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September 24, 1999
(Forest Resources and Agrifoods)

Endangered Species Update

Kevin Aylward, Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, today, put forward an update on the department's progress in the protection and recovery of endangered species in the province.

"This province is dedicated to preserving wildlife and our natural environment. We presently participate in six Canadian Endangered Species Recovery Teams," Minister Aylward said. "In addition, we are drafting endangered species legislation for presentation to the House of Assembly in the near future.

"This year, more than $120,000 is being spent on endangered species research and management. Research and development is the corner stone of protecting Newfoundland and Labrador's endangered species. The department works with stakeholders and interested parties to conserve species at risk. For example, we are working with the Marine and Mountain Development Corporation to protect the endangered piping plover in the Port aux Basques area. We are also working on pine marten recovery actions in the Terra Nova area."

Newfoundland and Labrador takes the lead in monitoring the status of peregrine falcons, piping plovers, pine marten, and rare plants. The department carries out and supports research on: peregrine falcon population trends; piping plover nesting success; braya ecology; ecology of the rare lichen erioderma; marten demographics and habitat selection; marten captive breeding; and harlequin duck habitat selection.

The minister said: "Many of the province's endangered species are plants, many of which are only found here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We lead the rare plant project which is a cooperative effort among the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, Gros Morne National Park, the Western Newfoundland Model Forest, the EJLB Foundation in Montreal, the McLean Foundation in Toronto, Shell Environmental Fund in Calgary, Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver, and the Canadian Wildlife Service. The province is supporting the development of status reports for species of concern and is presently completing research reports."

In closing, Minister Aylward said: "Our province continues to partner with organizations and industry to deal with endangered and threatened species. Each region of the country is dealing with different circumstances and therefore must determine which measures are needed and for what species."

Media contact: Cynthia Layden-Barron, (709) 729-6183



Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

  • Description: It is a small almost delicate bird which weighs about 55 g and has a body length of 17 cm. It has a sand colored upper body with white undersides and orange legs. During the breeding period adults have a single black forehead and breast band. The call has been described as melodic and often has to compete with the pounding surf of the beach it nests on.

  • The piping plover was designated as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1985.

  • A recovery team was established in the late 1980s. Newfoundland has a representative on the team.

  • There are about 5,000 plovers left worldwide. About 420 breed in Atlantic Canada.

  • Piping plovers feed mostly on insects and invertebrates.

  • Four eggs are normally laid and incubation takes about four weeks. The nest is nothing more than a depression or "scrape" in the sand. Chicks begin walking soon after they hatch.

  • The piping plover is a small shorebird that nests on fine sandy beaches. The nest is above the high water mark and usually in an area where there is some cobble and broken seashell. It breeds only in North America, primarily along the Atlantic coast and in the Prairies and mid-western States. It winters in the southeastern USA and the Caribbean.

  • It arrives on the beaches in Newfoundland in May and departs in August.

  • The department has been conducting systematic surveys for piping plovers since 1983

  • In 1992, a wildlife reserve was established at Big Barasway near Burgeo.

  • The number of adult piping plovers on the island of Newfoundland reached a high of 35 in 1997. In 1999 about 28-30 birds were seen.

  • Piping plovers can only be found on the beaches on the southwest part of the province. About 15 years ago, they disappeared from the northeast coast around Lumsden and Cape Freels. Plovers have also not been seen breeding at Stephenville Crossing for some time.

  • About 50 per cent of all nests are found in protected areas.

  • The department has been working with the Marine and Mountain Zone Corporation and the Parks Division of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation for the past three years to protect piping plovers in the Grand Bay and Cheeseman Park area. About two-thirds of the total provincial population resides in this area. The corporation has been hiring students to monitor the beaches and provide information on the plovers to local people and tourists. The Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods has been supporting this effort and this summer provided $3,000 towards that effort. The staff at Cheeseman Park have been protecting the nests there and providing non-intrusive viewing opportunities to park visitors. Last year, with the help of the World Wildlife Fund, the Parks Division, the Marine and Mountain Corporation the department installed a spotting scope, viewing platform and boardwalk for people to view the plovers without actually getting near them.

  • The main threats to the piping plover are; habitat loss, disturbance and predation.

  • Habitat loss can occur when a beach is changed either from human activities or natural disturbances.

  • Disturbance, particularly during the nesting period, can cause nest abandonment, eggs not being properly incubated or the nests being made more susceptible to predation.

  • Plover eggs or young are easy prey to such animals as dogs, seagulls and foxes. The situation is made worse when predators are attracted to an area because of garbage.

  • Departmental staff from the western region have been carrying out the plover surveys for the past couple of years.




Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum)

  • The peregrine falcon breeds in many parts of the world. A typical falcon has pointed wings, a narrow tail and quick wingbeats and is the same size as a crow. Adult birds have a slaty coloured back with a barred breast. Immature birds have a vertically streaked breast. Peregrines have very distinctive facial and head markings. They have dark "sideburns" and a dark head, almost like a Roman helmet with white patches on either side of the face. Their bill is hooked on the end.

  • The subspecies anatum is currently considered a "Threatened" species and the other subspecies tundrius is listed as "Vulnerable." The anatum was downlisted to Threatened from Endangered in 1999. It is primarily the anatum which is thought to nest in Labrador.

  • The total Canadian anatum population is more than 300 pair with approximately 60 pair in Labrador.

  • The peregrine only breeds in the Labrador portion of the province. There has never been a record of a peregrine breeding on the island.

  • The peregrine winters in South America returning to its breeding ground in Labrador in late May or early June. Usually four eggs are laid on a cliff ledge on the bare ground or "scrape". The eggs hatch after 32 days of incubation and the young fledge about six weeks later. In September they begin their migration to South America along the eastern seaboard of North America.

  • Studies in Labrador on coastal nesting peregrines have found that the female usually kills and eats Black Guillemots and the male small mammals or song birds. The diet of inland nesting birds is not well known.

  • A diving peregrine is considered the fastest bird in the world.

  • Peregrine populations almost worldwide suffered dramatic reductions in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s. The culprit was the chemical DDT which when ingested by the peregrine through its prey caused the female to lay thin eggs which often did not hatch. Only since the ban on DDT has there been a recovery.

  • Peregrine surveys in Labrador in the 1970s and early 1980s could only find one or two nesting pair. Since 1985 annual surveys have been conducted along the coast and inland valleys and have found more that 60 nest sites.

  • Peregrines mate for life and return to the same area each year. There is one cliff in Labrador where we have nesting records going back to 1862. That same cliff is used by peregrines to this day.

  • We have banded 61 peregrine chicks in the past 10 years. We have received band returns from live caught birds from such locations as Brazil, Peru, Texas and along the eastern seaboard of the USA. The bird found in Brazil had been banded as a chick near Nain in July and found six months later in Brazil, a straight line distance of 10,000 km.

  • We have had contaminate analyses done on two unhatched and unviable peregrine eggs collected during the 1997 surveys. While the sample size was extremely small it was noted that contaminate levels were within acceptable parameters.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador is part of a national recovery team for the peregrine.

  • We carry out annual surveys to monitor the population. The survey is carried out over the same area so that we can compare changes over time.

  • Every five years, all known peregrine sites across North America are checked to monitor the progress of the population. The next survey is in the year 2000. The province will attempt to carry out the survey but may need the assistance of partners because of the expense of such a venture. During the past five years surveys have been done with the assistance of others.

  • Overall, the future looks bright for this species provided pesticides like DDT are kept under control and the habitat is protected.

  • Two of the original 12 birds taken from the wild for captive breeding and recovery in the early 1970s came from Labrador.

  • The release of captive bred birds has been one of the major reasons for recovery of the species in Canada. A release program in Labrador was not necessary because of the discovery of a significant breeding population. The population in Labrador is the largest in eastern Canada.

  • Besides the banding project and monitoring of the population we have also carried out a food habitat study of coastal nesting birds.



Wolverine (Gulo gulo)

  • The eastern population of the wolverine, found in Quebec and Labrador, is listed as an "Endangered" species by COSEWIC.

  • Wolverines are found throughout most of the northern part of Canada and populations other than in the east are thought to be secure. They belong to the mustelid family which includes mink, marten and weasels.

  • A recovery team has been established for the wolverine and consists of wildlife managers and researchers from Quebec and Newfoundland and a wolverine researcher from western Canada.

  • A draft recovery plan is under review by the recovery team.

  • The wolverine, while never very common, was a species trapped in Labrador. Records indicate for example that around seven or eight animals per year were being exported from Davis Inlet in the late 19th century. Wolverine were being trapped or sighted with some regularity along the coast and inland around the turn of the century. During the early and mid part of this century, wolverine numbers seem to have dropped off. Since the mid 1950s there has not been any physical evidence of the wolverine in Labrador (a carcass, hair sample, photograph) although there have been occasional reports of a wolverine or wolverine like animal being sighted. Even if animals still exist they exist in extremely low numbers. This is also the case in Quebec.

  • No one knows for sure why the wolverine began disappearing, however it might have been related to a significant decline in caribou which occurred a number of years ago. Wolverine are scavengers and depend on finding dead animals about the country. With the loss of what was probably their principal food source the wolverine population was probably put under significant stress. In addition wolverine were continuing to be trapped and local populations may have been easily extirpated if there were no new animals to move in to take their place.

  • The wolverine resembles a small bear in appearance except for its bushy tail and broad head. It has a stout muscular body and relatively short legs. Its ears are short and rounded and its face tapers to a prominent black muzzle. Its skull is massive and muscular and the teeth are very strong, all important when crushing the large bones of moose or caribou. Males are larger than females. Males can weigh 15 - 27 kg, females seven - 14 kg. Its fur is course. The colour varies from medium brown to black with a light facial mask and a lighter body back stripe which extends from the shoulders to the rump. They primarily live in boreal forest and tundra areas and prefer wilderness with little human activity. When traveling they have a loping gait.

  • Wolverine have very large home ranges often in excess of 500 sq km. They are solitary animals only coming together to mate.

  • One of the major recovery activities being considered by the recovery team is the re-introduction of the wolverine into areas where they no longer exist or exist below sustainable numbers. An initial recovery objective of about 100 animals is being suggested for Quebec and Labrador.

  • Newfoundland is considering the establishment of a Wolverine Recovery Action Group to assist in the recovery of this animal.




American Marten (Martes americana atrata)

  • Also known as the pine marten, marten cat and the Newfoundland marten. For listing purposes officially described as the Newfoundland population of the American marten.

  • The island population was listed as "Threatened" in 1986 and its status was changed to "Endangered" in 1996.

  • The current population estimate is 300 territorial animals.

  • Marten are found primarily on the west coast in Little Grand Lake, behind Corner Brook, immediately south of Southwest Brook, Red Indian Lake, Main River and in the Terra Nova area. Individual marten are sighted elsewhere but often do not represent a breeding population.

  • Marten used to be distributed throughout most of the island and were once a trapped species. Trapping was banned in 1934.

  • A recovery team was established in 1990 and a recovery plan published in 1995. A recovery action group has been established on the west coast.

  • The marten's decline has been attributed to habitat loss, high rates of accidental mortality, disease and possible stress related to a small prey base.

  • There are a number of recovery actions underway; the marten demographics study, the Main River study, the Terra Nova study, captive breeding, education, habitat protection, habitat modeling and the modified snare and trap.

  • Marten Demographics Study: This is a multi-year study looking at marten populations at Little Grand and Red Indian Lakes. It is being run by Brian Hearn of the Canadian Forest Service. It is being sponsored by university (University of Maine), industry, government and non-profit organizations. The study is looking at the demographics of these two populations and measuring such parameters as mortality and its causes, and productivity. It also measures home range and habitat selection. More than 140 marten have been collared and monitored to date.

  • The Main River Study: This study is looking at the response of marten to a modified wood harvesting design in the Main River watershed. It is a cooperative effort between the Inland Fish and Wildlife Division and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. Marten are being live trapped and marked to determine numbers of animals in the study area.

  • Terra Nova Study: This study is being managed by Terra Nova National Park with financial and logistical assistance from the Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods. It is significant because it is working with the only marten population in eastern Newfoundland and the only population living primarily in a black spruce forest. About 10 animals are collared at any one time and followed to determine home range, habitat selection and survivorship. Marten are also being relocated from the west coast into the Terra Nova area to help achieve the short term goal of 50 marten in eastern Newfoundland. Currently it is thought that there are less than 20 in the Terra Nova area.

  • Captive Breeding: A captive breeding facility for marten was established at Salmonier Nature Park in 1996. Six animals from Red Indian Lake were taken into captivity and holding and breeding pens were built. This past spring the first captive bred young were born and new animals were captured to augment the existing breeding population. Currently there are four adult females, three adult males and one juvenile in captivity.

  • Modified Snare and Trap: The Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods began setting aside areas in the province where only modified hare snares and modified traps could be used to catch hares and furbearing animals such as mink. This was necessary to reduce the accidental capture of marten in traditional snare and trap sets. Last year an area adjacent to Grand Lake and an area in Terra Nova were set aside for this purpose. Next year an area at Red Indian Lake will also be added to the areas set aside where only modified snaring and trapping will be allowed.

  • Habitat Protection and Management: An area is under consideration for the establishment of an ecological and wildlife reserve to protect the habitat of the marten in the area. As well, marten habitat is now a prime consideration during the development of forest management and cutting plans in areas where recovery is expected to happen and where animals currently exist.



  • Harlequin Duck (Histrionucus histrionucus)

  • Also known as "Lords and Ladies" in Newfoundland.

  • The eastern Canadian population was listed as "Endangered" in 1990. The western Canadian population is secure. The eastern population is thought to number less than a 1,000 individuals, based on wintering ground surveys.

  • Newfoundland is a member of the recovery team which is developing a recovery plan.

  • Some birds winter off the coast of Newfoundland but most winter off the coast of the northeastern USA, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

  • The main breeding areas seem to be the rivers of Labrador and northern Quebec and the northern peninsula on the island of Newfoundland.

  • The Canadian Wildlife Service have the main management responsibility for this bird, however the province has a role to play in protecting the habitat especially for nesting.

  • This year, the department began a joint study with Memorial University and the Canadian Wildlife Service with partial funding from the World Wildlife Fund to look at harlequin habitat selection in Labrador.

1999 09 24 4:20 p.m.

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