by Anne Burke
Under Alberta’s Wildlife Act, species at risk are the most vulnerable of Alberta’s biodiversity and require special attention to maintain and recover population and habitat. Wildlife “eco users” are subject to loss, change, and recreational disturbance. Their low numbers or secretive habits present challenges, especially if they are rare, vulnerable, or endangered. See more at COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada).
A list of species in Nose Hill Park was based on critical or specific wildlife habitat suitability. The study included a “point” counting of all birds seen or heard during a set period of time. Between sunrise and 8:00 am, there were 23 locations for songbirds, from early June to early July. Whether summer residents or migratory, their breeding behaviours, such as singing, courtship, nest building, and defence, were noted. Identification relied on visual and auditory cues. Ground searches of potential nesting habitat for nearby sharp-tailed grouse were conducted during the summer. In addition, all known nest locations of raptors (hawk, owl, falcon) for 1987 to 1993 were complied, with further field observations.
Fieldwork was done by volunteers. All 48 of the live traps were set up for 10 days, a total of 480 trap-nights per habitat type. The number was calculated for each species of small mammals (mice, voles, and shrews). Such animals were marked, recorded, and released. For pocket gophers/ground squirrels, the area of their mounds and burrows was intensively searched. However, a cost-effective method was to select from the wide range of wildlife species known to occur on Nose Hill. For natural area management planning, it was necessary to carefully monitor a smaller group of “indicator” or representative wildlife species, for evaluation purposes.