Tag Archives: Stewardship

Wildlife Fencing: Road Ecology in Milton

Written by: Richard Baxter, Terrestrial Planning Ecologist

Roads endanger wildlife and human life. Wildlife collisions, especially involving larger animals, damage our vehicles, and can also injure and sometimes kill us. Since wildlife corridors are cut off by impending urban sprawl and criss-crossing networks of cement and pavement, wildlife have no other choice but to make use of our highways. Driving to work in the morning now means we share the road with turtles, raccoons, and deer.  Not only are wildlife collisions occasionally fatal, but they are also costly. Every year, nearly 40 million dollars in property damages from 14,000 wildlife collisions happens in Ontario alone. How do we balance a burgeoning human population, and subsequent development, with environmental impacts?  How do we reduce costs to the environment, damage to property, and avoidable mortality?  The answer to these questions is ‘Road Ecology’–an evolving field that studies the interactions of wildlife and the environment with our roads.

Previously in Ontario, little thought was given to environmental or wildlife impacts when designing and building roads. However, as both human populations and the knowledge of our impacts increase, so do our opportunities for better road design. This has led to research into low-cost, but highly effective solutions to mitigate impacts to and from wildlife. A variety of strategies have been developed that can be employed, depending on a given situation. Each situation will have a unique set of circumstances that must be considered: What wildlife species are most abundant in a location? Are there wetlands surrounding the road? Is there an abundant local deer population frequently crossing the road?

Roads can be attractive to certain wildlife species. Snapping turtles often use gravel road shoulders to nest, and snakes are attracted to warm surfaces for regulation of body temperature. On the other hand, roads cause avoidance effects in some wildlife; some forest birds will not cross large openings, and a forest fragmented by roads deeply impacts their living space. Many of us have seen dead turtles and snakes on roads, and it is well documented that forest birds are less abundant where woodlots have been fragmented and reduced in size, often partly due to the effects of roads.

Bullfrog on the road

Bullfrog on the road

The building and use of roads leads to fragmentation of natural areas, interruption of wildlife migratory routes, and direct mortality to wildlife though collisions with vehicles. Depending on the species of wildlife involved and their life history characteristics, road mortality can have major impacts on local populations: especially vulnerable populations are the herptiles like turtles, snakes, frogs and salamanders. Since development significantly impacts migrations of local wildlife, wildlife resort to crossing our roadways, and can occasionally become an unwitting cause of human mortality; for example when collisions occur with larger animals like deer, or when drivers lose control reacting to an animal on the road.

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Within Halton Region and the GTA, the pace of development has been high in recent years, with several residential and industrial developments springing up and some major road extensions and reroutes being planned and constructed. This has spurred cooperation between agencies (local Municipal and Regional planning authorities, Conservation Authorities and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) to incorporate road design elements that are more wildlife friendly in priority areas. Indeed, several of these local agencies are actively engaged in road ecology studies and development of strategies to reduce impacts. Local planning policy updates have been implemented in Halton Region, that include the development of a Natural Heritage System (under Regional Official Plan Amendment  38) with an emphasis on maintaining connectivity and linkages in the landscape, and the Town of Oakville is developing a Road Ecology Strategy. Conservation Halton is also actively collecting data on various culverts and bridges in the watershed and how they relate to wildlife crossing.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

Depending on a given sites specifications, we can recommend several low-cost but effective methods to mitigate wildlife collisions, and reduce environmental impacts. These can include signage to alert motorists to vulnerable species on certain stretches of road; wildlife fencing (both to exclude wildlife from dangerous areas and to guide wildlife to a safer crossing site); and specially designed culverts and bridges; these mitigations are often applied in combination. In certain cases a road can be seasonally closed to allow for wildlife migrations. A local example of this is King Road in Burlington, which has been annually closed to traffic in the spring since 2012 to allow the Endangered Jefferson’s Salamander to complete its migration to breeding ponds. Though the design and implementation of these mitigations is a relatively new thing in Ontario, they have been employed in other areas for several years, for example Banff, Alberta and several European countries.

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You can see a recent, and local example of specially designed culverts and wildlife exclusion fencing in our watershed off of Tremaine Road and Main Street on the west side of Milton. The wildlife fencing guides herptiles and smaller mammals like raccoons away from potential high traffic zones and into crossing culverts, and larger culverts with guiding walls and dry banks are present to provide passageways for bigger wildlife species like deer and coyotes. In fact, we observed raccoon droppings in a crossing culvert during a recent site inspection. This exciting observation shows us that animals are already using the wildlife culverts—even while the culverts and fencing are still under construction. Future study and monitoring of these mitigation efforts will be important in determining their effectiveness. Our hope is that resourceful and easy to enact solutions like special culverts and fencing will protect our natural heritage, and balance the needs of wildlife and us.

 

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An Alternative Approach for Controlling Invasive Species: The Way to Goat

Photo by Tom Omorean

Photo by Tom Omorean

Written by: Kestrel Wraggett, Stewardship Technician, Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System

On June 23rd, 2015 the first Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System Watershed Stewardship Award was presented to Wayne Terryberry and Dr. Manon Tougas for stewardship efforts to control invasive species on their property using domestic goats.

Wayne and Manon were recognized for implementing this innovative approach to invasive species control in Dundas. When they discovered dense populations of Japanese Knotweed and European Buckthorn on their new property, they purchased four goats instead of spraying with herbicides. The grazing goats suppressed the populations of both species within a short period of time.

Goats are an effective solution because they defoliate the plants (eat the leaves and seeds), and then the seeds are destroyed in their digestive tracts. This allows their droppings to fertilize the ground as they graze, thus preventing the spread of unwanted seed. Wayne and Manon’s four goats soon turned into fifteen goats and are now valued members of their family.

An invasive species is a non-native species that grows and spreads quickly when introduced into a new environment due to a lack of predators and environmental constraints. Invasive species tend to displace native species resulting in negative impacts to the entire ecosystem. Tackling the ever-increasing amounts of invasive species is a concern throughout the entire Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System.

Both European Buckthorn and Japanese Knotweed were introduced to North America from Eurasia in the 1800s as ornamental plants. Once either of these species is established, they aggressively colonize an area and are difficult to control and eradicate.

The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System is a partnership of ten local government and non-profit agencies to protect, connect and restore natural lands and open space between the Niagara Escarpment, Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour at the western end of Lake Ontario. The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System partners are excited to be recognizing the positive impacts that landowners and community members can have in this unique, biologically rich ecosystem.

For more details on this award or advice on how to manage invasive species on your property, please contact:

Kestrel Wraggett, Stewardship Technician, Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System

kwraggett@hrca.on.ca

905-336-1158 ext. 2285

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Tree Planting At Glenorchy Conservation Area: An Experiment with Fall Seedlings

tractor planting seedlings

Written by: Karlee May, Digital Media Coordinator with contributions from Meghan Taylor, Forest Technician

 

We’re redecorating: replanting, reseeding, and rebuilding Glenorchy Conservation area. Conservation Halton holds the lease for Glenorchy to restore and re-naturalize the land. Until the end of the lease, the conservation area will remain closed to the public, except for the occasional volunteer day. Our efforts need the time to take root.

The planting season is strenuous. The most opportune time to plant trees is in the spring. The seedlings have spring, summer, and autumn to settle and anchor their roots in the soil. When seedlings are planted too late in the year, the roots do not have the needed time to settle into the soil. Frost pushes seedlings out of the ground if the seedlings don’t have the mandatory growing period. The seasons create a problem for Forestry: how can we extend the planting season to plant a large volume of seedlings? Forestry devised an experiment to test whether the shape of the root matters for planting both deciduous and coniferous trees.

Plug roots are on the left, and bare roots are on the right.

Plug roots are on the left, and bare roots are on the right.

The types of seedlings planted are bareroot and plug stock. This refers to how the seedlings are grown at the nursery. Bareroot stock is grown outdoors in fields and is lifted out of the ground when the trees are still dormant. The roots are fully exposed and need to be protected right up until the tree is planted to ensure survival. Plug stock (or container stock) are grown inside a greenhouse within a plastic tray surrounded by soil. The trees should also be handled carefully up to the time of planting.

We're careful about protecting the seedlings

We’re careful about protecting the seedlings

On September 18th, 2014, we planted 4500 trees at the Glenorchy property restoring over 5.5 acres. We generally plant a 50/50 mix of conifers and deciduous tree species. This ensures species diversity within the plantation in addition to supporting a variety of different wildlife species. The tree species we plant include: White Oak, Bur Oak, Red Oak, Trembling Aspen, White Birch, Black Cherry, Red maple, White Cedar, White Pine and White Spruce.We mowed the field prior to planting to reduce the amount of weed competition that the trees will be subject to in the following summer. Click the photos in the gallery below and follow the seedling planting process step by step.

Forestry at Conservation Halton is also involved within the community. Not only do we plant trees on conservation properties, we also have a school greening program, and we encourage landowners in Halton region to contact us. A forestry specialist will come to your home and assess your property for planting trees, and also recommend cost sharing programs, like Trees Ontario and the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship program among others.

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Halton Children’s Water Festival 2011

By Rafay Agha, Interactive Media Writer, Conservation Halton

Between First Nations story-telling, poo-tag (yes, you read that correctly), puppet shows, pioneer water-bucket races and countless other Halton Children’s Water Festival (HCWF) activities, Kelso Conservation Area was buzzing with excitement last week. Outburst of laughter, oohs, aahs and shrieks of joy made for a festival that can be best described as controlled chaos. Afterall, we’re talking about grade two, three, four and five students here. We want them to be loud, engaged and excited! The festival ran from September 27th to 30th 2011, and hundred of high school, community, staff and partner volunteers come out to support the cause of keeping responsible water management top of mind.

Excited (and competitive) grade three students wait their turn at the Pioneer Water Challenge led by Milton District high school students

Each grade occupies a separate camp area at Kelso and elementary students rotate from activity to activity and tent to tent. Within each tent, professional or high school volunteers demonstrate and facilitate different workshops or activities. Luckily this year the weather cooperated and cool, grey mornings made way for bright (dare we say warm?) afternoons. 

Darby and Amanda from Milton District High School enjoying some peace and quiet early in the morning before the elementary school students arrive

Each activity lasted either 15 or 30 minutes at which point the air horn would go off and the students rotated to another tent. Activities cater to school curriculum and this can lead to some very good questions and discussion, especially among the grade fours and fives.

The Festival is co-hosted by Conservation Halton and Halton Region in partnership with the Halton District School Board, the Halton Catholic District School Board, the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, the Town of Milton and the Town of Oakville in order to create a successful and financially sustainable water festival in Halton. A number of community sponsors also support the Festival.

Could you ask for a better view?

 To find out more about the Halton Children’s Water Festival, feel free to comment below or visit http://www.hcwf.ca/

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