Annual summary of activities

Enforcement Highlights

Enforcing federal wildlife legislation is what we do. From coast to coast to coast, we work in every province and territory to conduct inspections and enforcement activities under our five federal wildlife-related acts.

Priority 1: Canadian Species at High Risk

Large Penalties Issued for Violations of Migratory Birds Legislation

Canada is home to dozens of species of migratory birds, some of which reside in Canada year round and others which migrate into and through the country to breed. The MBCA protects migratory birds as well as their nests and eggs across Canada. It also governs the hunting of birds by identifying how and when certain species may be legally harvested. Enforcement is a key activity in ensuring that migratory bird populations remain healthy for future generations.

In 2015-2016, WED had some key successes that support the conservation of migratory birds:

Border Blitz Uncovers Black Bear Parts

Across Canada, black bears are harvested as a game animal species. In some provinces, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia, they are also harvested as a furbearer species under the authorization of hunting and trapping permits or licenses. The predominant method of harvest is hunting, and black bear hunting trophies are a common Canadian export. Management of the black bear harvest in Canada is conducted with the long-term goal of ensuring population sustainability.

In 1992, the black bear was listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) due to the growth of illegal trade of endangered bear parts – primarily gall bladders but also other parts – in Asia. Under CITES, Appendix II-listed species require a valid export or re-export permit to be legally transported internationally.

In 2015-2016, WED coordinated an inspection blitz at several New Brunswick-US border crossings to ensure hunters were not illegally transporting black bear parts used in traditional medicines from Canada to the US.


Inspection blitzes, like this one, are important to monitoring and ensuring the harvest and international trade of the species is sustainable and not put at risk by non-compliance.

Protecting Endangered Piping Plovers

In 1986, the piping plover was designated an endangered species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and became protected under SARA when the prohibitions against killing listed species came into effect in 2004. Piping plovers are also protected under MBCA.

Currently, there are only approximately 200 breeding pairs of the species in Canada. The piping plover is highly vulnerable to human activity and are suffering due habitat loss and threats from human activities such as motorized traffic on beaches.

Given its critically low population, preventing crime from happening to endangered species such as the piping plover is a priority for WED.

In 2015-2016, several blitzes and enforcement actions were taken across the country to protect piping plover populations and educate the public about the vulnerability of the bird:

Local Action to Protect Bank Swallows

The bank swallow is a small insectivorous songbird that was found widespread across Canada. In the last 40 years, bank swallow populations have suffered a severe long-term decline, amounting to a loss of 98% of its population.

The reasons for these declines are not well understood, but are likely driven by the cumulative effects of several threats. These include loss of breeding and foraging habitat, destruction of nests during aggregate excavation, collision with vehicles, widespread pesticide use affecting prey abundance and impacts of climate change which may reduce survival or reproductive potential.

Bank swallows breed in a wide variety of natural and artificial sites characterized by vertical banks. This includes riverbanks, lake and ocean bluffs, gravel and sand pits, road cuts, and stock piles of soil. Managing aggregate operations to avoid the disturbance of nesting bank swallows and to provide ongoing habitat supports efforts to recover populations. Enforcement operations concerning bank swallows complimented with compliance promotion efforts by ECCC’s Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) are ongoing across the country.

In 2015-2016, following an investigation in Nova Scotia, WED wildlife officers discovered that 10 bank swallow nests had been destroyed at local sand pit. Shortly after this discovery, the owner of the sand pit was charged and convicted under the MBCA and fined $812.50. Since then, the owner has dedicated and protected a portion of the pit to nesting swallows, foregoing the economic benefit of that part of the facility. This work was undertaken with advice from biologists at the CWS, who are now monitoring the nest to determine the success of the project.

Fines Issued for the Illegal Harvesting of American Ginseng

American ginseng is an extremely slow-growing plant that takes seven to ten years to reach reproductive maturity. Once mature, a plant produces an average of only 25 seeds. However, only one in 200 of these seeds will produce a fertile plant, and a colony needs approximately 170 plants to remain viable. Due to its slow-growth, illegal harvesting of wild American ginseng is exceptionally detrimental to the species. In fact, there are only a few dozen viable populations of American ginseng left in Canada, located in Québec and in Ontario.

For several years now, WED’s wildlife officers have been monitoring American ginseng on federal lands.

After finding evidence that ginseng was being illegally harvested, officers launched a surveillance program in conjunction with conservation officers from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. This surveillance led to officers apprehending two individuals in possession of American ginseng with a foreign market value of between $190,000 and $380,000. In total, 251 ginseng roots were seized from the individuals’ backpacks and an additional 129 roots were seized from their truck. Both individuals pleaded guilty and were fined $9,000.

Dall’s Sheep Hunted Illegally in Yukon

The Dall’s sheep is a species of thinhorn sheep that live in the mountainous areas of the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, and to a lesser extent British Columbia. One of the Dall’s sheep most distinguishing features is its white coat. During the summer months the sheep are typically found higher in the mountains and split into groups of rams, and groups of ewes and lambs, where they feed in alpine meadows. In the winter, the weather typically drives them into lower elevations on south facing slopes.

In 2015-2016 following an investigation by WED and Yukon conservation officers, two individuals who were licensed to hunt Dall’s sheep in British Columbia were found guilty of hunting and killing two sheep in Yukon and then falsely declaring them killed in British Columbia. Forensic photographic evidence was used in court to match and positively identify the kill sites in Yukon. The individuals pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay $7,500 each in fines for violating WAPPRIITA. They also received a 3-year prohibition from obtaining either a Yukon export permit or a federal CITES permit.

Priority 2: Foreign Species at High Risk

Auction House Illegally Exports Protected Species

In February 2016, an auction house in Québec, IEGOR Hôtel des encans de Montréal Inc., was fined $33,500 for unlawfully exporting products made from wildlife and for knowingly possessing controlled wildlife products for the purpose of exporting them from Canada. Both of these actions are prohibited under WAPPRIITA.

Fourteen art items were seized and forfeited during the investigation were worth approximately $30,000 including items containing:

To investigate this file, wildlife officers worked in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service officers from Florida, Nevada and New York, as well as the RCMP.

Priority 3: Habitats or Protected Areas at High Risk

Lower North Shore of Québec

The Lower North Shore of Québec has nine Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBS) consisting of several islands, islets, rocks, and waters surrounding the islands. The small terrestrial portions of MBS are composed of tundra, stunted conifers, rocky outcrops and small ponds. Many of the sanctuaries on Québec’s Lower North Shore were established in the 1920s to protect essential nesting sites for various species of colonial, passerine and especially seabirds such as the common eider, common murres, Atlantic puffins and razorbills. It is one of the richest seabird nesting areas in the North Atlantic and as such, also attracts vulnerable species.

WED and CWS are in the second year of a six year project targeting illegal harvest in the area, with the objective of increasing bird populations over that time period.


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