Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located north-west of Regina, in Saskatchewan. It gives many birds an opportunity to breed, feed and rest.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary was the first bird sanctuary established in North America. Located within the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area, 165 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, this sanctuary now covers 4736 hectares of the northern section of this large lake as well as parts of the surrounding land.

The northern portion of this sanctuary is a major feeding and resting area for many species of birds. Spectacular numbers of ducks, geese and sandhill cranes uses this area during spring and fall migrations. This section of the lake also provides some breeding and moulting habitat for both dabbling ducks (ducks that feed near the surface of the water) and diving ducks (ducks that dive beneath the surface of the water to feed). It is a particularly crucial area during periods of drought.

In the fall, this migratory bird sanctuary is an important roosting area for large flocks of ducks, snow geese, Ross’s geese, sandhill cranes, and, to a lesser extent, Canada geese. The endangered whooping crane has also been sighted here on several occasions during the spring and fall migrations. The islands within Last Mountain Lake are known to be used by colonial nesting birds such as:

  • double-crested cormorants
  • ring-billed gulls
  • California gulls
  • common terns
  • Forster's terns
  • American white pelicans
Pelicans in flight
Pelicans in flight. Photo: Todd Kemper


During some years, the pelican colony has been known to exceed 1000 nests. Other waterbirds that breed in the area include horned grebe, eared grebe, pied-billed grebe, western grebe and black-crowned night heron, as well as a variety of shorebirds. In fact, out of the more than 301 species of birds recorded near the north end of Last Mountain Lake, over 111 species are known to breed here, including the endangered piping plover.

While this area is important to the survival of many species of migratory birds, it is also used by other wildlife including:

  • sharp-tailed grouse
  • hungarian partridge
  • red fox
  • badger
  • coyote
  • white-tailed jackrabbit
  • white-tailed deer

The marshes, streams and shallow waters of the lake are important fish spawning areas.

History

Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary has a long history and has been recognized as being a special place for migratory birds for over 120 years. On June 8, 1887, approximately 2500 acres adjacent to the shoreline at the north end of the lake were reserved from sale and settlement as breeding grounds for wildfowl. In 1917, under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the reserved area was officially established as Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary. In 1982, Last Mountain Lake was designated as a wetland of international importance for waterfowl and other wildlife under the Ramsar convention. The entirety of Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary now has International Biological Program status as important wildlife lands.

Landscape

Located in Saskatchewan’s Moist Mixed-grass Prairie ecoregion, Last Mountain Lake is fed by runoff water via both Lanigan and Saline creeks at its northern end, Lewis Creek in the west end, the Arm River in the southwest and Long Lake Creek, also known as Last Mountain Creek, which flows into the Qu’Appelle River in the south end. A dam on the south end of the lake helps to control its depth, which is vital as the lake also serves as a spring runoff reservoir for the Qu'Appelle River basin.
Landscape
Sunset at Last Mountain Lake. Photo: Dean Nernberg


Water control structures constructed by Ducks Unlimited Canada at the north end of the lake permit water-level manipulation within a series of basins, providing additional marsh habitat for waterfowl and mud flats for shorebirds. There are also several natural islands as well as numerous bays and peninsulas within the lake that are very attractive for many species of birds. The marshland and small potholes that that rim much of the northern end of the lake are also very inviting habitat. The shoreline within the boundaries of the sanctuary is mostly sand with some gravelly, rocky tracts and the surrounding lands include alkali areas on low-lying grassland and native prairie.

Did you know?

Prairie potholes are a landscape feature, remnant of a time when glaciers from the last ice age receded. This glacier retreat created a landscape that was riddled with shallow depressions. These “potholes” became wetlands, rich in plant and aquatic life that are known to be extremely important areas for waterfowl.

Map of the area

Map of the Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Long description
    Map showing the location of the Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS), located in between Imperial and Govan, in south of Saskatchewan. The boundaries of the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area (NWA) as well as the Last Mountain Lake MBS are shown. The NWA includes almost all alnd surrounding the north part of Last Mountain Lake, and the MBS coverts the northern waters of the lake. Both protected areas are overlapped in a few townships and are located between highway 2 and 20. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent and intermittent waters are shown on the map, as for the roads and highways. An inset on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.

Planning your visit

Whether you wish to take a driving tour with interpretive stops, explore some walking trails or get a birds-eye view of extensive wetlands and prairies from an observation tower, Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary and National Wildlife Area have something for everyone. For the more adventurous, check out the opportunities for fishing, hunting, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, bird-watching, wildlife photography, and nature study in this beautiful landscape. Don't forget to take in the sight of the tens of thousands of migrating geese, ducks, swans and cranes that stop by to rest and replenish on their long journeys.

Public facilities: self-service information kiosk, washrooms (located near information kiosk), self-interpretive trails (with floating dock and bird blind), parking lot and observation tower.

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Last Mountain Lake, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. Much of the land surrounding Last Mountain Lake is under cultivation and private landowners may restrict access, however there are multiple public roads that provide access to the sanctuary. Please ensure that you are aware of how you can help protect this sanctuary and please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, which are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 51°22' N, 105°16' W
Size in hectares (ha) 4736 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1917
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV – Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations
Main habitat type Open water and marsh (68%), native grassland (30%), cultivated land (1%) and park (1%)
Key bird species Sandhill crane, double-crested cormorant, ring-billed gull, California gull, common tern and American white pelican
Other species Birds: Whooping crane, snow goose, Ross's goose, Canada goose, piping plover, Forster's tern, horned grebe, eared grebe, pied-billed grebe, western grebe, black-crowned night-heron, sharp-tailed grouse and gray partridge
Mammals: Red Fox, Badger, Coyote, White-tailed Jackrabbit and White-tailed Deer
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Piping plover (circumcinctus subspecies) and whooping crane (grus americana)
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service
Landowners Province of Saskatchewan, Canadian Wildlife Service and private

Related links

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas – Prairie Region
115 Perimeter Road
Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X4

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email:ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

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