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Scotch Bonnet Island and Mohawk Island National Wildlife Areas Management Plan

5 Management approaches

This section describes a range of possible approaches that could be used in the management of Scotch Bonnet Island National Wildlife Area (NWA) and Mohawk Island NWA. However, management actions will be determined during the annual work planning process, and will be implemented as human and financial resources allow.

The overall management philosophy for these islands will be to protect and preserve the nesting habitat of colonial waterbirds through a “hands off” approach.

5.1 Monitoring

Monitoring and survey projects at each of these protected areas will continue to occur, within the limits of financial and human resources as noted above.

Monitoring of colonial nesting waterbird and migrant bird use within these NWAs and their nearshore waters occurs as part of decadal surveys in order to contribute to the knowledge of birds and their habitat, and to respond to any emerging issues (Figure 14). Ad hoc surveys may also be conducted as appropriate.

Current monitoring and survey projects at or encompassing the Scotch Bonnet Island NWA and the Mohawk Island NWA include the following:

  • a project on surveillance of toxic substances in wildlife through monitoring of colonial waterbird residue levels and reproductive success, lake waters, and food sources
  • the assessment of avian mortality during the post-breeding season
  • decadal surveys of colonial waterbirds in the Great Lakes
  • decadal surveys of migrant waterfowl in the lower Great Lakes
  • cooperative research with the United States Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services to monitor populations of Double-crested Cormorants in the Great Lakes

Other general site surveying activities include the following:

  • ongoing reporting of site conditions, public use and occurrences of prohibited activities;
  • effects of human disturbance on nesting colonial waterbirds;
  • reporting of vandalism or damage to facilities
  • waste removal
  • installation or replacement of NWA regulatory signage.

Periodic formal site assessments of these islands will also be performed by federal agencies (e.g. Fisheries and Ocean Canada, Parks Canada Agency) as needed. Occasional visits by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Wildlife Enforcement Directorate staff, particularly during colonial waterbird nesting periods, will occur, and enforcement actions will be taken when required.

Figure 14: Chip Weseloh (Canadian Wildlife Service) completing Caspian Tern nest count on ridge of Zebra and Quagga Mussel shells, Mohawk Island National Wildlife Area, 2007
Photo of Chip Weseloh
Photo: © Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service
Long description for figure 12

A photograph of Chip Weseloh (Employee of the Canadian Wildlife Service) walking with a backpack and looking on the ground while completing a Caspian Tern nest count on a ridge of Zebra and Quagga Mussel shells on Mohawk Island National Wildlife Area. There is a lighthouse and approximately a hundred gulls (both resting and in flight) in the background.

5.2 Research

Colonial waterbirds at these NWAs have been extensively studied by the Canadian Wildlife Service–Ontario Region and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Wildlife and Landscape Science Directorate.

The research data will be shared and may be incorporated into larger studies investigating the health of the various species over their ranges (e.g. Bird Conservation Region planning, Lake Ontario and/or Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plans, Great Lakes toxics monitoring, State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference reporting).

Applied scientific activities will be considered for permitting under the Wildlife Area Regulations only when the results from the research have the potential for

  • surveillance of toxic substances and reproductive success in colonial waterbird populations;
  • investigation of other threats to bird populations;
  • determining historical and/or cultural significance of structures on the islands, where supported by responsible federal authorities; or
  • other significant conservation benefits, as determined by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Permits are required to conduct research, survey and monitoring projects at Scotch Bonnet Island NWA and Mohawk Island NWA. All research requests must be made in writing to the Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region. To request a Canada Wildlife Act (CWA) permit to conduct research, or to obtain information, please contact the Canadian Wildlife Service as follows:

Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service
Ontario Region
867 Lakeshore Road
Burlington ON  L7R 4A6
Tel.: 905-336-4464 
Fax: 905-336-4587 
Email: wildlife.ontario@ec.gc.ca

The Canadian Wildlife Service may impose conditions on the permit or require changes to the research design to standardize techniques, mitigate impacts, or meet protocols and animal care guidelines. Conditions may require that specific measures or restrictions be followed in order for the study to proceed. Issuance of a CWA permit may be denied if the Canadian Wildlife Service determines that the conditions as described in Appendix 4 are not met.

5.3 Risk assessment and mitigation

The Canadian Wildlife Service will post signs and public notices to communicate any potential health and safety risks associated with visits to the Scotch Bonnet Island NWA and Mohawk Island NWA. The Canadian Wildlife Service will work with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Parks Canada Agency and other federal partners to assess current conditions, complete monitoring and survey work, and make plans to mitigate threats to authorized and unauthorized visitors.

5.4 Public information and outreach

Public involvement and outreach activities are designed to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the important conservation role of these NWAs for colonial waterbirds, and to encourage public cooperation in wildlife conservation. Measures will be taken to reduce and mitigate the potential negative effects of human disturbance (e.g., recreational boating, researchers, wildlife viewing) on nesting waterbirds at Mohawk Island NWA and Scotch Bonnet Islandet NWA. Visitors and recreation activities in the nearshore will be discouraged during the breeding season (between April and August).

On-site awareness programs are not planned at either of these NWAs, due to access restrictions. Signage at these protected areas will be reviewed and updated periodically to ensure that it provides clear direction to visitors on permitted and prohibited activities.

Public notices will be posted at boating facilities, marinas and boat launches. All signs, public information and notices will include contact information to report incidents of prohibited activities observed by visitors. More general information on NWAs, including Scotch Bonnet Island NWA and Mohawk Island NWA, is posted on the Protected Areas website.

5.5 Habitat management

There has been no active habitat or vegetation management on either island. Rather, natural processes have been allowed to occur unimpeded, with the primary focus of ensuring that human activities do not interfere with bird nesting or disturb habitat.

5.6 Wildlife management

There has been no active wildlife management at either of these NWAs in the past. Natural processes have been allowed to occur unimpeded. Protection and preservation of nesting habitat for colonial nesting waterbirds will be mainly achieved through limitation of human disturbance. As per the CWA, all wildlife species are protected within these areas.

Colonial nesting waterbirds will continue to be monitored as part of broader survey efforts, and threats will be assessed. Active management actions at Scotch Bonnet Island NWA and/or Mohawk Island NWA may be undertaken if the need arises. However, certain threats to the birds (e.g. changes in food resources, weather events, increased incidence of botulism, toxics, disease, and bird mortality) are considered to be beyond the influence of localized management approaches.

5.7 Management of alien and invasive species

Actions to control invasive species have not been undertaken at either island. To date, no invasive plant species have been reported at Scotch Bonnet Island NWA. Purple Loosestrife is the only invasive plant observed at Mohawk Island NWA, and it is not considered to be causing any problems for wildlife at the site. Mute Swans, Quagga Mussels and Zebra Mussels have also been observed at Mohawk Island NWA; Caspian Terns nest exclusively on the shells of these exotic mussels.

The need for invasive species management will be assessed upon completing site visit survey work. Activities to control invasive or non-native species will be considered only if the species are determined to be causing significant problems for wildlife using these areas.

5.8 Cultural heritage conservation

Each of these islands and their surrounding waters has local and regional cultural heritage significance as part of a Great Lakes shipping and navigation route. Many shipwrecks occurred around Scotch Bonnet Island and Mohawk Island, and cultural and historical artefacts occasionally drift ashore. Artefacts found in these NWAs fall under the jurisdiction of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Appropriate measures will be taken to protect these objects, through direct involvement of government or non-government agencies.

Public safety is of the utmost priority in managing existing heritage structures. In accordance with the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, lighthouse structures will be allowed to decay by natural processes, with active intervention undertaken for health and safety reasons only.

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