A couple years ago, we at Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge learned a valuable management practice that we would like to share with our fellow stakeholders and visitors to the Bow Valley.
In the era of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the bird flu in the early 2000s, many of our international guests and visitors to Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge expressed concern for the visible bird droppings on the lodge's windows and exterior.
We contacted our health inspector and were recommended to call an exterminator. We were not comfortable with exterminating the birds, so we called Parks Canada, who advised us to knock down the nests before they were fully formed. It was expected the birds would learn to build their nests elsewhere.
Acting upon this advice, the procedure of taking down bird’s nests before eggs were laid in them was performed daily. In the interests of hygiene, this was added to the daily maintenance schedule and remained until 2016.
To provide some background information, barn swallows are in decline and are now classified as threatened. This has been attributed to loss or degradation of foraging habitats. Barn swallows normally use man-made structures to breed and consequently have spread with human expansion.
These birds build a cup nest in early spring from mud pellets in barns or similar structures and feed on insects. They consequently live close to humans. Because of the risk associated with population decline, legislation was put in place to protect the species.
In 2016, our maintenance person failed to perform the task of removing the mud swirls before a functional nest had been established on a regular basis as outlined in the daily maintenance schedule, and he eventually removed a nest that held at least one egg and one fledging, which were destroyed in the process. Parks Canada were alerted to this and conducted a thorough investigation.
On completion of this investigation, Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge was charged with contravening s.13 of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MCBA) and s. 24(2) of the Canadian National Parks Act (CNPA).
An amendment to the regulations explicitly prohibiting disturbing migratory bird nests had been put in place between the time we started taking down the bird’s nests in 2003 and 2016. We were not aware of this change, plead guilty to all charges and were given a $27,000 fine. This fine went to Environment Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and will be used for environmental protection of migratory birds.
The current practice at Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is to welcome the barn swallows to nest where they choose. We hope in doing so, we are playing a small role in the preservation of this bird species.
As a small independent operator, we recognize we have a responsibility under the CNPA and MBCA and will remain in close contact with our partners at Parks Canada to ensure we are in compliance.
Park wardens are under a lot of pressure with increased visitation and do not have the time or resources to inform all leaseholders and visitors of all regulations, therefore it is our responsibility to be current on the changing laws and regulations surrounding our business practices.
We are grateful for the lessons we learned through this experience and plan to work closely with Parks Canada going forward to ensure we are protecting the wildlife we enjoy having in our own backyards.