Flathead BioBlitz Reveals “Scientifically Significant” Findings


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE        June 21, 2013

Fernie, B.C. – The discovery of a brand new spider species, the first Canadian record of a rare spider, and the first B.C. sighting in 100 years of a Herrington’s Fingernail Clam are some of the significant science findings from the first Flathead BioBlitz, according to data released today.

The August 2012 BioBlitz was conducted by 10 scientists, including six from the Royal B.C. Museum, and focused on documenting a stunning variety of rare, at-risk and extensive invertebrates from clams to butterflies to spiders. The second Flathead River Valley BioBlitz kicks off this Friday with a team of 20 biologists who will spend a week traipsing through the spectacular river, valley and surrounding Rocky Mountains to document bird and fish species.

“The BioBlitz results prove that B.C.’s Flathead has remarkable biodiversity not just in mammals and plants but also in a stunning variety of smaller organisms that are essential for a healthy ecosystem,” said Wildsight Executive Director John Bergenske.

“Scientists did not find a single introduced species of spider or mollusc, which is very unusual,” said Peter Wood, Terrestrial Campaigns Director for CPAWS BC. “They found 71 spider species, and 14 of these findings are considered scientifically significant.”

Although the 2012 expedition did not set out to document birds, BioBlitz scientists recorded nine species of Flathead birds that are either classified as rare regionally or as “declining and rare” on the American Bird Conservancy watch list. These included the Trumpeter Swan, Calliope Hummingbird and Short-eared Owl, as well as the red-listed Prairie Falcon and blue-listed Olive-sided Flycatcher.

“We didn’t expect to see some of these birds in the Flathead and decided to zoom in for a closer look this year with a bigger team,” said Sarah Cox, Interim Executive Director of Sierra Club BC. “Ornithologists and birders will be awaking at first light to spread out in the valley and mountains so we can get an accurate picture of which rare and at-risk bird species call the Flathead home.”

The 2012 BioBlitz also recorded several rare butterfly species, including the Gillettes Checkerspot, which is red-listed in B.C., and the blue-listed Bronze Copper. Another 2012 BioBlitz find was the Rocky Mountain Sculpin, an unusual fish species with tiny teeth, found only in the Flathead in B.C. 

Mining and energy development have been banned in B.C.’s Flathead River Valley due to its ecological significance, but the valley is still open for logging.

Wildsight, Sierra Club BC, CPAWS BC, and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative are working to protect the Flathead permanently with a National Park in the southeastern one-third of the valley, to fill in the missing piece of the adjacent Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The groups are also calling for a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the Flathead and adjoining habitat.

-30-

Contact:
John Bergenske, Wildsight: c. (250) 489-9605
Sarah Cox, Sierra Club BC: c. (250) 812-1762
Peter Wood, CPAWS BC: c. (604) 761-3075