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(Inter)National Endangered Species Day 2019

May 17, 2019
Stew Coles
Bumblebee pollinating a purple flower

(Inter)National Endangered Species Day 2019

It’s National Endangered Species Day on the other side of our Southern border today, so we thought we’d take this chance to talk about some of the endangered critters on the Canadian Species At Risk Act’s (SARA) public registry here in Saskatchewan.

While we talk a lot here about the boreal forests and the large mammals that live there (like woodland caribou or plains bison), we sometimes neglect the smaller creatures from the Southern half of the province—creature who play just as important a role in their own ecosystems.

Take this little guy on the right for instance. 

The Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus bohemicus) was listed as endangered in May of 2014. Cute, fuzzy, and a little bit lazy, the Gypsy Cuckoo bee is a nest parasite—rather than building his own, he takes the nests of other bees.

‘Wait a second,’ you must be thinking. ‘Bees are in trouble! Why would we want a species of bee that takes other, more productive bees’ homes?’  

The answer is a simple one—one of the major reasons for the Gypsy Cuckoo’s declining numbers is because of the difficulty in finding nests to infiltrate. The loss of the Gypsy Cuckoo is symptomatic of the loss of dozens of other precious pollinators—an important cornerstone for the entire ecosystem.

We need to save all the bees, not just the ones that make honey for us. Click here for some ideas of little changes that you can make in your everyday life to keep our pollinators thriving.

Speaking of small and furry things that fly, how cute is this young lady?

The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) has been listed as endangered since November of 2013. About half of the global range for this bat is in Canada, and since 2010 a dangerous fungal pathogen called White-nose syndrome (WNS) has wiped out 94% of the Eastern population.

The status of the Little Brown Bat isn’t just dire—it’s a confirmed emergency. There is no known way to contain the spread of the pathogen and it is anticipated that the entire Canadian population will be affected within 12-18 year.

In Saskatchewan, we are lucky enough to have not seen WNS in our populations yet, but we need to be on our guard. These fellas are the most common of Canada’s nineteen species of bat, are the most likely to take up residence in buildings and in urban spaces, and are some of our best pals when it comes to getting rid of mosquitoes!

Check out this list of ways that you can help Little Brown Bats—it includes things like building bat houses and speaking up for undisturbed spaces that act as natural bat habitat.

Everything on our list today is a creature that can fly… even if they prefer not to.  

The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) have been listed as endangered since April of 1995. The Canadian population of this grassland owl has suffered a decline of 90% from 1990 to 2000 and a further 64% from 2005 to 2015. This has left most of the remaining individuals in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

When you think of prairies in Saskatchewan, the image that comes to mind is one of rolling fields filled with golden wheat or barley gently rustling in the wind. Indeed, a road trip in any direction in Southern Saskatchewan will be filled with scenic views of just that (depending on the season, of course).

The thing about wild grassland habitat is that it looks very different from those vast crops of harvestable grain. These days, wild grasslands are few and far between, and where they do exists they are fragmented into small chunks divided by roads, rural and urban dwellings, and more farmland.

The loss of wild grassland habitat has meant less accessible prey for the Burrowing owl, as well as difficulty finding homes in sparsely vegetated grasslands—burrows excavated by Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, American Badgers, Coyotes, foxes, and ground squirrels.

To protect Burrowing owls, it’s up to you to speak up for the keeping large stretches of wild grassland habitat intact, and preventing the fragmentation of what little habitat is left by new industrial or urban development. Follow us on Facebook for updates on things like Project Albany—opportunities for you to have your voice heard, and to speak up for the wild grasslands of Southern Saskatchewan and the creatures that live there.