Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability

Wildlife Strategy Review

On Monday June 17th, CAFES gave a public delegation on the City of Ottawa's Wildlife Strategy Review at the Joint Agriculture & Rural Affairs and Environment & Climate Change Committee Meeting.

A report on City staff's review of the decade-old 2013 Wildlife Strategy was submitted to the joint committee, and outlined a 10-point plan to improve policy related to wildlife in Ottawa. Some of the staff recommendations for the wildlife strategy included creating an advisory board of wildlife experts and service providers, increasing public information and education, developing a plan to implement wildlife crossings and eco-passages to avoid wildlife road collisions, engage a wildlife resource specialist, and support ongoing large mammal response protocol.

Many concerned residents and community groups, including the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre (OCWC), were not happy with the report, recognizing the narrow orientation toward managing wildlife conflicts for human benefit rather than protecting biodiversity.

One of the most contested elements of the staff report was the recommendation to maintain current beaver management practices in municipal drains and stormwater systems. Currently, the City of Ottawa lethally traps 150 beavers per year to manage water flow and drainage at the sites where beavers build dams. Other cities, including London Ontario, have been successfully using flow devices for over 10 years (culvert fences, pond levellers) which allow beavers to maintain their habitats without compromising the function of drains and stormwater management systems. These flow devices can decrease beaver management costs by up to 90% and can eliminate the need to regularly kill beavers, allowing this incredibly important keystone species to thrive.

In our public delegation, CAFES recommended:

  1. That the Wildlife Strategy adopt a broader focus on biodiversity and conservation, rather than maintaining its narrow focus on "human-wildlife conflicts". A stronger priority for biodiversity would reflect the City's signing of the Montreal Pledge in 2023.
  2. That City staff should investigate road segments where wildlife crossings should be installed. These could include bridges, tunnels or wildlife fencing, which have been found to drastically decrease road collision fatalities. For example, wildlife crossings on March Valley Road are desperately needed to protect the City's Blanding's Turtle population, which is in steep decline.
  3. That staff investigate where modern flow device technology can be used as an alternative to lethal beaver trapping.
  4. That the updated Wildlife Strategy must better prioritize public education and information, as many residents are largely unaware of biodiversity issues and how to peacefully co-exist with wildlife in their areas.
  5. That bird safety is better integrated with the wildlife strategy, and that the city take a stronger stance on addressing bird population concerns. This could include stricter requirements for bird-safe window markings and other design strategies to reduce window collisions, better public education, and stronger protective policies like vegetation clearing restrictions.

As a result of the many concerned residents and community groups who came out to speak on these issues, several motions were put forward. For example, Councillor Clarke Kelly put forward a motion for staff to create an inventory of beaver conflict sites, investigate the use of flow devices as alternatives by drawing from experts and other municipalities, and summarize the costs of current management practices.

It was inspiring to hear so many informed, well-researched and passionate delegations and it did seem that Councillors listened and took the lead on driving further action on the strategy.

See CAFES' presentation below and watch the full Committee Meeting on YouTube here.

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