Extra! Extra! Read the latest Stewardship News!

This edition of our Newsletter is all about celebrating some of our new Wildlife Habitat Stewards and looking at the projects and species they are involved in! We are very excited that we have started to gain some momentum as we move northward, into the Central and North Okanagan, but we are also very thankful for all our land owners in the South Okanagan and Similkameen for their continued interest. We are looking forward to continuing our work with all of you in 2015.  Please contact us to learn how you can become a Wildlife Habitat Steward!

Summerland Golf & Country Club – Blotched Tiger Salamander

The Summerland Golf & Country Club became land stewards last summer after our biologists checked their ponds for invasive bullfrogs and found endangered Tiger Salamanders instead. They were very excited to have these salamanders in their pond and were excited to join with OSSS and try to do a native planting to improve the habitat surrounding the pond where these salamanders live.

The Summerland Golf & Country Club worked with us to remove grass from an out of play area beside the Salamander pond. Under the grass we found loose sandy soil perfect for Salamanders to burrow into. We planted native shrubs and bunch grasses that will give the Salamanders access to the soil. The shrubs will flower in the spring and summer which will be beautiful for golfers and provide habitat for our native pollinators. We were even able to place some native pond lilies in the pond which will provide shade for the growing salamanders and a picturesque environment for the golfers. 
As a final touch we were able to bring in some old logs to provide shelter for the adult Tiger Salamanders.  This was a fantastic project for us and a great way to show- case the ways that conservation can benefit everyone involved! The grasses and shrubs that we planted there are still very small but already there are lots of birds enjoying the shrubs and bathing along the shallow edges of the pond. We are looking forward to seeing the plants grow up and seeing what other wildlife will use this little oasis on the golf course.

Tom Cvitkovitch – Western Screech-owls

Tom only recently moved to the Shuswap where he has an amazing property right on the Shuswap River. Tom’s property is covered in riparian forest with beautiful old Douglas-fir and black cottonwood trees. This makes it perfect habitat for Western Screech-owls. Screech-owls in the area used to nest on his property every year. Unfortunately a few years ago the old dead cottonwood, that held the nest cavity, blew down in a storm. Tom gave OSSS permission to mount two Screech-owl boxes on the property this spring to try to replace the natural cavity the birds used.

We have put up 18 Western Screech-owl boxes along the Shuswap River and Coldstream Creek and we are interested in helping these owls out throughout their range. If you have riparian forest on your property and are interested in installing a Screech-owl box, please get in touch!

The Herb Garden – Amphibians and turtles

Steve and Laine Schmidt own a beautiful organic orchard, The Herb Garden, south of Oliver.    Amongst their orchard, they have four ponds that they have been taking care of for about 25 years.  They are continually working towards enhancing the ponds for the benefit of Western Painted Turtles, Great Basin Spadefoots, Tiger Salamanders, many different kinds of waterfowl, and even a muskrat family and became Wildlife Habitat Stewards last summer.

Their story is an unusual one, as 25 years ago, when they came upon the wet swampy areas of their property, there were no regulations against filling in wetlands.   Most farmers would fill in these wet spots and unknowingly destroy areas that were very important to wildlife.  Instead, the Schmidt’s decided to excavate the swampy area to make a pond. Then about 15 years ago, along came Sara Ashpole, amphibian biologist with Puddle for Peepers (in photo), who was thrilled to assist with more habitat enhancement such as weeding, planting of native plants, and adding sand to enhance breeding habitat for turtles.   Recently, they signed on as Wildlife Habitat Stewards so they can benefit from additional assistance in caring for their wetlands. 

Jim and Pat Linton – western painted turtles

The Lintons have two oxbows of the Okanagan River. They have been taking care of their oxbows for ten years, mainly by leaving them alone to continue to function naturally. They have done some planting of native trees and shrubs to give all of the animals living in their ponds some shade in the hot summer months.  Their ponds have an amazing number of Western Painted Turtles, Great Basin Spadefoots, all sorts of water fowl and even some Tiger Salamanders. 

This spring the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society brought in sand and the Lintons made a couple of beautiful beaches for the turtles to nest in. In the past the turtles have tried to nest in the gravel driveway which winds between the ponds. The new beaches should provide a safer place for the turtles to lay their eggs and should make digging their nests much easier.

Tantalus Vineyards Winery – Ponderosa Forest

The OSSS has expanded its stewardship work northward into Central Okanagan.   The first land owner to sign on as a Wildlife Habitat Steward is near Kelowna.  Tantalus Vineyards  is owned by Proprietor Eric Savics and run by General Manager, Jane Hatch.  Their vineyard is naturally farmed and pesticide free.  They produce exceptional wine grapes as well as fresh honey from their 53 bee hives.  They also have BC’s first and only LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) certified winery, a building that is environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

They encourage biodiversity of native flora and fauna with the conservation of 10 acres of Ponderosa Pine forest within their vineyard.  They have installed nest boxes to encourage bluebirds to nest.  OSSS will be doing a baseline inventory of the plants, birds, and wildlife living in their forested area.  This will assist in developing a conservation plan for their forest.  If you are interested in learning more about plants and wildlife on your property, contact us now!

Fred and Jan Nelson – American Badgers

The Nelsons were the very first land owners to sign on to be Wildlife Habitat Stewards in the North http://badgers.bc.ca/ Badgers have very large ranges and the badger will probably move on all by itself in a day or two, so try to enjoy the visit while it lasts!
Okanagan. The Nelsons have had a very special visitor stop by every summer for the last 6 years. For a few days every summer a badger comes to help keep their ground squirrel colony in check. Last summer they had a special surprise when not just one but two badgers appeared. A female badger and a nearly fully grown kit! Badgers have a reputation as fierce predators, but they are quite shy and are rarely seen. If, like the Nelsons, you are lucky enough to have a badger visit your yard, keep pets and children at a safe distance and report the sighting to the recovery team.

Marcel and Jean Galli – Townsend Big-eared bats

Every summer the Gallis are hosts to some very special guests. Female Townsend’s Big-eared bats come to their old barn every year to have their babies. With the help of the OSSS the Gallis are making some much needed repairs to their bat barn. The Galli’s barn had started to rot away in one corner and they were eager to try to save the barn and the maternal colony of Townsend’s Big-eared bats that it contains.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a barn full of bats. Sometimes bats will try and make a home inside people’s houses. 

One of our partner organizations is dedicated to keeping our bats healthy and helping landowners to get them out of their attics and into bat houses in ways that don’t harm the bats. If you have bats roosting on your property and you would like more information please contact okanagan@bcbats.ca for more information or check out their website at http://www.bcbats.ca/index.php/okanagan

Thank you to Park Rill Residents!

As many of you know, OSS has been working in the Park Rill neighbourhood since 1998, helping property owners learn more about nature in their back yards.  Park Rill is one of the few remaining natural creeks in the valley bottom of the South Okanagan, and we would like to continue working with landowners to enhance the natural values of this important creek. 
A big thank you to all Park Rill property owners who replied to the stewardship survey.  We had 30 responses out of 145 surveys that were sent out.   This will be enough to give us a good idea of what some residents are interested in doing for Park Rill.

We appreciate everybody’s time and participation with the ongoing mapping exercise.  We were also out on the ground mapping Park Rill and some of its side channels. Thank you to those who enabled access across their properties. We are planning a community event where we will unveil the 3D model, facts on the stream mapping and present the survey results, which will also help us design the event.  Stay tuned for the date! 

New Educational Brochures and Factsheets Available

If you have a wetland or live next to a waterbody and are taking care of the shoreline, these two new brochures will interest you.  We have just produced ‘Caring For Your Wetland’ and ‘Caring For Your Shoreline’.   Both brochures have excellent tips for landowners on how to take care of those habitats.   Also available is the new Great Basin Spadefoot factsheet.

They are available on our website HERE

Newsletter compiled by Lia McKinnon and Paula Rodriguez de la Vega
Acknowledgements: Alyson Skinner, Jessica Hobden
Banner Photo: Paula Rodriguez de la Vega

For more information, please contact:
Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship
Phone: 250-809-1980
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Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Board of Directors:
Sara Ashpole
Anthea Bryan
Carolina Restrepo-Tamayo
Hilary Sampson
Mellhina Thibault