|Lake Erie Water Snake|
|Eastern Fox Snake|
-they aren't generally appreciated in quite the same way as plants or birds;
-they entire life cycle may require as much as 200 hectares, although often less;
-some spend a fair bit of their entire life cycle within a 100 metres or so of the shoreline;
-they sometimes will use anthropogenic features, such as buildings or wells;
-when they are active, they are often hard to find;
-when they are hibernating for 6 months of the year or more, they are a lot harder to find.
By now you will be aware of some of the appealing aspects of Pelee Island to human visitors. Waterfront property is highly sought after, and therein lies the conflict. Some waterfront properties really are right on the water front. The property shown in the image below, has very little stable land base. There is barely enough room to get a vehicle off the road before you are on a dynamic beach! And anyone who has had experience with waterfront property on Lake Erie is well aware of the effects of wave action, changing water levels and such.
Nonetheless, people are attracted to a spot, and proceed to build sometimes a substantial property in a rather exposed location. So they adapt. Some will build on stilts, so that they can get a better view of the water, but also so that severe wave action can go under the building.
Other people will go to the expense of having huge chunks of armour stone placed in front of the building, to break the wave action. Of course any of this alteration usually results in a significant loss of habitat for endangered species. If it is left alone for long enough after it has been altered, it might revert to some type of habitat, but what are the species supposed to do for the years it takes to develop?
In the past couple of decades while I was with OMNR, my colleagues and I were frequently asked to evaluate a property with respect to endangered species habitat. We sometimes found the snakes themselves, but not that often due to their shy and retiring nature, or if it was the time of the season when they wouldn't be out. So we had to think like a snake, and look for features that they would likely use. Sometimes it was a hole in the ground...is it an access point to a hibernation site?
Sometimes we found other Species At Risk in the course of our site visit.
There were a lot of properties where some development was allowed, although with limitations. There were other properties that had so much critical habitat on it for SAR, that there were very few if any development options. And of course that led to the inevitable question of fairness. Should a landowner have the right to develop what ever s/he wants on property that they own? That question can lead to some very lively and passionate debates...trust me!! But the bottom line is that part of the reason there are so many species at risk in southwestern Ontario is because so much of it has been developed. The municipality of Chatham-Kent and Essex County have the dubious distinction of having only 4%-5% natural area remaining at best, and even that is under threat from so many outside influences, including invasive species, fragmentation, air quality, water quality, loss of hydrological function, etc. So as a 'progressive and responsible' society, can we not protect even 5% of our natural area and the species that require it?
There are sometimes some alternatives, and I will be dealing with that in a future post where a highly contentious development led to an interesting resolution.
|Jimaan at rest|