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Creation of Black Bear Dens in Natural and Artificial Structures

American black bears (Ursus americanus) require suitable winter den sites to provide security and cover to successfully survive the critical winter denning period. Dens are reused intermittently over decades, if not longer, and may be used by successive bears. On Vancouver Island, winter dens used by black bears have been found in or beneath large diameter (mean = 143 cm) trees or structures derived from trees (i.e., logs, root boles and stumps). It is likely that black bears do not use other structures in coastal BC because of the cool and wet climate during the denning period.

Current and historic land management activities in coastal forests have affected the supply of these critical element-level features. Most significantly, forest harvesting has removed many large trees that form these den structures. Furthermore, these large structures are not replaced during forest rotations because the new crops of trees are not allowed to grow to sufficient size for replacement dens to develop. Despite the knowledge that these habitat features are critical to the over-winter survival of black bears, no regulatory protection is in place for these critical structures in BC.

The objectives of this project are two-fold. First, this project aims to attempt to mitigate losses of denning opportunities by enhancing natural structures by creating entrances to cavities in existing old growth trees or large legacy stumps that have hollow centres. Second, this project is evaluating whether bears will use artificial structures specifically designed to compensate for the loss of natural structures. Twenty-one dens (9 in natural structures, 12 in artificial structures) were created in 2014-2015 in the Jordan River Watershed and 4 (1 in a natural structure, 3 in artificial structures) in the Campbell River Watershed and are being monitored with cameras. Initial monitoring found bears investigating both types of structures prior to the winter denning period, including climbing inside. We expect to have results on the 2015-16 denning period by May 2016. Goals of the project include 1) increased awareness by forest companies of the need for retention of bear den structures and possibilities for den creation in coastal BC, and, 2) increased awareness by government policy makers of the need for regulation to protect these critical forest elements.

See the following videos of bears checking out the potential den sites during summer 2015:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syX5dy_35Wk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74T-F2mfN-Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpLJn633l4A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h3Rdl1hrcw

Funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program-Coastal, BC Timber Sales and TimberWest Forest Corp.

Status: monitoring is ongoing in 2016.

Bear-viewing Strategies

Bear-viewing has become an increasingly popular activity in the parks and conservancies of BC. However, commercial and non-commercial viewing activities may negatively affect both individuals and entire populations of black bears. To ensure that commercial viewing tenures and licensing are consistent with ecosystem-based management objectives, a review of bear-viewing activities and opportunities within the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy and Surrounding Area (2008), Owikeno Conservancy and Surrounding Area (2009), Tweedsmuir Provincial Park (2010) and Central Coast Conservancies (2016) have been conducted by Helen Davis. These projects summarized the current knowledge regarding the impacts of bear-viewing activities on bears, the implications of this activity for ecosystem-based management, and developed recommendations to ensure that bear-viewing within the identified Conservancies and Parks are consistent with sustaining populations of black bears and grizzly bears.

Client: BC Parks

Western Screech-owl Conservation along the Shuswap River

The macfarlanei subspecies of the western screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii macfarlanei) is a federally endangered owl that occurs in the dry southern interior of British Columbia. It is believed that fewer than 200 pairs occur in Canada. This species is a non-migratory resident that is assumed to rely on large, declining black cottonwood trees for nesting; loss of this habitat has been listed as the primary factor contributing to the current conservation concern. Effective conservation and habitat restoration efforts for screech-owls have been difficult to develop because very limited information is available about the ecology of this species in British Columbia, even though a conservation need has been clearly identified.

The purpose of this project was to collect information on the ecology of this species, including essential habitat requirements, so that effective population recovery can be attained. Research was needed to identify the link between screech-owls and riparian forests and determine which features of these forests are needed for nesting, foraging, and roosting. By following radio-tagged birds, we hoped to identify these features and determine the relative importance of each to life-cycle limiting factors affecting population viability. Secondly, the extension component was meant to engage landowners in active stewardship of important habitats and provide them with tools to conserve, enhance, and restore habitats to increase the productivity of screech-owls. The final component of the program assessed changes in behaviour and perceptions of landowners and feedback from end-users to increase program effectiveness.

Full executive summary

Project initiated and conducted by Artemis Wildlife Consultants, in cooperation with the Splatsin First Nation, with contributions from the Bridge-Coastal Restoration Program of BC Hydro, Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, Forest Science Program of the Forest Investment Account, World Wildlife Fund and Environment Canada through the Endangered Species Recovery Fund, Tolko Industries Ltd. and the BC Ministry of Environment.

Status: Completed 2008.     View Final Report     View Stewardship Manual

View Screech-owl Fact Sheet

Species At Risk Inventory and Research

With the passage of the Species At Risk Act (SARA) in December of 2002, more data was needed on the presence of species at risk on federal land to which SARA applies. This project aimed to fill several knowledge gaps by conducting inventories for species at risk in the North Okanagan region:

Great Basin spadefoot (Spea intermontana)

Western screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii macfarlanei)

North American badger (Taxidea taxus)

Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer)

Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus)

Clients: Spallumcheen Indian Band, Okanagan Indian Band.

 

Conservation of Badgers in the Thompson and Okanagan Regions

From 1999 to 2003, we examined the distribution and ecology of North American badgers (Taxidea taxus) in the Thompson and Okanagan regions of British Columbia, with the broad objective of developing conservation strategies for the species. The project had 4 specific objectives: to determine where badgers occur in the region, increase public awareness and understanding about badgers and grassland ecology, collect ecological information about badgers by conducting a radiotelemetry research study, and synthesise this information into effective conservation strategies for the species. We captured, radio-tagged, and monitored 13 badgers (11 male, 2 female) between 1999 and 2002. Transportation corridors were the primary source of mortality for badgers in the Thompson region; 7 of 13 radio-tagged study animals died on highways or on railways and an additional 13 road-kills of untagged badgers were reported in the region during the study. Badgers appeared to make the majority of their habitat decisions on the basis of soil features and prey availability.

Conservation strategies for badgers in the Thompson and Okanagan regions focus primarily on reducing mortality within the population, providing for foraging and burrowing habitats at a variety of spatial scales, and establishing translocation protocols for badgers that are at risk of being destroyed by private landowners.

Project initiated and conducted by Artemis Wildlife Consultants and the University College of the Cariboo, with contributions from the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Endangered Species Recovery Fund, Tolko Industries Ltd., Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd., and the University College of the Cariboo.

Status: Completed 2003.

 

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Last modified: 29/03/16