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Past Summer Field Work

The SKCDC participated in a province-wide monitoring program for Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) (FEHA) in 2018. Road side surveys were conducted during April and May of 2018 to locate FEHA nests with the help of an extensive network of volunteers, Conservation Officers and internal staff, completing a total of 159 township size blocks and one route within Grasslands National Park, totalling 160 survey routes. The SKCDC also continued Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii) (OKRA) surveys by collecting DNA samples for analysis to examine connectivity between all Saskatchewan OKRA populations. Hair samples were collected from all sand hill complexes with previous OKRA observations. In total, 117 samples were collected from across the range in Saskatchewan. This information will help identify possible isolated populations and identify dispersal corridors or stepping stones in the province. SKCDC staff also participated in the The Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas as well as provincial Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and Deer surveys.


Botanical field work in 2017 focused on attempts to locate two species that have a status with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) or under the federal Species At Risk Act that are currently considered historical in Saskatchewan: Cypripedium candidum and Vernonia fasciculata. Predictive distribution models, newly developed by the Ministry of Environment, were used to narrow down locations to search for each species, for which the previously recorded locations were very vague. These projects were only partially completed in 2017 as suitable habitat was encountered for both target species but not exhaustively searched, and more area remains to be investigated. Neither species was located in 2017. The SK CDC also provided rare plant identification training for Parks Canada staff which facilitated Element Occurrence revisits of several provincially tracked plant species. In 2017 the SK CDC documented a total of 36 tracked plant species including both target and incidental species. Several of these represent taxa for which more data has been needed for Saskatchewan. Twelve tracked animal species were also incidentally documented.

Surveys that had begun in previous years for the Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii) were completed to cover their entire range known within Saskatchewan. This year the periphery sandhills of south-west Saskatchewan were searched, where a COSEWIC report had reported presence but the SKCDC had no data for. The surveys included the Westerham, Cramerburg, Antelope, Seward, Piapot, Crane Lake and Turnstall sand hills. During July 18th to 27th and Aug 14th to 18th, 99 Ord’s Kangaroo Rats were observed at 78 locations amongst all of the sandhills surveyed with the exception of Antelope and Piapot. In addition, 46 incidental observations of other tracked species were recorded during this time. SKCDC staff also participated in the first year of the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas alongside Ministry of Environment staff. 84.42 hours of survey time, including 83 points counts resulted in 725 records of 83 species. The Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas is a five-year project that aims to deliver a province-wide account of distribution and relative abundance of breeding bird populations.


Field surveys were conducted in and around Moose Mountain Provincial Park to look for Amelanchier sanguinea, Round-leaved Serviceberry (results inconclusive). Ground truthing of native versus modified pasture was carried out in southwestern Saskatchewan for Prairie Land Inventory (PLI) plots. Cypress Hills Provincial Park was explored to look for Botrychium species (moonworts) in situ, in advance of the Botrychium Field Course. The Boytrychium Field Course was held in Cypress Hills by Dr Donald Farrar, accompanied by Cindy Johnson and Steve Popovich. Dr. Farrar is an international expert in the identification and taxonomy of Botrychium.

The SKCDC completed surveys for 3 species this year; Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus), Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), and Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii). This was the year of the International Piping Plover Census which happens every 5 years. The SKCDC and Ministry of Environment staff surveyed 64 kilometers of shore line on five lakes in western Saskatchewan. Due to high water levels, there was limited to no suitable Piping Plover habitat on the lakes surveyed. No Piping Plovers were found. The Snapping Turtles were a continuation of the 2015 study and focused on filling in the gaps on the Souris River. Over the course of eight days from June 20th to June 28th, four routes were surveyed, totaling approximately 75.5 km along the Souris River. There were 17 Snapping Turtle sightings and two nests found, there were also 457 Western Painted Turtle observed. The Ord’s Kangaroo Rat surveys were to revisit sites surveyed in 2012, to survey new dunes within the Great Sandhills and to search the Burstall Sandhills. Surveys occurred during two 3 day sets; July 25th to July 27nd and Aug. 2nd to Aug. 4th. The Great Sandhills had 73 Ord’s Kangaroo Rats and 64 tracks or burrows observed; 87 Great Plains Toads (Anaxyrus cognatus) and 12 Plain Spadefoot Toads (Spea bombifrons) were observed. The Burstall Sandhills had no Ord’s Kangaroo Rat individuals, tracks or burrows observed; 20 Great Plains Toads and 6 Plains Spadefoot toads were observed.


In 2015, the SK CDC developed a new process for prioritizing species for botanical field activities and used it to determine groups that most urgently needed updating. Species for surveys were chosen from the prioritization list by grouping genera, location, and best detection time together to produce an efficient field schedule. Field work focused on updating Element Occurrence (EO) data in order to assess species’ current status in the province, and expanding on those species’ distributions. Target areas included the Cypress Hills and south eastern Saskatchewan. Target species included Lomatium cous, L. orientale, L. dissectum var. multifidum, Amelanchier humilis, A. sanguinea, Cypripedium montanum, Rubus parviflorus, Botrychium species, and Bacopa rotundifolia. The SK CDC documented occurrences for a total of 32 tracked plant species in 2015, including both target and incidental species. This resulted in an update the previous rank of SH for Lomatium orientale, and the addition of a new taxon to the provincial flora, Botrychium matricariifolium. An additional taxon, Botrychium michiganense, which was previously known to moonwort experts to occur in Sask. but not known to our local botanists, was confirmed. Five tracked animal species were also incidentally documented.

Prioritization guidelines were developed to identify focal species for SKCDC’s field work (Vinge-Mazer 2014). The species identified as a priority using the new guidelines were the Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and the Mountain Sucker (Catostomus platyrhynchus). For the Red-headed Woodpecker surveys the SKCDC surveyed over 2,300 km of route and conducted 382 call-playbacks in suitable habitat in 17 rural municipalities and 6 provincial parks. No individuals were observed during these surveys. For the turtle surveys 80 km of the Souris River and 60 km of the Qu’Appelle River were surveyed. There were 221 Western Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta belli) and five Snapping turtles recorded along the Souris River from June 12-16. There was one Western Painted turtle and one Snapping turtle recorded along the Qu’Appelle River from June 25-27. We also confirmed a dead Snapping turtle near Tantallon, Saskatchewan. Staff from SKCDC and Ministry of Environment contributed to the Water Security Agency’s (WSA) Mountain Sucker surveys. WSA employees designed the survey methodology and SKCDC and Environment staff contributed 140 hours to WSA’s survey efforts, which included electrofishing and seine netting predetermined reaches of various creeks in south-western Saskatchewan. WSA will complete data analysis and reporting.


Botany goals included expanding known distributions, confirming the existence of a new taxon, and updating historical Element Occurrence (EO) data. Priority flora for these goals included Cypipedium montanum, Psilocarphus brevissimus var. brevissimus, Taraxia breviflora, Bacopa rotundifolia, Andropogon hallii, and Atriplex powellii var. powellii. Bacopa rotundifolia was confirmed as a new species record for Saskatchewan, while Andropogon hallii (in a native setting) was not. Historical EOs for Taraxia breviflora (previously ranked SH) and Atriplex powellii var. powellii were visited and 5 out of 7 were located and their information updated. The EOs for Psilocarphus brevissimus var. brevissimus were revisited and expanded upon with several new sites found. Opportunistic EO revisits for 11 other rare species were conducted as well. Another incidental find of Orobanche uniflora resulted in an update of its previous rank of SH. The SK CDC documented occurrences for a total of 40 tracked plant species in 2014, including both target and incidental species. Thirteen tracked animal species were also incidentally documented.

The SKCDC identified 12 fauna species for which population and occurrence surveys were performed during the summer field season of 2014. These species included Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens), Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor), Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus), Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis), Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii). All target species, excluding turtle species are boreal inhabitants and considered to be data deficient for the purposes of status assessment (Keith, 2013). Short-eared Owl, Whip-poor-will and Yellow Rail surveys were not able to be conducted due to time constraints. Results for the other surveys included; 6 Northern Leopard Frogs were heard through auditory surveys. As well, 9 Leopard Frogs were observed visually and incidentally during turtle surveys in the Souris River area, fourteen observations of Gray Tree Frogs were made, 21 Western Painted Turtles were observed in the Souris River Area in South-eastern Saskatchewan, and 19 Nighthawks were observed during surveys and incidentally throughout the summer of 2014. There were 8 incidental tracked species identified during these surveys.

The Fish and Wildlife Branch identified four species at risk faunae for which population and occurrence data were gathered during the summer field season of 2013. The species surveyed for, using a prioritization process (Sawa 2011) were: Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus), Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus), Sprague’s Pipit (Anthus spragueii), and McCown’s Longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii). Any incidental species with an S3 or rarer ranking was also recorded. Amphibian surveys were also conducted in the surrounding wetlands when time permitted.
The collected field data supports provincial-level assessments conducted by the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre (SKCDC) as well as the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Priority species for the field season on 2012 included; the Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus), Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus), Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii) and opportunistic pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) counts. Of these priority species: 48 curlews were observed, 1 thrasher was identified incidentally, 4 Ord’s Kangaroo Rats were observed and 441 antelope counted as seen.