Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Photo of Snowy Owl
Photo: Tom Middleton © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Snowy Owl.

Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is situated 60 km southwest of Biggar, Saskatchewan. This MBS was one of two established on January 23, 1952, to replace the Quill Lakes MBS, which was abolished the same year. The sanctuary is located in the Moist Mixed Grass ecoregion of Saskatchewan. Opuntia Lake is a shallow, saline lake in a deep and broad glacial meltwater channel, with Eagle Creek as the inlet and outlet stream. Although a berm and check dam were installed at the downstream end, water levels still fluctuate considerably and largely depend on spring runoff and seasonal rains. Extensive mud flats form during the progressive water-level decline in the summer, and blue-green algae blooms sometimes occur in the turbid water. Emergent vegetation of bulrushes and sedges occur in scattered patches along the shoreline, and are most common near the inlet and outlet of the lake. Submergent vegetation consists of pondweeds in the deep water and water milfoil in the shallow water. Uplands surrounding the lake are native grasslands along the meltwater channel slopes, all of which are grazed by livestock.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Opuntia Lake MBS is important as a fall staging area for waterfowl in a region susceptible to severe droughts. The lake is a strategic fall staging area along a major flyway for geese and other waterfowl. Estimated maximum fall concentrations include 15 000 to 20 000 geese (Canada, White-fronted, Snow and Ross's Geese), up to 30 000 ducks (mainly Mallard, Northern Pintail and assorted diving ducks), 2 000 Sandhill Cranes and 500 Tundra Swans. The lake also supports a small number of breeding and moulting dabblers and divers, shorebirds, and other water birds.

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 Opuntia Lake MBS is at the discretion of the surrounding private landowners. 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 Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary realtive to Saskatchewan, Ava, Plenty and Opuntia Lake. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers Opuntia Lake. The scale of the map is in kilometers.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Opuntia 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 Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 51°48' N, 108°35' W
Size in hectares (ha) 1391 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1952
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV - Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Open water and mud flats (95%), marsh/sedge meadow (5%)
Key bird species Canada Goose, White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Ross's Gull, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Sandhill Crane and Tundra Swan
Other species Birds: Spotted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, American Avocet, Piping Plover, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Wilson's Phalarope, Long-billed Curlew, Franklin's Gull, Red-winged Blackbird, Ring-billed Gull and Eared Grebe
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Piping Plover (circumcinctus subspecies), Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)
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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