The Pelham Hills Golf Course Wildlife Enhancement Project
The Niagara Restoration Council (NRC) and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) have been working with the owner of the Pelham Hills Golf Course to design and implement a series of habitat enhancement projects. These projects will make the Pelham Hills Golf Course an environmentally enhanced, wildlife friendly course for all to enjoy. This new enhanced golf course will have extensive positive impacts on the regional wildlife and for the Coyle Creek subwatershed as a whole.
Riparian zone and floodplain naturalization have already been completed on the property. A meander and floodplain was constructed to slow down velocity, reduce erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. This site was planted with hundreds of native wildflowers and shrubs, and seeded with a wildflower and grass mixture.
The NRC have begun construction of a wildlife friendly irrigation pond that will provide up to 2 ha of wetland habitat and 6,000 m2 of riparian habitat. We have also begun the removal of a 2 m high dam that will now allow fish access to an upstream watershed area of 43 km2 or 58 km of creek habitat length. This spring, many migratory fish species such as the northern pike will have access to 65,500 m of fish habitat that they have not had access to since 1978!!
Following the removal of the dam, further remediation will occur to enhance this section of creek and repair stream degradation that has occurred. This may be in the form of a series of riffle pool sequences.
Upon completion of this project, the Pelham Hills Golf Course will become a model property that will be showcased as how to incorporate wildlife habitat effectively into a golf course, while keeping nuisance wildlife (i.e. Canada Goose) under control.
NORTHERN PIKE IN NIAGARA
By: Ian Barrett, M. Sc. Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority – Aquatic Habitat Biologist
Northern pike (Esox lucius) are large keystone piscivores (fish eaters), important as both “top-down” regulators of fish communities and as indicators of general ecosystem health. As a result of this species’ ecological importance, the biology of northern pike have been studied extensively throughout their range. Studies have indicated that northern pike habitat utilization varies with life stage and season, however this brief overview will focus primarily on the spawning and nursery habitat requirements of northern pike.
Photo courtesy of www.fws.gov/pictures/
The Niagara Restoration Council’s Fish Barrier Project has many beneficial impacts to many of Niagara’s species of fish, but certainly one of the most important factors is the increase of the migratory ability of the northern pike. This project addresses many forms of environmental degradation that can eliminate the northern pike’s ability to spawn, or for its ability to survive at all.
Beginning in February, and continuing until April, increases in photoperiod and/or temperature, trigger adult northern pike migrations to spawning locations. Studies have found that spawning migrations of northern pike typically range from 2 to 76km. Migrating pike may travel through a variety of suitable spawning habitats, demonstrating spawning site fidelity, possibly as a result of using visual or olfactory clues to return to natal birth waters.
Northern pike spawn during daylight hours, at water temperatures between 6 and 14οC. Spawning takes place over a variety of substrates, although pike prefer to spawn in vegetated floodplain areas over the submerged portions of emergent vegetation or over dense mats of submerged vegetation, located in as little as 12cm of water. Northern pike eggs are sensitive to low levels of dissolved oxygen and siltation, therefore the primary role of vegetation is as an adhesion surface preventing eggs from settling in sediments or anoxic bottom waters. Depending upon water temperatures, the eggs of northern pike hatch in approximately 10-14 days, with larval pike remaining attached to vegetation for an additional 5-10 days before being capable of swimming freely.
Historically in the Niagara Region, practices such as the damming of watercourses and the improper installation of culverts have substantially affected northern pike populations in the region. Unlike many species of salmon and trout, which can jump large distances to negotiate major instream barriers, northern pike are less likely to migrate upstream past even minor instream barriers. Many of the barriers installed in watercourses have restricted northern pike access to productive spawning habitat and substantially impacted northern pike populations in Niagara.