Fraser Valley Wetlands Wildlife
The freshwater ecosystems of B.C.’s Lower Mainland have been severely impacted by pollution, runoff, climate change, invasive species and large numbers of predators such as raccoons. At least one species native to the area, the northern Pacific pond turtle, has already disappeared from Canada, while others have dropped to such low numbers that their only hope of surviving rests on direct, hands-on conservation.
The recovery plan for Oregon spotted frog calls for conservation breeding, headstarting and release to re-establish viable populations in at least six sites. Wildlife Preservation Canada began coordinating these efforts in 2010, adding a conservation breeding program to the headstarting work taking place at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. This expanded on the breeding efforts underway at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Meanwhile, an ongoing mark-recapture program and extensive egg mass monitoring by our recovery partners is tracking the success of this initiative. Young are being used both to increase the size of existing wild populations and to establish new ones at appropriate sites where the species had been lost.
In 2012, we expanded our work to include the western painted turtle. In order to save this population, experts recommend protecting nests, artificially incubating eggs, headstarting young turtles for release and establishing a conservation breeding program.
Accordingly, we began salvaging western painted turtle eggs from nests at high risk — such as those on gravel boat ramps — and headstarting them. We also began collecting adults found living alone or in such small groups that effective breeding was unlikely. These turtles form the nucleus of a conservation breeding population. We headstart hatchlings for at least a year, until they are too large to be eaten by their major predators: bullfrogs that have been introduced to British Columbia. We also take in sick and injured western painted turtles for rehabilitation and release.
As of fall 2019, we have reared and released over 600 Oregon spotted frogs and 600 western painted turtles. Initial results suggest these individuals are thriving in the wild.
Surveys continually turn up an unexpectedly large number of healthy young turtles that we released the previous years. We plan to expand our reach and rear turtles from populations further north up the Sunshine Coast. We have seen the positive impacts of releasing Oregon spotted frogs to historic populations, with long term data reflecting that our releases have helped stabilize these populations. We continue to work with our partners to research and refine methods for rearing both species to produce the largest number of healthy individuals and make the greatest conservation impact.
In 2019 we were also able to monitor wild populations full time during nesting. This year we observed a record number of nests, 53 in total!
Andrea has been volunteering with wildlife since she was 13 years old, when she began helping at a local centre for orphaned wildlife, bottle-feeding young deer, raccoons and squirrels. She holds a Master’s degree in ecology from Royal Roads University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in biology with a focus on zoology and animal behaviour. She has worked at zoos both in Canada and in the U.K., first with primates and small cats and later with the Oregon spotted frog. She has also studied pack dynamics and social behaviour among African wild dogs.
In 2011, Andrea spent a year in the amphibian and reptile department of Wildlife Preservation Canada’s U.K. sister organization, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey. There, among other things, she learned how to treat conservation colonies infected with the deadly chytrid fungus that has been wiping out amphibian populations worldwide. Andrea coordinated our B.C. Wetlands Wildlife project, as well as our worked with Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly recovery.
- The Sitka Foundation
- The Leon Judah Blackmore Foundation
- Environment Canada – Environmental Damages Fund
- B.C. Conservation Foundation
- B.C. Ministry of Environment
- B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources
- Fraser Valley Conservancy
- Greater Vancouver Zoo
- Leq’a:mel First Nation
- Seabird Island First Nation
- Simon Fraser University
- University of British Columbia
- University of the Fraser Valley
- Vancouver Aquarium