Attendees to the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society’s AGM and field tour held at the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area.

Invasive species society hosts field tour at Creston Valley wildlife area

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The Salmo-Creston is a legendary mountain pass in the Kootenays. As travellers drop down from the top and head east, the first billboard spotted encourages them to turn right and visit the Wildlife Interpretation Centre for the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA).

The beautiful marshland has been deemed a wetland of international importance, and a globally significant bird area. The CVWMA is the epitome of biodiversity, with close to 400 different wildlife species calling the area home.

This was the venue for the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society’s (CKISS) annual general meeting on Sept. 16. Other AGMs have a boardroom feel; this is not the case for CKISS, which combines its AGM with a field tour that allows board members, city councillors, CKISS members and concerned citizens to get close and personal with the natural world.

The day kicked off with a drone demonstration from Nelson-based company Harrier Aerial Surveys. Drones are quickly emerging as a valuable tool used in ecological research. In the spring, drones were used to map the problematic swath of yellow flag iris that hugs several waterways at the CVWMA. The flower is an escaped garden ornamental that outcompetes and displaces native plants, causing wildlife habitat degradation.

Thompson River University (TRU) in Kamloops is currently conducting research on control methods for yellow flag iris. The University is researching the efficacy of thick rubber matting (benthic membrane) as a control method for YFI.

Participants were able to see firsthand several research plots that exist throughout the wetland area. In the spring and summer, CKISS sampled these plots and sent them to TRU for analysis. Through modern technology, Catherine Tarasoff, PhD, PAg, an adjunct professor in TRU’s department of natural resources, was able to Skype in to the event and offer insight into her research.

CVWMA head of operations Marc-Andre Beaucher and Ministry of Forest Lands Natural Resources Operations habitat officer Terry Anderson gave a presentation on the threats that American bullfrogs can have to wetland biodiversity.

They stressed that early detection and rapid eradication is imperative because bullfrogs outcompete B.C.’s native species, such as the endangered northern leopard frog.

“A female bullfrog can lay up to 20,000 eggs versus 3,000-5,000 for a female leopard frog,” said Beaucher. “Bullfrog can easily overrun the system and they are also very voracious — they’ll eat just about anything that fits in their mouths.”

It is well known by wildlife officials that bullfrogs run rampant in Idaho and Washington. A bullfrog surveillance program was set up this past summer by CKISS to investigate if any of these pesky critters had made their way to the Kootenays.

“As part of an early detection rapid response surveillance system, acoustic equipment was set up in several locations along the border,” said Anderson. “While one meter was being installed recently, bullfrog calls were heard and it was positively confirmed by acoustic recordings. Visual sightings confirmed that the species are here for the first time in the West Kootenay.”

The final presenter of the day was Leigh Anne Isaac, PhD, a senior biologist with Vast Resource Solutions who has been studying the western painted turtles that reside at CVWMA. The western painted turtle is the only native pond turtle left in B.C.; however their numbers are rapidly decreasing due to habitat loss and is now considered a species of concern in the Kootenays. CKISS has worked with Vast to remove invasive plants in order to restore sensitive turtle nesting habitat.

During the AGM a new member was elected to the board, Nelson’s Malcolm Fitz-Earle, PhD.

“My interest in environmental issues and human population goes back more than 45 years,” said Fitz-Earle. “I have taught ecology, and invasive species are second only to habitat loss for the reduction of biodiversity. As a director of CKISS I will learn more about invasive species and I hope to contribute to their control. I am impressed by the youth and enthusiasm of the members of the board and the executive.”

The fully-catered event is open to the public every year and all are welcome to attend CKISS’ field tour and AGM to learn more about invasive species, their impacts and how to make a difference. To stay connected to CKISS, visit www.ckiss.ca.

—CENTRAL KOOTENAY INVASIVE SPECIES SOCIETY

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