Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Canada Geese in flight
Photo: © Canada Geese in flight.

Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located within the town limits of Vanderhoof, 97 km west of Prince George, British Columbia. The sanctuary is located in the bed of the Nechako River in central British Columbia. Typical trees in the area are aspen, lodgepole pine and Douglas fir. Understory in the open forests is made up of willows and buffalo-berry. Fires are responsible for maintaining open grasslands common in the area, while islands within the sanctuary are shaped by yearly changes in riverflows. Heavy flows and heavy ice cover tend to scrape some bars free of vegetation; other bars of higher elevation are vegetated by willows and alder. Stable islands grow up in forests of aspen, cottonwood and white spruce. There is no marsh development within the sanctuary, but marshy vegetation of sedges occurs in the wet perimeter of the islands, and water-crowfoot, water-milfoil and pondweed occur in shallow backwaters.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The islands of Nechako River near Vanderhoof, British Columbia, have traditionally attracted very large numbers of spring-migrating Canada Geese. The birds use the area for resting and ingesting gravel (to help with digestion) before moving onto their breeding grounds. An estimated 50 000 to 75 000 geese migrate in the spring through the Okanagan Valley toward Williams Lake. Upwards of 20 000 Canada Geese were observed in the sanctuary in the late 1960s. Numbers steadily declined over the following 10 years, but partially built up again in the late 1970s.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to Nechako River MBS: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large.

Access prohibitions or restrictions by the MBS landowners (Province of British Columbia and private) may also apply.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on Environment and Climate Change Canada's protected areas, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

  • Map of Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description for the Map

Map showing the location of Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to British Columbia, Vanderhoof and the Nechako River. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers a portion of the Nechako River as well as the islands within and small portions of adjacent land. The scale of the map is in hundreds of meters.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Nechako River MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary Table

Summary Table for the Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory British Columbia
Latitude/longitude 54°01' N, 124°02' W
Size in hectares (ha) 183 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1944
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category N/A
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Open river (65%), shallow backwaters (20%), islands with riparian shrubs (15%), gravel-silt bars (~1%)
Key bird species Canada Goose
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific and Yukon Region
Landowners Province of British Columbia and private

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Pacific and Yukon Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
5421 Robertson Road
Delta BC V4K 3N2
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
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