Meanook National Wildlife Area

Meanook National Wildlife Area (NWA) is situated within the Athabasca River basin 17 kilometers (km) southwest of the Town of Athabasca, in the transition zone between the boreal forest and aspen parkland.


The NWA is a mosaic of natural forest and cultivated land. Ten permanent buildings and a number of temporary facilities are used as a biological research station. A number of previously cultivated areas are also in various stages of natural recovery. Meanook NWA protects an area of representative native mixed forest habitat in an agricultural area. The NWA provides habitat for typical boreal songbird species such as:

  • black-capped chickadee
  • red-breasted nuthatch
  • hermit thrush
  • red-winged blackbird
  • American redstart

Other birds, small and large mammals frequently found within the NWA are:

  • hawks
  • grouse
  • red squirrel
  • snowshoe hare
  • coyote
  • deer
  • black bear
  • moose
Great grey owl
Great grey owl. Photo: Todd Kemper

The NWA is crossed by a perennial intermittent stream from north to south. The stream terminates in a large man-made dugout originally constructed as a water source for fire fighting. Several very small natural wetlands are also located within the boundaries of the NWA. Much of the uplands are covered by natural forest in various successional stages, typically dominated by:

  • aspen
  • balsam poplar
  • white birch with various understory composition

The remainder of the upland area is covered by agricultural and/or forage crops or previously cultivated land that has been allowed to revert to natural cover. The area surrounding the NWA has been extensively altered and converted to forage and cereal crop production during the last century.

Black bear
Black bear

More information on Meanook NWA is provided in the summary table below.


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 their 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 are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through public notice or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Meanook NWA is passively managed to maintain the area's natural habitats along with the wildlife they support, and as a focal point for research and public education. The University of Alberta operates the Meanook Biological Research Station and oversees the upkeep and management of the building and lands. The goal is to maintain the native plant communities in as close to a natural state as possible. Under a 49 year License of Occupation granted by the Canadian Wildlife Service in 1983.

For Meanook NWA, some activities may be permitted in accordance with the conservation objectives of the NWA management plan, including limited haying and cereal crop production. Public notices listing the authorized activities within the wildlife area are posted at access points. The university may restrict public access as required to manage the area as a research station. Harvesting of fish, wildlife or plant resources is not permitted except under permit and as specified within the NWA management plan.

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

Map of the area

Map of Meanook NWA
  • Long description

    Map showing an area in central Alberta. The boundaries of Meanook NWA are indicated. The wildlife area is situated to the west of Highway 2, to the southwest of Long Lake and to the east of Prince Creek. The scale on the map is in km. Permanent water, intermittent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small inset national map situates the NWA in Canada.

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

Summary table

Protected Area designation NWA
Province/Territory Alberta
Latitude/Longitude 54°35' North / 113°21' West
Size 214 ha
Reason for creation of protected area To protect and conserve representative native mixed-wood forest and associated wildlife
Date created (Gazetted) 1979 – Legal Description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Habitat/Species Management Area – (IV)
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Primarily forest and cultivated land. Some limited riparian features and shrub/wetland habitats.
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None recorded
Invasive species
  • European starling
  • common tansy
  • perennial sow-thistle
  • Canada thistle
  • oxeye daisy
  • smooth brome
Additional links



Main threats and challenges
  • Invasive and non-native species
  • Limited size and adjacent land use may prejudice natural processes related to wildlife
Management agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage The University of Alberta operates the Meanook Biological Research station that hosts public education events. Limited haying and cereal crop production are permitted through the University for research purposes.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship Unit
Eastgate Offices
9250 - 49th Street NW
Edmonton, Alberta
T6B 1K5

Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

Related link

Meanook NWA on Google maps (Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name)

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