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Drones reported to be disturbing bird sanctuary

Shuswap naturalists would like city to put up signs to keep osprey, grebes safe
Salmon Arm Bay foreshore. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

Drones and birds at the foreshore don’t mix, according to local naturalists.

Members of the Shuswap Naturalist Club and the Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society wrote to city council to ask that signs be put up to protect birds in the area.

“Incidents have been reported to us at both Peter Jannink Park and the wharf where wildlife, including Western Grebes and ospreys, were being disturbed. In one case a drone was hovering over the osprey nest at the wharf, greatly distressing the osprey in the nest,” wrote Ed McDonald, president of the Shuswap Naturalist Club, and Janet Aitken, president of SABNES, along with director Sarah Weaver.

They said Salmon Arm Bay has been deemed one of the best birding areas in the Interior of B.C.

Read more: A bird’s eye view of Salmon Arm

“The bay is the last remaining nesting site in B.C. for Western Grebes and is the largest nesting site in the province for Ring-billed Gulls. The mudflats on the marsh is the prime stopover for shorebirds that have nested in the Arctic and are on their journey to South America. Songbirds that nest in the marsh include swallows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Red-eyed Vireos and Willow Flycatchers. We believe it is essential to do whatever we can to protect these species.”

They asked that the city erect signs prohibiting the use of drones at the entrance to Peter Jannink Park, at the wharf area and at the start of the bird sanctuary path.

Read more: Osprey dive bombs geese nesting

Coun. Tim Lavery noted it’s a multi-jurisdictional issue and is not clear whose jurisdiction regulating drones at the foreshore is, but he suggested the city put up signs.

Rob Niewenhuizen, director of public works and engineering, said the city has placed signage around the airport, but that’s all it is required to do. He noted commercial drones have to file a flight plan with the airport.

He said the city doesn’t have a budget for more signage, but perhaps it could work cooperatively with SABNES, or SABNES could fundraise.

Read more: The dance of the Western grebe

Mayor Alan Harrison suggested council hold off for one meeting in order to get a cost on signage as well as finding which legislation is involved.

Lavery noted that the deadline for sending resolutions to SILGA, the Southern Interior Local Government Association, is March 1. A resolution was then drafted to send, asking that the federal and provincial governments collaborate to provide clarity and options for local governments in restricting the use of drones in local sensitive ecological areas.

If the resolution is endorsed at SILGA, it will be forwarded to the UBCM, the Union of BC Municipalities, for the fall convention.


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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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