Old Wives Lake migratory bird sanctuary

Photo of Old Wives Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Photo: © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Old Wives Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Old Wives Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is situated 35 km southwest of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The MBS was created on March 9, 1925, and the single permanent island in the lake is protected as a Game Preserve by the Province of Saskatchewan.

The MBS is located in the Mixed Grass ecoregion of Saskatchewan. Old Wives Lake is the terminal water body of a large, closed-basin watershed. Without an outlet stream, the lake concentrates salts over time, and the current salinity is too high to support fish or many submergent aquatic plants. Wave action along the 70 km of shoreline permits the formation of gravelly-sandy beaches, but prevents establishment of much emergent vegetation. Water-level fluctuations cause extensive salty mud flats to form during drought years, and the entire lake basin may dry completely following prolonged drought. One permanent island, the Isle of Bays, is dominated by salt-tolerant herbaceous plants such as Salt Grass, Slender Wheatgrass and Red Samphire. Adjacent uplands are mostly native mixed-grass prairie, with little annual cropland near the shore.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Old Wives Lake MBS is recognized as important bird area by Bird Life Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act, the MBS protects critical habitat for the piping plover, a threatened species. It is also a importance site of hemispheric as the Reserve Network shorebirds in the Western Hemisphere.

In addition to supporting a large portion of the Great Plains Piping Plover population, a variety of other shorebirds use the MBS. Common breeding species or concentrations observed during spring and fall migration are American Avocet, Killdeer, Marbled Godwit, Sanderling, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet and Wilson's Phalarope. The lake is also an important breeding and moulting area for Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Duck, as well as small numbers of Canada Geese. During spring and fall staging, large concentrations of ducks and smaller numbers of Canada, White-fronted and Snow Geese, and Tundra Swans can be observed. Because of its isolation, the Isle of Bays provides protected nesting habitat for the American White Pelican, Black-crowned Night and Great Blue Herons, Double-crested Cormorant, Western Grebe, California and Ring-billed Gulls, and the Common Tern.

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.

Public access to Old Wives MBS is at the discretion of the surrounding private landowners. There are limited municipal road access points. The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to this site: 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..

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 protected areas managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada in Quebec, 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 Old Wives Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description for the Map

Map showing the location of Old Wives Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Saskatchewan, Bishopric, Old Wives, Sand Bar Island, Ilse of Bays and Old Wives Lake. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers Old Wives Lake and the islands within it. The scale of the map is in kilometers.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Old Wives Lake 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 Old Wives Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 50°06' N, 106°00' W
Size in hectares (ha) 32 391 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1925
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV - Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations
Main habitat type Open water and mud flats (96%), marsh (3%), rock/sand islands (1%)
Key bird species Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Tundra Swan, American White Pelican, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Western Grebe, California Gull, Ring-billed Gull and Common Tern
Other species Birds: American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Killdeer, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson's Phalarope, Wilson's Snipe, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Hudsonian Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Sanderling, Red-necked Phalarope, Short-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbird and Yellow-headed Blackbird
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Piping Plover, Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) and Red Knot
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region
Landowner Province of Saskatchewan

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
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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