The harbours and watersheds in the Victoria area provide important habitat for a wide variety of marine and terrestrial animals
. They form part of complex food webs and are affected by impacts to their habitat, food sources and water quality. Many of these animals rely on marine plants such as eelgrass
and sea lettuce
. Also see How Can I Help: Protecting Marine Plants
The following methods can help to minimize our impacts on animals and their habitats:
Avoid Disturbing Wildlife
Viewing wild animals is exciting, but don't let your enthusiasm take you too close. Most animals have a healthy wariness of humans, and fleeing causes stress and uses up energy reserves. Migratory birds, for example, need to constantly feed or rest in order to build up fat reserves for long flights. Some animals will abandon nesting, spawning/breeding or resting sites if they are disturbed.
- Use a pair of binoculars to get a good view without disturbing wildlife, and wear drab clothing rather than bright colours.
- Look for signs of wariness on the part of the animal, for example a raised head, pricked ears, or standing up on hind legs. If the animal notices you, slowly back away.
- Don't let your dog chase wildlife, and keep it out of the water in streams where fish are spawning. Dogs must be on a leash in migratory bird sanctuaries.
- Cats are known to kill large numbers of small mammals and birds. Keeping your cat indoors or on a leash may be the most humane option, for both the cat and wildlife.
- If you see marine mammals while boating, steer a slow, steady course and give them plenty of room. Avoid approaching seal or sea lion haul-outs.
- Don't feed wildlife. This lowers the animal's ability to fend for itself, provides insufficient nutrients, and habituates the animal to humans.
- If you pick up a rock to look for shoreline creatures, place it back exactly as found afterward. This way, the animals are protected from exposure to the air and predators.
- Don't remove animals such as shellfish and sea stars from the beach or from tide pools. To observe tide pools without disturbing the creatures within them, use a bucket with a clear plastic "window" glued across a hole cut in the bottom (place the bucket on the water surface, and glare will be reduced).
Reduce Habitat Loss & Degradation
- Learn more about the natural habitats in your area, and help to educate others about their importance. Sources of local information include community stewardship groups, online atlases and mapping tools (see below), and nature centres.
- Before building on your property, learn about the natural habitat that may be impacted. There may be options to modify your project in order to better protect sensitive ecosystems on your land, allowing you to enjoy the wildlife that lives there.
- Help to ensure the value of functioning natural systems is considered in land use decisions; consider applying some of the principles of "Smart Growth" in planning.
- By using proactive shoreline and streamside development techniques, you may be able to simultaneously preserve habitat and reduce erosion and flood damage. For example, ensure buildings are set back an appropriate distance from the water body, limit the use of seawalls, and use native plants as a buffer along the shoreline.
- Preserve existing wetland and salt marsh vegetation on your property, as it provides valuable habitat for birds, fish, amphibians and mammals. These areas also help to filter and store water and protect the shoreline from erosion and wave damage.
- Plant native vegetation around your home and property. It provides habitat for native animals, limits the spread of invasive species, helps to prevent erosion, and usually requires less watering and maintenance (see below).
- When undertaking construction on your property, make sure sediment and pollutants do not run off into nearby streams and harbours.
- Help to prevent habitat destruction by invasive species (see below).
- Encourage the protection of key habitats through legislation, such as ecological reserves, parks, Marine Protected Areas and conservation covenants (see below). Such areas should also be linked with surrounding natural habitats to avoid habitat fragmentation.
Tread Lightly & Avoid Damaging Wildlife Habitat
- Whenever possible, walk on designated trails. Trampling can damage sensitive vegetation and intertidal animals. If there is no trail, try to walk on bare rock or sand.
- Don't take "short cuts" across bends in the trail. This can cause erosion when rainwater flows down the newly compacted area.
- Dispose of garbage, including cigarette butts, in an appropriate receptacle; if none is available, take pack garbage home.
- Pick up after your dog. In addition to being a nuisance to fellow nature lovers, pet feces alter the water chemistry and contribute to pollution.
Reduce Pollution of Streams & Harbours
- See Pollution for information about the main types of pollution prevalent in the CRD harbours and watersheds, and their effects on wildlife and ecosystems.
Take Care with Injured Wildlife
- If you find injured or apparently abandoned wildlife, don't handle the animal before obtaining expert advice
- Some animals will leave their young temporarily while they hunt or forage. The mother will often come back for the young, but may not accept it if it has been handled by humans.
- In the Victoria area, contact Wild ARC for advice on dealing with injured or orphaned wildlife: In other areas, contact your local SPCA or humane society.
- Report spills of toxic (or potentially toxic) substances on land or in water to the Emergency Info BC program at 1.800.663.3456
Special Tips for Fish Habitat
- Consider options to conserve wetlands and estuaries on your property. These provide valuable juvenile fish rearing habitat.
- Learn about methods available for agricultural operators to reduce damage to streams and the marine environment.
- Where possible, leave large woody debris, such as fallen trees, in streams. They help to slow down the flow of water and create sheltered pools for fish.
- Ensure that sediment from construction activities is contained to prevent it flowing into nearby streams and wetlands.
- Increase and improve fish habitat by maintaining and planting native vegetation along shores and stream banks.
- Be cautious around eelgrass beds, as they are used for herring spawning grounds.
Special Tips for Filter Feeding Species
- Filter feeders, such as native oysters and subtidal benthic communities are particularly sensitive to excess sediment, which may bury them.
- Large-scale construction near streams and harbours must be carefully undertaken by a skilled professional, to limit sedimentation. Interceptor ditches, sediment fencing and sediment control ponds are some methods that can limit the sediment that flows into waterways.
- Even small backyard projects can cause sediment to flow into storm drains and subsequently into streams and harbours. Cover exposed earth with a tarp if rain is expected. Replant with grass seed or other fast-growing plants as soon as possible.