Dr. Erin Bayne is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at U of A. His presentation is about understanding the ecological risks of oil and gas development on Ferruginous Hawks in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Ferruginous Hawks' density and range have been reduced to half since the 1970s. Setback distances were established by the government to try to ensure minimal negative impact from humans on hawks, and the Species At Risk Act was passed into law, which limits the economic development of regions with high risk species.
Bayne's project goals were to determine if the density of Ferruginous Hawks changes as a function of the footprint within a township, and evaluate male movement, as well as determine if demography varies as a function of human presence within the setback distance. He also wants to look at the re-occupancy of Ferruginous Hawk nests over time to determine how long the setbacks should be in place and understand which human activities disturb the Ferruginous Hawk and how this could influence setbacks.
By using systematic surveys from all roads in a township (159 surveys in 2013, and 59 in 2012), and nest monitoring (tracked 613 nests weekly), Bayne and his team determined nest outcome, fledge rate, arrival date, and fledge date.
Bayne was able to determine that agriculture is the primary driver of where hawks (nests) are located since increased agriculture means decreased nests found due to the loss of grasslands. Oil and gas activity has a very minimal negative impact on hawk density.
Some unexpected discoveries include the following facts: over 25% of nest failures are caused by the nest collapsing from the tree, and of the 25 male hawks fitted with GPS, 5 have died - all human related; 2 hit by cars, 1 shot, 1 electrocuted, 1 poisoned.
Bayne concludes the presentation by cautioning against developing well sites in hawk' s home sites since the summer maintenance required on these sites will negatively affect the behaviors of the hawks.
This presentation was a part of the Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada Resource Access and Ecological Issues Forum in November 2013.