necessary. Wolf hunting season is usually from early fall to late spring.
In 1976, the wolf was designated a "fur-bearing animal" and approximately 100 wolves are trapped in B.C. every year (3000 in Canada). A wolf pelt is currently valued at approximately $195.
Compound 1080 is a synthetic organoflourine compound used to kill "problem" wolves in B.C. This poison is banned in Mexico and the U.S. but is available for use to B.C. government officials. The B.C government is licensed to use 1/4 ounce annually, or enough to kill 800 canines through primary poisonings. It is estimated that 15% of the baits are taken by non-target animals.
- 1. A re-evaluation of hunting and poisoning regulations in B.C.
- 2. Accurate wolf population inventories in B.C.
Owls of B.C.
There are more than 150 species of owls in the world and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Fifteen species of owls that can be found right here in BC include:
The feather patterns or markings on owls are generally similar on both males and females for each species. Owls, particularly males, have extremely light bones, which make hunting a little easier. Male owls are usually a little smaller than the females, as is true for most raptors (birds of prey). These features make males more streamlined for hunting, and although females hunt as well, they need to be larger and heavier to incubate eggs and protect their young during nesting season.
Owls are very efficient predators. Their bodies have many characteristics which help them find and catch their prey. Read on to find out more about what makes owls such great hunters!
Eyes and Ears
Owl eyes are oval shaped and look straight ahead. An owl can focus each eye individually to locate the exact position and distance of their prey. An owl's eyes can let in a lot of light at night; their pupils get very wide so that they can see when there are only a few stars in the sky.
Owls can actually turn their heads 360 degrees (first quickly doing a 180 turn in one direction and then in the other). Owls have fourteen bones or vertebrae in their necks to do this with - humans only have seven giving us less flexibility.
The actual ears of an owl are hidden by thin feathers that do not muffle sounds. The facial discs channel sound waves in their ears giving the owl excellent hearing!
Owls look a lot bigger than they really are because even the smallest of owls is covered with thousands of feathers. The patterns on their wings help to camouflage owls in their habitat.
Owl wings are designed to muffle sounds. The soft-fringed edges of their feathers make the flight of an owl extremely silent. This way, the owls can hear their prey, while at the same time being able to sneak up on them.
Owls look and listen for their prey. When they are ready to ATTACK, owls open all eight (four on each foot) of their talons. These talons can grip prey very tightly so it does not escape. The grip of owl talons is so strong it paralyses prey and then the owl quickly kills with a bite to its neck.
Hunting and Feeding
More than half of all owls are night hunters. Animals that hunt at night are called "nocturnal" and daytime hunters are called "diurnal".
Owls swallow all of their smaller prey whole and tear apart what is too big to gulp down, usually into just two or three bites. Acids in their stomachs help them digest most of their prey. The bones, feathers and fur that owls can't digest is spit up or "regurgitated" in the form of pellets.
Can owls talk? Not exactly but the sounds they make are one way that owls communicate. Young owls use their voices to call their parents, adults hoot to call for their mates. Burrowing owls will actually HISS like rattlesnakes so that hungry badgers will be discouraged from coming into their nests, thinking they just might encounter a dangerous snake. Owls make different calls in different patterns for different reasons. The young learn these calls from their parents.
When they are between four and five weeks old most types of owlets leave the nest, even though they cannot fly yet! At eight weeks they are fully feathered - enough so that they can make short flights but they will stay and learn from their parents until the early fall.
By autumn, they have better hunting skills and they can leave the nest site and find a territory of their own.
The 15 Owls of British Columbia
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Barn owls nest, on the pellets that they regurgitate, in barns where they find shelter and protection from the elements and possible predators. Barn owls and farmers have a unique, symbiotic relationship in which the farmer provides roosting, foraging, and nesting areas for the Barn owls, and in return, the owls supply very effective mouse traps--themselves! A family of hungry barn owls can consume as many as 1,000 mice per year! In the spring the female may lay five-seven eggs, laying one egg every second or third day. Because barn owls lay their eggs over a few days time, the older ones get stronger more quickly and have a better chance of survival than the ones born last. Quite often, from five hatchlings, only two will survive. The ones that do survive to mate and have young are usually the strongest and their owlets inherit that strength from them.
Although Barn owls can be found almost worldwide, they are considered "vulnerable" by COSEWIC (Committee On the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada)and are disappearing from many parts of Canada. Barn owls have experienced a steady decline due to loss of nesting sites (fewer wooden barns and more barns made of aluminum) and habitat (wet meadows and undisturbed grasslands to forage for food). Barn owl box programs in the Fraser Valley and other regions of the province help provide nesting sights for these owls.
Barred Owl (Strix varia)
The Barred owls' range is the moist forests of the northwest region of North America. The Barred owl has the loudest voice of all the owls and many a camper has been rudely awakened by its blood-curdling calls that sound like "Who cooks for you! Who cooks for you all!" The Barred owl is one of the most likely owls to encounter in the Lower Mainland, and may be seen nesting in Stanley Park or Lighthouse Park.
Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus)
A northern interior resident, the boreal owl, is named for the forest habitat it depends on, the boreal forest, look for these owls in conifer and mixed woodlands of the north. Its body shape and markings are similar to those of the saw-whet, but the boreal owl is larger and has a more sharply defined face. Its call is similar to a soft high-pitched bell or dropping water.
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Burrowing owls are small but fierce looking owls that live in open country, making their nests in abandoned badger and prairie dog burrows, not in trees or perches.
The Burrowing owl was extirpated (wiped out) from B.C. due to a number of human activities including (1) the poisoning of small mammals that provided burrows for nesting; (2) the use of pesticides in the south Okanagan (the northernmost point of their range) that did not just wipe out the pests but eliminated their predators, the Burrowing owls; (3) the loss of habitat.
Starting 1983, Burrowing owls have been captured from Washington state and brought to the Okanagan valley to be released. By 1986, nine artificial burrows had been built to help the owls get started with settling in here. In 1989, sixteen of the owls returned from their over-wintering habitat in the southern states to the south Okanagan to raise Thirteen young.Today, there is a Burrowing owl breading facility located in White Rock In the In the Lower Mainland. Helped by a team of dedicated volunteers, Borrowing owls are bred there and their young are released back in their native habitat. Despite all these efforts, the Burrowing owl is still an endangered species in B.C.and more still needs to be done if we are going to keep this owl in our province!
Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus)
The Flammulated owl is the smallest of the owls that lives here in B.C. and is named for the appearance of red feathers on its' head (Flammulated comes from the Greek word f lam for flame). In the spring and summer, these owls live in Ponderosa Pine and Douglas fir forests on mountain slopes in south central B.C. Flammulated owls are dependent on forest cover and cavities of dead trees (snags) for shelter and protection, especially from larger predatory owls. They migrate south as far as Mexico and Guatemala in the winter. Flammulated owls eat insects like katydids, grasshoppers, crickets. They are especially valuable to trees because they eat Western Spruce Budworm, a common pest insect.
A lot of research has been done to discover how many Flammulated owls there are in B.C. In 1984-85 between twenty-five and thirty pairs were estimated near Kelowna and Penticton. Flammulated owls are listed as "vulnerable" on the Endangered Species and Wildlife at Risk list published by COSEWIC.
Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa)
At high elevations in the interior regions of British Columbia, in the dense forest of pine and fir you'll find the Great Grey owl. The largest of all the North American owls, the Great Grey has a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres. Their reliance on forest habitat has made Great Grey Owls particularly vulnerable to forestry activity and habitat loss. Fortunately, it was announced that in 1996 Great Grey owl was removed from the COSEWIC list of Endangered Species and Wildlife at Risk, where it was previously listed as "vulnerable".
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
The Great Horned owl is the most widespread species of owl in North America. The Great Horned also has the largest range of any owl and can even be found in tropical regions. It is also the most typical owl that comes to mind -- with large yellow eyes peering out from a broad face framed with horns. Great Horneds have a white patch on the chest which helps to differentiate them from Long Eared owls. This owl's deep, rhythmic hoots, the sounds most associated with owls, have given the Great Horned the nick name of "hoot" owl.
Coniferous forest is its primary habitat and hunting ground. The Great Horneds is one of the first owls to nest, in the spring, taking up abandoned hawk or eagle nests, or using cliffs and large tree cavities. It is a formidable predator preying mostly on rats, mice, and rabbits although is capable of taking larger prey like porcupines, skunk, cats, and even other small owls like the Pygmy or Saw-Whet owl.
Long Eared Owl (Asio otus)
You'll have to head into the interior of B.C. to spot this owl. You can certainly see by its appearance how the Long Eared owl got its name. Along with long ear tufts, its body is also quite long, making the owl appear like a branch of a tree, keeping it hidden from other animals. Not quite as large, but often mistaken for the Great Horned owl, the Long Eared owl also has a large range encompassing the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Africa. It exploits a habitat of mixed forest, hovering around the tree line and along streams and preys on many of the same species as the Great Horned owl.
Northern Hawk Owl (Strix nebulosa)
Is this an owl? Aptly named the Hawk owl, this medium-sized predator of the taiga and muskeg bears a striking resemblance to its daytime counterparts - hawks. Hawk owls not only look like hawks, they fly like them too--staying low to the ground in their search for prey.
Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)
A slightly smaller diurnal counterpart of the Saw-Whet owl is the Northern Pygmy Owl whose call is a series of mellow whistles on one pitch. The Northern Pygmy owl has a smaller and flatter head and face than the Saw-Whet and has a long tail barred with white. The Northern Pygmy owl inhabits open coniferous forest and forest edges where it hunts for much the same prey as the Saw-Whet, but also includes small reptiles and amphibians.
Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
This robin-sized owl gets its name from its mournful voice which sounds like a saw being whetted or sharpened. It is found in a variety of habitats, but mostly in cool moist coniferous forest on the Queen Charlotte Islands, the southern coast, and southern interior. Saw-Whets are also found in tall shrubs near lake shores, wetlands, hillsides and canyons, orchards, campgrounds, and city parks. It relies on forest cover for protection from larger, predatory owls and on protective tree cavities to rear its young. Its diminutive stature doesn't impact on its ability to prey on rodents including mice, chipmunks, and even bats and small songbirds. It will occasionally prey on insects as well.
Western Screech Owl (Otus kennicottii)
This is a common small owl with distinct ear tufts. The Western Screech owls found in British Columbia are generally grey with black markings. Western Screech owls live in woodlands, groves, and shade trees. Look for this owl in tree cavities, in abandoned woodpecker holes. The Western Screech owl has a whistling call that sounds like an accelerating "bouncing ball" series.
Short Eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
The Short Eared Owl has a large range and can be found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. The hunting grounds of the Short Eared Owl include wetland and other foreshore areas. Waterfront development for housing and industry has replaced Short Eared habitat and is the greatest reason for its listing as a "vulnerable" species on COSEWIC's Endangered Species and Wildlife at Risk list.
Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca)
The Snowy owl is one of B.C.'s heaviest owl, averaging 2.7 kg, and is unmistakable with its round head and white plumage. It is a vagrant species, leaving the arctic in late fall and winter to visit the southern climates of B.C. and the U.S.A in search of food. Their arctic diet is almost exclusively lemmings but becomes more diverse when they are out of their normal range. While in B.C., Snowy owls have been seen in foreshore areas (especially Boundary Bay), garbage dumps, airports, fields, and meadows. Snowy owls are completely covered in feathers to keep them warm in temperatures which can be -50 degrees Celsius! To keep warm, a Snowy will face into the cold wind. The wind presses against its feathers against its body and this locks out the cold.
Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis)
The Spotted owl is an "endangered" species in Canada. There are less 100 breeding pairs of Spotted owls in all of B.C. and about 2,000 in all of northwest North America. The ones that survive today make their homes only where there is enough OLD GROWTH forest for them to find food. Each pair of breeding Spotted owls need between 2-2,500 hectares of habitat if they are to survive. Spotted owls like the dark shelter of the great old trees and they make their nests in tree hollows or in the broken off tops of living Douglas fir trees. Spotted owl fledglings will leave the nest when they are about a month old by falling to the ground or to branches below their nest. They strengthen their talons and stretch their wings until they are ready to fly. All the while their mother guards them from bigger owls and their father forages for food.
Even though they take such care of their own, Spotted owls are one of Canada's most endangered species. Clear-cut logging has destroyed much of their habitat in Canada and the United States and more could disappear if it is not protected. Without enough old-growth habitat, the spotted owl has little chance for a safe future.
Wildcats of B.C.
There are 37 species of wildcats in the world, of which 3 occur in British Columbia:
The cats of the world are divided into two groups, large cats (or great cats) and small cats. These names may be a bit of a misnomer however as they do not necessarily refer to size! The distinctions between these two categories can seem uncertain. Differing characteristics include such ideas as small cats' inability to roar (only able to yowl), the shape of the pupils (with slit-shaped in small cats and round in large cats), and possibly even the form while crouching with small cats tucking the legs into the body like housecats, and large cats resting with their feet straight ahead like dogs.
Almost all of the world's cats are extremely solitary animals. In many instances, the females raise the cubs without the aid of the father, actually avoiding the father for fear that he may kill the kittens. Wildcats are some of the most specialized predators in the world. All cats except for the cheetah have retractable claws and maintain sharp daggers for grappling with and holding on to prey; flexible backbones allow these ambush predators to pivot sharply when chasing prey in bursts of speed; keen sight and hearing allows many species a competitive edge in the world of darkness and twilight.
The cats of B.C. are solitary hunters and are capable of hunting prey much larger than themselves. Often, they cache their food (cover it with dirt, twigs, etc.) to conceal it from other predators and scavengers so that they can return several times to feed. A cougar may return to a kill site for as long as two weeks. As well, this allows the cats to avoid gorging which would draw oxygen away from their brains making them drowsy and vulnerable to other predators.
Cats have a particular territory which they will defend. Male territories are much larger than female, and may in fact include the territories of several females with which he will mate. The cats of B.C. are referred to as induced ovulators, meaning that the females will ovulate only in response to numerous copulation. For a species such as the cougar this may amount to hundreds of times over.
Mountain Lion (Felis concolor)
The largest of British Columbia's cat species is the cougar. A male cougar may weigh between 68-100 kg. with females weighing half as much. From nose to tail-tip a cougar is normally 6 feet in length ( one record breaking cougar shot in B.C. measured an astounding 9 feet!! ) Although colour may vary somewhat in darkness, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the cougar is its uniform colour. Its Latin name Felis concolor refers to "a cat of one colour". As a cub however, cougars bear a more striking resemblance to their spotted cousins as they have ringed tails and spotted coats. While the size of a cougars territory depends greatly on the type and availability of food it can be in the order of 350 square km for males and 150 square km for females.
- as stated earlier the cougar is the only Canadian cat of uniform colour at adulthood
- tracks are roughly 10 cm by 10 cm with four toe marks and rarely claws
By far the favourite prey of the cougar is deer. Wherever cougars occur, they are the single greatest predator of deer (in fact, many biologists, have offered that proper management of cougar populations is done through proper management of deer populations). Cougars however, are by no means limited in what they can eat - they have been known to feed on squirrels, insects, rabbits, porcupines, birds, fish, elk, and even moose (which can weigh 5X more than a cougar!)
|In B.C.||Healthy||Estimated population: 3,500|
|In Canada||Healthy||Estimated population: 4,000|
*Note: Vancouver Island may hold the world's highest concentration of cougars!
The cougar is the most widely distributed land animal in the Western Hemisphere, occurring from southern Alaska south to Patagonia! This fact makes the cougar unique in another manner as well, being an influence on so many different cultures over its large range, the cougar has more names than any other animal in the world - nearly 90!! Some popular examples include cougar, mountain lion, puma, catamount, painter, devil cat, and deer cat. In B.C., cougars occur primarily in the southern third of the province.
Threats to Survival
The largest threat to cougars is loss of habitat. Not only does this decrease their prey supply (usually deer) it also results in increased encounters between humans and cougars - often ending badly for the cougar and sometimes for humans as well.
Lynx (Lynx lynx)
Mid-size between the cougar and the bobcat, but lighter than the bobcat, lynx are the wildcat of Canada's cold country. Standing about thigh high, a lynx weighs between 5 to 18 kg. The lynx is well adapted to the boreal forest habitat of Canada and Alaska. Thick warm fur together with a natural tolerance to cold temperatures helps the lynx withstand the harsh climate - the lynx can even be found north of the Arctic Circle! Long legs combined with oversized hairy feet aid in movement through snow when ambushing prey.
All of these adaptations make the lynx extremely well adapted to catch its favourite food - the snowshoe hare. However, snowshoe hares are not always in abundance. Almost every ten years the numbers of hares crashes dramatically in a natural food cycle. This happens roughly synchronously from coast to coast. The effect is obvious; the lynx, designed so well to catch rabbits now find themselves without sufficient food. Many starve, unable to eke out an existence on other prey. Some travel long distances in search of a new food supply. During these periods, lynx and hare numbers may fall to as little as 5% of their original numbers. This cycle can be traced back every ten years for roughly 250 years through the Hudson's Bay trapping records.
- large face ruff and long ear tufts
- tail-tip black on top and bottom
- tracks are large compared to body size (12 cm by 9 cm) with four toes often obscured by hairy soles (claw marks are rarely seen)
Favourite food is by far snowshoe hares but may also prey on mice, birds, beavers, squirrels, deer, and even calves of caribou and moose!
|In B.C.||Healthy||Estimated population: 20 – 80,000|
|In Canada||Healthy||Uncertain Population: 10's – 100's of thousands|
Forested areas and boreal forests of Canada and Alaska. In B.C., lynx occur in the majority of provinces and territories, excluding Vancouver Island and the Coastal Mainland.
Threats to Survival
One of the biggest threats facing the lynx is loss of habitat. Lynx need a combination of forested areas for cover from which to ambush prey.
Another pressure facing the lynx is the fur trade. In Canada every year, between 5-50,000 lynx are "harvested" for their furs. With the highly variable population levels of the lynx the trapping industry needs to be sensitive and responsive to changes in conditions and supply from year to year.
In 1973, CITES (the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) was created. Following this, all large cats (leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, etc.) were listed as Appendix I, prohibiting their international trade for commercial purposes. In response to this, the demand for spotted cats shifted to the numerous small cats of North America which were primarily listed under Appendix II. The intense trade that followed, in species such as ocelot, margay, bobcat, and lynx, through periods of abundance and scarcity, had an impact from which we are still recovering.
Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
The smallest of British Columbia's three cat species, the bobcat is about twice the size of a housecoat (7-13 kg). Range can vary considerably depending on the type of prey available. In areas where bobcats prey largely on rodents they may live in habitat that is the size of a city block in areas where prey is larger or less abundant they may range 350 square km. Bobcats can live in a variety of habitat types from swamps, to deserts, to forests and can prey on species from squirrels, to birds, to small deer and elk! In more southerly ranges, biodiversity increases and the types of prey available to bobcats increases.
- spotted coat
- relatively small ruff (side whiskers) and small tufts on the ends of ears
- tail all white underneath with bars on upper surface
- much smaller tracks than lynx or cougar, roughly 4 cm by 4 cm, with claw marks rarely visible
Dependant largely on their location. Bobcats in different areas can include such critters into their diet as mice, fish, snakes, birds, carrion, small ungulates (such as deer), and in cases such as deep snow even adult ungulates! Like its cousin the lynx, the bobcat is also a major predator of the available rabbit or hare species.
|In B.C.||Healthy||Estimated population: 5 – 10,000|
The bobcat can be thought of as the "southern equivalent" of the lynx. Where lynx tend to prefer colder climes, bobcats live in any variety of warm weather habitats. Bobcats range over much of the contiguous United States, parts of Canada, and south into central Mexico. Bobcats can live fairly close to urban areas and seem much more tolerant of humans than lynx.
Threats to Survival
The bobcat is the chief trade species for cats in the United States. In British Columbia, lynx make up the primary cat trade but nearly 150 bobcats can be traded annually. While bobcat numbers appear healthy care must be taken to regulate and monitor this trade. See threats to lynx .