I am a self-proclaimed nature nerd. I love the natural world. Whether it’s going camping, going birdwatching in wildlife reserves, or stopping to watch the neighbourhood hares on my walk to work, nothing makes me happier than seeing wildlife. The North Saskatchewan watershed is home to many critters big and small. Almost every day I encounter magpies, squirrels, ravens, white-tailed jackrabbits, and chickadees. While these species may not be appreciated by everyone, they are all part of the incredible biodiversity of the North Saskatchewan Watershed! It’s the perfect time of year to get your binoculars, get outside, and get to animal tracking, before they fly south or crawl to hibernation for the winter.
Of course, there are many species living IN the North Saskatchewan River. Due to the presence of diverse fish, the river is a popular location for anglers. The North Saskatchewan is home to burbot, goldeye, lake sturgeon, mountain whitefish, walleye, northern pike, and sauger. There are fishing regulations on many of these species, so be aware of the laws before casting your line. If you are cooking up fish caught from the river, try not to eat them more than once a week due to high mercury concentrations. Fish are far from the only critters living in the river. While not native, there are also some edible invertebrates residing in the river: crayfish! These crustaceans are said to be delicious. They look (and apparently) taste like little lobsters.
(Photo credit: USFWS Midwest Region. Flickr.)
As we move out of the water, Edmonton is home to a variety of amphibians as well. We can spot tiger salamanders, wood frogs, boreal chorus frogs, and canadian toads in parks across the city. Amphibians can be tricky to spot since they are usually quite good at hiding, many only come out at night, and they like humid environments that are often harder to get to. Reptiles also live in our watershed, including the red-sided garter snake, and the plains garter snake. If searching for snakes, you are more likely to find the red-sided garter snake in the river valley while plains garter snakes are found more often in open grasslands.
When visiting the river at one of the many beaches across the North Saskatchewan, you are most likely to see animals floating on, diving in, or flying above the water. There are many beautiful common and uncommon species of birds living near the river. Almost each visit to the river I spot gulls, specifically ring-billed gulls. The Edmonton river valley is home to a huge diversity of bird species including woodpeckers, jays, grouse, warblers, finches, merlins, juncos, waxwings, kingfishers, and eagles. Researchers have seen significant changes to bird distribution, and species like peregrine falcons have returned despite almost being wiped out by the impact of DDT on their eggs.
Four footed friends also frequent the areas surrounding the river. Just last week a cougar was spotted in the river valley. Coyotes, skunks, porcupines, deer, moose, beavers, and raccoons can also be seen by the river. This may not be a big surprise since Edmonton’s river valley is the largest park in North America, and provides a natural corridor for species to pass through.
Animals rely on the river just as we do. Life without water is impossible for any living thing! Keeping the North Saskatchewan River swimmable, drinkable, and fishable does not only benefit us, but the other creatures that rely on it. A thriving ecosystem benefits all species within it, therefore our participation in protecting the watershed is good for animals, including us! Fall is a season of change in the animals kingdom, and as the birds prepare for migration, the bears prepare for hibernation, and the frogs prepare for cryogenation (yes they almost freeze in the winter), get outside and appreciate the other creatures living among us!
To report a wildlife sighting, call the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers at 780-427-3574 or the coyote information hotline at 780-644-5744.
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Amphibian Identifier. Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program. www.ab-conservation.com/downloads/avamp/aca_amphibian_identifier.pdf
Edmonton Master Naturalists. “The North Saskatchewan River.” Nature Edmonton, 21 July 2014, www.natureedmonton.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/the-north-saskatchewan-river/.
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Weber, Bob. “Birders Migrate to Edmonton, Home to Many Avian Species.” CTVNews, 26 Oct. 2015, www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/birders-migrate-to-edmonton-home-to-many-avian-species-1.2627986.