Thompson-Nicola’s Top 10 Wildlife At Risk
As world leaders gather in Montreal for the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), we are highlighting some of the amazing biodiversity found in the Thompson Watershed by featuring the top ten wildlife most at risk here.
The white sturgeon is an enormous, mysterious fish that dates back to prehistoric times. It is the largest freshwater fish in Canada, growing to 6m in length, and is the oldest living creature still found on Earth! The white sturgeon is Endangered globally and is only found on a handful of BC’s rivers. It has suffered over a 50% decline in the last three generations mainly caused by overfishing, dam construction, and loss of water quality due to pollution.*
Little Brown Myotis
The little brown myotis (bat) is globally classified as vulnerable. Half of its population lives in Canada where it is currently endangered. Wetlands are critical for this species but as wetlands are bring lost, so are their inhabitants. This small bat is also threatened by the deadly fungus white nose syndrome. Conservation of this bat, and the wetlands where it lives, is critical to prevent it from becoming extinct.
The spotted owl is found in the Thompson Watershed where it heavily depends on large, old trees for nesting. Spotted owl populations have declined dramatically in BC mainly due to the loss of old forests from logging. It is a nocturnal owl which feeds on small mammals and birds. The spotted owl is globally classified as vulnerable, and is endangered in Canada.
The western screech-owl is threatened in Canada and is a species of special concern in BC. Like the spotted owl, the western screech-owl depends mainly on large, old cottonwoods for nesting and foraging. These trees are mainly found in areas along streams, lakes and rivers, but due to development along shorelines, these habitats are rapidly declining.
The burrowing owl is endangered in Canada. They are typically found on grasslands which have diminished over time due to development and agriculture. They are also threatened by pesticides, motor collisions, and even hunting by cats and dogs. As a result, burrowing owl populations are being lost by nearly 4% every year.
The western rattlesnake’s population has declined so much that it is currently threatened across Canada. Like the burrowing owl, this species relies on the grasslands in the Thompson Watershed, which are being split up and have been lost completely in many areas. The western rattlesnake also faces the major challenge of road mortality. Almost 500,000 hectares of land in the Thompson Nicola Regional District have been designated critical habitat for this snake to help its protection.
Southern Mountain Caribou
Southern mountain caribou are threatened in Canada and Red listed in BC. They live in old growth forests and hard-to-access high alpine areas where they can more easily avoid predators. The caribou feed on lichen and in winter, when ground lichen is no longer available, they depend on tree lichen found in old-growth forests for food.
Great Basin Spadefoot
The Great Basin spadefoot is threatened in Canada. This species of toad is heavily dependent on the wetlands and grasslands found in the Thompson Watershed and uses wetlands for breeding and grasslands for foraging for food. Soils that crumble easily enable the spadefoot to dig burrows for safety, warmth and overwintering. The Thompson Watershed includes critical habitat legally designated for the protection of the Great Basin spadefoot toad.
The American badger subspecies found in the Thompson Watershed is endangered and fewer than 250 mature badgers are found in the western region. The American badger depends on expanses of grasslands to live but this habitat is being lost due to these areas being split up or cleared of native vegetation. Another very real problem contributing to the decline of the American badger is collisions with motorized vehicles. You can help the ongoing monitoring and support of badgers in BC by reporting sightings of badgers and their burrows to Report-A-Badger BC.
In 2011, the olive clubtail dragonfly was designated as Endangered by COSEWIC due to major threats including shoreline development, invasive species, pollution, and agricultural practices. In Canada, this extremely rare dragonfly with striking blue eyes has only been confirmed in the South Thompson, Christina Creek and three locations in the Okanagan. A sighting of the olive clubtail indicates the good health of a stream or river.
Read further about the biodiversity in the Thompson Watershed in this report on the Conservation Status of Species and Ecosystems in the Thompson-Nicola.
*Photo by Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA – White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) Uploaded by Magnus Manske, CC BY 2.0