Wildfire Hazards Reduced in Wood Buffalo National Park

Parks Canada reports that there are currently 17 wildfires in Wood Buffalo National Park, nesting habitat of the endangered whooping cranes. Friends of the Wild Whoopers was advised that the fires are not a threat to the whooping cranes. Significant rain in parts of the park have helped fire suppression efforts. However, Parks Canada fire management personnel remain vigilant looking for new starts and will continue monitoring existing fires. 

Due to the reduced wildfire hazard, Fire Information Updates from Parks Canada will no longer be produced daily, but rather as the situation warrants. The latest Wood Buffalo National Park wildfire information is always available through the Fire Information Line at (867)872-0107.

To read the entire Fire Information Update report, click on following link:   FIU July 7 2014

The Wood Buffalo National Park Fire Status Map is available online at:  http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/nt/woodbuffalo/plan/plan2/data2.aspx

 Fire on Wood Buffalo National Park Canada. photo by John McKinno

Fire on Wood Buffalo National Park Canada. photo by John McKinno

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada Wildfire Update – June 20, 2014

The Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) portion of the Pine Lake Road, the Parson’s Lake Road and the Pine Lake Recreation Area remain closed to all visitation and traffic until further notice due to a wildfire currently burning out of control in the vicinity.

WBNP Fire 2 is located four kilometres north of Pine Lake and to the immediate west of the Pine Lake Road and covers 35,665 hectares. A Parks Canada Incident Management Team and additional Parks Canada fire crews are working with local WBNP Fire Management in managing this fire.

A burn-out operation was carried out by Parks staff June 17 which reduced the volatile fuel sources between the fire and key values at risk in the area, including the Pine Lake Recreation Area and Pine Lake Road. The northern flank of the fire has entered an area that burned last year, which has limited growth in that direction. A high volume sprinkler system has been deployed to the Pine Lake area to use for facility protection should it be required. Today’s Danger Level and Fire Status Map.

This fire poses no threat to the community of Fort Smith. Friends of the Wild Whoopers was advised that the fire presents no harm to the wild whooping cranes that are currently nesting in the area.

Wildfire in the distance.
Fire in the distance. Photo provided by John McKinnon. Parks Canada

FOTWW would like to give a special thank you to John David McKinnon of Parks Canada for providing us with this aerial photograph of WBNP.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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Wildfires Near Whooping Crane Nesting Area at Wood Buffalo

There are currently four wildfires in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), Canada according to Tim Gauthier, Fire Information Officer. Wood Buffalo is the nesting area of the only remaining self-sustaining population of whooping cranes in the world.

“There is currently no threat to nesting whooping cranes on Wood Buffalo” according to Gauthier. Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) learned that Fire 3 is closest to the whooper’s nest but presents no harm to the cranes. Fire 4 is ~35 km SE of the nearest whooping crane nesting area. Gauthier explained that the whooping crane nesting area is located in a vast wetland area and that any fires that do occur there would only burn small tree/brush borders around the wetlands.

wildfire status map at Wood Buffalo National Park Fire
WBNP Fire Status June 17, 2014. ~ Click on image to enlarge.

Gauthier provided FOTWW a bulletin that identified locations of the fires: “Fire 1 is located in the Caribou Mountain five kilometers to the west of Isidore Lake. It is currently 8000 hectares and moving to the west. It is being monitored. WBNP Fire 2 is located four kilometers north of Pine Lake and one kilometer west of the Pine Lake Road. A Parks Canada Incident Management Team has been called in to work with local WBNP Fire Management in managing this fire. It is currently 10,000 hectares. Fire 3 is a 200 hectare fire located approximately 10 kilometers south of NWT Highway 5 and 75 Kilometers west of Fort Smith. It is being monitored and currently poses no threat to any values at risk. Fire 4 is a spot fire located 20 Kilometers south of Highway 5 and 45 kilometers to the west of Fort Smith. It is being monitored.”

Weather

The long range forecast for the Wood Buffalo National Park region calls for drying conditions over the next several days and southerly winds. Temperatures are forecasted to be in the high twenties through-out the week. The high temperatures and low relative humidity have created extreme fire conditions.

Air Quality

There are currently no smoke warnings for the Wood Buffalo National Park region. For the latest update on air quality, please contact the WBNP Fire Information Officer at 872-0107. 

Visitor Services

For the latest information on Visitor Services, please contact the Visitor Information Centre at 872-7960.  

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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A Record 164 Whooping Cranes Now Incubating Eggs

A record number of 164 whooping cranes are currently incubating their eggs in the 82 nest counted recently by the Canadian Wildlife Service in its annual survey. These endangered birds all nest in and around Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), Canada. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service an estimated 300 whooping cranes migrated to Canada from their winter habitat on Aransas Refuge, Texas. Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) consider, based on this information that it is likely that over 50 percent of these wild whoopers are involved with nesting.

Whooping cranes making unison call at nest with chick, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. photo by Brian Johns
           Whooping cranes making unison call at nest with chick, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada.         photo by Brian Johns

This year, the 82 whooping crane nests counted on Wood Buffalo is an increase from 74 discovered this time last year. This number surpasses a previous record of 76 nests, set after a survey conducted in spring 2011.

So what is currently going on in the nesting area? Most likely the whoopers had laid their all their eggs before the nest survey was completed. Research on whooping cranes nesting has been conducted over many years and unlocked some of the giant bird’s secrets. FOTWW has reviewed some of the research and summarized it here for you.

Whoopers normally lay their eggs in late April to mid-May, and hatching occurs about 1 month later. Based on past research, approximately 90% of the nest will contain 2 eggs, 9% will contain 1 egg and 1% will contain 3 eggs.  Eggs average 100 mm in length and 63 mm in width. Whooping crane pairs share in incubation of the eggs. Incubation lasts from 29 to 31 days.

Whooping crane eggs on nest.
Two eggs in nest.
Credit – Michael Seymour

Incubation ends when the light brown eggs hatch. Whooping cranes may re-nest if their first clutch is destroyed or lost before mid-incubation. Fortunately, egg predation is uncommon, and re-nesting by whooping cranes is believed to be rare.

So, normally whooping cranes usually produce clutches of 2 eggs laid 48 to 60 hours apart. Incubation begins with the first egg laid. Therefore, hatching of the eggs does not occur at the same time. Normally the first chick hatched is one or two days old before than the second is hatched. According to some research, eggs laid after incubation has begun (the 2nd egg) usually only produce fledged young if the earlier laid egg fails to hatch or the chick dies soon after hatching.

While whooping cranes may lay 2 eggs, only about 10% of whooper pairs migrating back to their Texas winter range have 2 chicks. About 90% of nests therefore contain 1 egg that is unlikely to result in a fledged chick. Still, the second egg plays a possible role in providing assurance that at least one chick survives. In nests with 2 eggs, the first hatched has the greater chance of survival in the wild because the parents can provide better care to a single chick.

Except for brief intervals, one of the parents normally remains on the nest at all times. Chicks are capable of swimming shortly after hatching; however, parents and young return to the nest each night during the first 3 to 4 days after hatching. Later, parents brood their young wherever they are at night or during foul weather. During the first 3 week after hatching, whooping crane families generally remain within about one mile of the nest site.

Whooping cranes are good parents and find food for their chicks, protect them from predators and teach them the migration route between Wood Buffalo National Park and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Likely some of the whooper chicks have already hatched and others will soon. FOTWW is hopeful for a record number of chicks following the record number of nests. Canadian Wildlife Service personnel will soon be taking to the skies to count the chicks.

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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