Safety and Ethics in the Field | Carolinian Canada

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Safety and Ethics in the Field

Preparation, common sense, awareness of your surroundings, and a healthy dose of respect for residents, both human and animal, will prepare you for a day in the field. The following is adapted from the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas Survey Guideline (produced by Ontario Nature) and A Guide to Responsible Rural Birding (produced by The Couchiching Conservancy) and provides an excellent overview of rules to abide by while out searching for species.

Safety – preparedness in the field

  • Make sure you let someone know where you are going before heading out in the field.
  • If you will be in remote areas, or expect to be off-road for much of the time, consider taking a friend as an added safety measure.
  • Always take a compass or GPS unit with you to avoid getting lost and familiarize yourself with the area ahead of time using topographic maps or Google Earth. Most smartphones now come equipped with a maps function.
  • Both West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease are established in Ontario and transmissible by biting insects. Protect yourself by using insect repellent when outdoors, wearing light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and tucking in clothes. See the latest recommendations and safety information from Health Canada here.  
  • Ensure that you take any other safety equipment you may need, such as a whistle, and first aid kit.

Respect property rights and local landowners

  • Be aware of property boundaries. Private property indicators in rural areas include fences, red circles, and no trespassing signs: entrance at any time without permission is not allowed.
  • If you want to survey private property, make sure you obtain prior permission from the landowner. Landowners will need to register and submit a Landowner Consent Form (see form in Appendix 4) before you can enter the property for the purposes of this project.
  • Avoid climbing on fences and gates that can be easily damaged.
  • When surveying in areas where livestock is pastured, ensure you watch from a safe distance. Do not antagonize or spook the cattle, which creates problems for the ranchers.
  • Respect the rules and permitted activities of the areas you are surveying. For example, many provincial parks, national parks or other privately owned reserves ask that you not venture off certain trails to avoid trampling habitat.
  • Be courteous when surveying from the road. Park your vehicle safely off the side of the road and conduct all activities safely from the roadside so that local traffic can pass freely. Never block gateways or driveways. Use the provided Vehicle Sign (Appendix 8) to let others know why you are there.

Respect the welfare of the animals and their habitats

  • Wildlife should not be harassed or captured during surveys. Handling these species can cause stress or injury to the animals, and it is illegal to harm, harass, capture or kill Species at Risk under the provincial Endangered Species Act, the federal Species at Risk Act and the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
  • Take any waste you create back out with you.
  • When identifying or photographing an individual, ensure that you do not cause unnecessary stress to the animal by getting too close or lingering for too long.
  • Take all precautions necessary to avoid damage to the habitat of the species you are searching for. Never trample sensitive areas, remove vegetation or alter habitat in any way during surveys. Stay on trails and roads where they exist. It is illegal to damage or destroy habitat of threatened and endangered species.
  • Never make the locations of rare species publicly available. Poaching is a serious threat to many species of reptiles in Ontario. Rare birds are most sought after by birders and an influx of people may disturb the bird, people or other species in the area or damage habitat. Detailed location information should only be reported to the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre, Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, or other recognized conservation programs and appropriate government agencies, such as the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment Canada or Parks Canada. (Details in Section 8.0 Where to Submit Sightings).
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