Big Glace Bay Lake National Wildlife Area

Big Glace Bay Lake National Wildlife Area (NWA) is located on the northeastern coast of Nova Scotia. It offers habitat for migrating and breeding waterfowl and shorebirds, such as the American black duck and piping plover.

Description

Located southeast of the town of Glace Bay in Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia, Big Glace Bay Lake NWA provides safe fall migration habitat for several key bird species. The most abundant of these are the American black duck and Canada goose. On an average winter day, as a portion of the water usually remains unfrozen, several hundred American black duck and Canada geese can be spotted within the NWA along with dozens of common goldeneye and bufflehead.

Within the NWA, several pairs of piping plover are known to nest on the barrier beach. This is of note, as this species is endangered and protected under the federal Species at Risk Act. Several pairs of common tern and willet also nest in the NWA. These birds prefer to nest in the salt marshes where the terns make their nests in the hummocks within the marsh and the willets along the edges of the marsh. Common tern also nest at the high-water mark and adjacent to the marram grass dune at the northern tip of the barrier beach.

Piping plover on a beach
Piping plover

The body of water known as Big Glace Bay Lake is actually a barrier-beach pond. This type of pond forms next to a large body of water and is therefore in constant flux. In this case, the “lake” is located next to the Atlantic Ocean and is influenced by daily tidal fluctuations. A 1.5 kilometre-long sand and gravel beach separates the ocean from the salt marsh and intertidal flats. As it is protected from the larger body of water by the beach, the water in this site is a combination of brackish (a mixture of salt and fresh water) and saline, and it supports beds of eelgrass. This combination makes it particularly attractive to migrating waterfowl.

Landscape of Big Glace Bay Lake
Big Glace Bay Lake NWA. Photo: Garry Donaldson

During the process of creating an NWA at this site, ECCC acquired two additional parcels of land to ensure a conservation buffer exists at the western end of Big Glace Bay Lake. The eastern side of the NWA is vegetated with coastal coniferous and deciduous tree species such as red spruce, red maple, white birch and beech.

Find more information on Big Glace Bay Lake NWA in the summary table below

Management

Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities in these NWAs are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWA Management and Activities section.

Any authorized activities are listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations; signage is also posted at access points.

Authorized activities listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations for Big Glace Bay Lake NWA:

  1. wildlife viewing
  2. hiking
  3. swimming
  4. non-commercial picking of edible plants and edible mushrooms
  5. boat launching and boat landing in the waters of Big Glace Bay Lake at the terminus of the Lake Road (46°10′17.0″N, 59°57′0.0″W)
  6. motorized boating, with a motor of less than 10 horsepower
  7. non-motorized boating
  8. cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
  9. sport fishing in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of Nova Scotia for sport fishing in that province, during the periods authorized by those laws
  10. activities referred to in items 1 to 9 from sunset to sunrise, in addition to during the period referred to in subsection 3.1(3) of the regulations

More information on access and permitting for Big Glace Bay Lake NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the area

Map - See long description below
Map of Big Glace Bay Lake NWA
Long description

Map showing the locations of Big Glace Bay Lake National Wildlife Area (NWA) and Big Glace Bay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Nova Scotia, Glace Bay Town, Big Glace Bay, Big Glace Bay Lake and Cabot Strait. The map shows the boundaries of the NWA and MBS, which contains most of Big Glace Bay Lake and a parcel of surrounding land. The NWA and MBS are located north of Highway 255. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters, intertidal waters, roads and highways are shown on the map. An inset on the map shows the location of the NWA in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only. It should not be used to define legal boundaries.

Summary table

Summary table of Big Glace Bay Lake National Wildlife Area
Category Information
Protected Area designation National Wildlife Area
Province or territory Nova Scotia
Latitude/longitude 46°10' N, 59°56' W
Size 392 ha
Reason for creation of protected area The creation and effective management of National Wildlife Areas serve to protect and conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. The Big Glace Bay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary provides protection for migratory birds and their habitat within the Sanctuary. The designation of the Big Glace Bay Lake NWA extends greater protection to all wildlife species and their habitat within an expanded protected area.
Date created (Gazetted) 2022 – Legal Description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV - Habitat / Species Management Area
Additional designations Part of Big Glace Bay Lake Important Bird Area (IBA)
Part of Big Glace Bay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Keystone or flagship species
Main habitat type
  • gravel beach (5%)
  • mixed woodland (23%)
  • salt marsh (5%)
  • shallow coastal water and eelgrass flats (67%)
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Piping plover
Invasive species N/A
Main threats and challenges
  • sea level rise
  • unauthorized vehicle traffic on beach and dune
  • dogs (pets) off leash
Management agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Landowners Environment and Climate Change Canada
Public access and usage Authorized activities listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations for Big Glace Bay Lake NWA:

  1. wildlife viewing
  2. hiking
  3. swimming
  4. non-commercial picking of edible plants and edible mushrooms
  5. boat launching and boat landing in the waters of Big Glace Bay Lake at the terminus of the Lake Road (46°10′17.0″N, 59°57′0.0″W)
  6. motorized boating, with a motor of less than 10 horsepower
  7. non-motorized boating
  8. cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
  9. sport fishing in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of Nova Scotia for sport fishing in that province, during the periods authorized by those laws
  10. activities referred to in items 1 to 9 from sunset to sunrise, in addition to during the period referred to in subsection 3.1(3) of the Regualtions

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page, any notice posted at the NWA site and the law, the law prevails.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Atlantic Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Program
17 Waterfowl Lane
Sackville, New Brunswick
E4L 1G6

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

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