IBA Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area
Imperial, Saskatchewan
Site Summary
SK001 Latitude
51.371° N
105.230° W
494 - 503 m
319.30 km²
scrub/shrub, native grassland, mud or sand flats (saline), inland saline lake, freshwater marsh, arable & cultivated lands, perennial crops/orchards, improved pastureland
Land Use:
Agriculture, Nature conservation and research, Hunting, Rangeland/pastureland, Tourism/recreation
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Introduced species, Recreation/tourism
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Threatened Species, Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations, Wading Bird Concentrations, Migratory Landbird Concentrations, Nationally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status: Bird Observatory, IBA Conservation Plan written/being written, Migratory Bird Sanctuary (federal), National Historic Site, National Wildlife Area (federal), Ramsar Site (Wetland of International Significance), Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
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Site Description
Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area is located in east-central Saskatchewan, about 120 km southeast of Saskatchewan. The National Wildlife Area (NWA) includes the northern end of Last Mountain Lake, which is characterized by several shallow bays or “fingers”. Portions of the fingers have been dammed forming several basins. The NWA includes 15,502 ha of lake, marsh, and upland at the north end of the lake. About 54% of the total area is native grasslands, and initiatives are underway to restore more area. Fire and grazing are used to keep existing grassland areas free of shrubs and exotic grasses.
The NWA is a major staging area for several species of waterbirds. As many as 30,000 - 40,000 Sandhill Cranes are regularly reported during fall migration. This may represent as much as 6.1 of the global population and 9% of the mid-continent Sandhill Crane population. Large numbers of geese are also present during spring and fall migration, including over 300,000 Snow Geese and over 25,000 Greater White-fronted Geese. Stilt Sandpipers have been seen in globally significant numbers, with 2,669 being seen in 1984 (2.7% of the global population). Marbled Godwits have been recorded in nationally significant numbers, with 657 (6.5% of the Canadian population) seen in 1984. Also, over 1% of the Canadian population of American Avocets has been present during spring migration.

Several species of colonial birds nest within the NWA including nationally significant numbers of Forster's Terns, and large numbers of American White Pelicans (804 birds), Double-crested Cormorants (2,854 birds), Black Terns (greater than 50 pairs) and Black-crowned Night Herons (greater than 50 pairs).

The northern end of Last Mountain Lake is one of the few areas in Saskatchewan where the globally endangered Whooping Crane occurs on an annual basis as a migrant. Most Whooping Cranes that occur here are early migrant singles or pairs rather than the late migrating family groups that occur elsewhere. Other threatened species that occur here in low numbers include Ferruginous Hawk (one regularly nesting pair), Peregrine Falcon (fairly common migrant), Piping Plover (variable numbers - zero to a few nesting pairs), Caspian Tern (occasional nestings of a pair), Burrowing Owl (former nester, now locally extirpated) and Loggerhead Shrike (a few breeding pairs) Last Mountain Lake Bird Observatory has undertaken intensive landbird migration monitoring on the east side of the lake since 1990. On average, 3,400 birds of 76 species are banded annually. The total number of birds moving through the area is much, much higher since banding occurs in only a small section. The five most abundant species banded are: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Clay-coloured Sparrow, Alder Flycatcher, and Least Flycatcher. The majority of the migrating songbirds are neotropical migrants.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
American White Pelican 2015 SP 1,925 - 2,000
American White Pelican 2017 SU 3,500
Greater White-fronted Goose 1990 FA 25,000
Rusty Blackbird 2005 - 2006 FA 25 - 50
Sandhill Crane 1990 - 2008 FA 5,000 - 35,000
Sandhill Crane 1995 WI 75,000
Snow Goose 1997 - 2012 FA 300,000 - 1,000,000
Sprague's Pipit 2007 SP 29
Waterbirds 1990 FA 450,000
Waterbirds 1990 SP 450,000
Whooping Crane 1991 - 2014 FA 1 - 5
Whooping Crane 1991 - 2018 SP 2 - 4
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
In 1887, Last Mountain Lake was designated as Canada's first federal bird sanctuary under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. The area was officially designated as a NWA in 1987 and is protected under Migratory Bird Sanctuary and NWA regulations.

Last Mountain Lake has also been recognized as a key site under the International Biological Program; a Ramsar site; a National Historic Site; and as a proposed Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve. A Draft Resource Management Plan for the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area and Migratory Bird Sanctuary was released by Environment Canada in January 1994.

The primary threats to the area include: disturbance from increased public use (particularly boating); agricultural runoff (pesticides and fertilizers); and exotic plant species (smooth brome, toadflax, and nodding thistle).

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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