Environmental Focus

Aquatic Invasives

Aquatic Invasives and Pests

As the weather begins to warm up and the snow begins to melt, it is easy to get excited about summer. One important thing to remember this year is to clean your watercraft and fishing waders! This will help stop the spread of invasive seeds but also invasive aquatics. The Crownsest Pass is at the top of the Oldman Watershed; the Crowsnest River joins the Oldman River, Saskatchewan River before making its way out to Hudson’s Bay. The control efforts we put in here will affect everyone downstream of us. It is important to clean and inspect all watercraft including kayaks, paddleboards, trailers, and gear. Ensure all mud and plants have been cleaned off equipment by scrubbing, rinsing or pressure washing and ensure you are away from storm drains, ditches, and waterways. It is best practice to dry your gear out before using it in another waterbody.

 In Alberta, moss balls have been sold in pet and gardens store but unfortunately been found to have zebra mussels in them. If you have purchased a moss ball since January 1, 2021, please dispose of it following provincial guidelines.

Flowering Rush

Insect Invasives

Insect Invasives

Grasshoppers: Grasshopper Management.pmd (gov.ab.ca)

Mountain Pine Beetle is a bark beetle species that is native to North America although is spreading beyond its native range as it attacks and kills mature trees. These beetles bore through the bark and mine the soft layer between the bark and wood of the tree leaving behind horizontal galleries and introducing blue-stain fungi. It lays eggs and once they hatch into larvae, they consume the soft layer called phloem. With the combination of blue-stain fungi and consumption of phloem, pine trees can die within one month. The Mountain Pine Beetle is the most aggressive and destructive bark beetle in Western Canada. It is about 5 mm, dark black to brown and cylindrically shaped with a hard exoskeleton. It attacks a wide range of pine trees including western white, limber, jacks, ponderosa, and Alberta’s provincial tree lodgepole pine. If you believe you have an infected tree on your property, please report and contact the Environmental Services Department.

Terrestrial Invasives

What are Annual Plants? Annual plants complete their life cycle in one year meaning they go from germination, to flowering stalk to seed all in on year. There are two types of annuals: winter and summer annual. Winter annuals live their life cycle throughout the winter; germinating in the fall, wintering over as a rosette then produce seed in the spring. They die back in late spring/ early summer completing their life cycle before summer. Good examples of this are Downy brome and Jointed goatgrass. Summer annuals, like Himalayan balsam, germinate in the spring and complete its life cycle by the end of the summer. The recommended time to control winter annuals is in the fall from mid-October to freeze up. Winter annuals can be controlled in the spring as well, but it is best to do early before these plants begin actively growing and green- up.

What are biennial plants? Biennial plants live for two growing seasons. Their first year they produce a basal rosette and then in the second year they grow into a flowering stalk producing seeds. These biennials die back in the fall and do not return the following year. A basal rosette is a circle of leaves that lay close to the ground and radiate from the center point, typically the taproot. The fall is a great time to control these biennial plants while they are in the rosette stage.

What are Perennial Plants? Perennials are plants that live more than three years and continue to come back year after. Some perennials can have substantial life spans, a good example of this is trees. Perennials typically have vegetative reproduction structures that enable them to reproduce without seeds. These can include stolons, rhizomes, bulbs, or tubers. There are two types of perennial plants: simple and creeping perennials. Simple perennials grow as individual plants and have tap roots. They may regenerate after being cut or injured but typically reproduce by seed. The creeping rooted perennials have many horizontal creeping stems such as rhizomes, and stolons that radiate out from the parent plant allowing it to generate tubers and/or new plant shoots.

For more information on specific weeds please see Weed Wednesday page.

Vertebrate Invasives and Pests

Vertebrate Invasives and Pests

Skunks: Biology and Control of Skunks (Agdex 684-5) (gov.ab.ca)
Porcupines: Porcupine Damage.pmd (gov.ab.ca)
How to Differentiate Rats : 4803 (crowsnestpass.com)
Norway Rat Sketch: 4802 (crowsnestpass.com)
Mice: Mice and Their Control.pmd (gov.ab.ca)
How to Protect Livestock with Electric Fences: Protecting Livestock.pmd (gov.ab.ca)

Ground Squirrels – Columbian ground squirrels are the most common ground squirrel species you will find here in the Crowsnest Pass. These squirrels can be found in eastern British Columbia and Western Alberta and some northwestern states. It is the second largest member of the genus Urocitellus (Ground Squirrels). You can identify these ground squirrels by their reddish-tan fur on the face, chest, legs, and belly underside. It has white around the eyes and has a reddish- black tail and prefers living in alpine meadows, dry grasslands, bushy areas, and ballparks! They have a gestation period of 24 days, weigh about 470 g or 1 lbs and hibernates approximately 7-8 months of the year. So why has this squirrel found themselves on the nuisance list in Alberta? Columbian Ground Squirrels damage garden plants, building foundations, fences and create tripping hazards from their burrows. Ground squirrels carry fleas, ticks and mites which carry diseases harmful to humans and other animals such as Lyme disease, encephalitis, rocky mountain spotted fever and can serve as reservoirs for sylvatic(bubonic) plague in areas that are infected. Please note these transmissions are very rare but remains important to report large infestations and or ground squirrels burrowing close to homes and buildings.

Control of Pocket Gophers and Ground Squirrels: Pocket Gophers - Ground Squirrels.indd (gov.ab.ca)

Richardson Ground Squirrel Control: 684-2.pdf (gov.ab.ca)

Wild Boars are ‘at large’ when not being raised as livestock and has made its way onto the provincially regulated pest list as an invasive species. Wild boar at large is one of the most damaging invasive species causing damage to property, agricultural crops, pastures are vectors for disease that endanger people, livestock, and wildlife. Wild boars were introduced into Alberta in the 1980-90’s as livestock and they have escaped their enclosures and now thrive as feral species. Wild boar do not only destroy agricultural crops, but also predate on newborn cattle, poultry and goats. The threat of disease transfer to livestock, humans and wildlife are serious and could cause a huge economic loss for Alberta’s agriculture industry. Wild boar are carriers of hand foot and mouth disease and would cause immediate shut down of Alberta’s pork and beef exports costing $65 billion dollars nationwide.

A bounty was offered in Alberta if a pair of ears were turned in though hunting is no longer deemed an effective control option and may have exacerbated the issue. Wild boars are quick learners and pass this information on to their offspring. There are no reported sightings in the Crowsnest Pass or even southern Alberta, however, it is important to raise awareness, so everyone knows the signs.

Learning to recognize the signs and activity of wild boar will be extremely beneficial to help you report sightings of wild boar at large. Some signs to watch out for is rooting in meadows or pastures, droppings, crop damage, wallowing, and the tracks are large, rounder than deer tracks. Wild boars are square shaped with drooping bellies, their shoulders stand above their rears and legs are thick to their feet.  We are asking for everyone’s help to report any observations or sightings throughout the province by calling 310-FARM or by contacting the Environmental Services Department.

Report Wild Boar Sighting: Report wild boar | Alberta.ca


What is the Weed Control Act?

The Weed Control Act was established in 1907 making it one of Alberta’s oldest pieces of legislation. The Weed Control Act was developed to manage invasive weed species and protect Alberta’s native vegetation and agricultural crops. Invasive species present significant risk not only ecologically, but socially and economically. The Weed Control Act defines weeds in two categories: Noxious and Prohibited Noxious.

Noxious weeds are generally found throughout the province and have negative effects on the ecosystems and Alberta’s agriculture. It is the responsibility of the property owner or occupier to control and prevent further spread of these noxious weeds. To control, means to inhibit the growth or spread, and/or destroy.

Prohibited noxious weeds are only found in small numbers in Alberta or not found at all. Early detection and rapid response help prevent these weeds from becoming established in the province. It is the responsibility of the landowner or occupier to destroy these weeds. To destroy, means to kill all growing parts of the weed and to render the reproductive mechanisms of the weed non-viable.

There are 75 regulated weeds in the province of Alberta, 46 of which are prohibited noxious and 29 are noxious. For a full list of these regulated weeds, you can find them in the Weed Control Regulation, or by visiting Provincially regulated weeds | Alberta.ca.

What is the Soil Conservation Act? The Soil Conservation Act was developed to help fight against soil erosion by encouraging sound soil conservation practices, preserve Alberta’s agricultural land resources and ensure productivity in the farming sector long-term. In the 1930’s, ‘black blizzards’ were created from high velocity winds, for this reason, this era became known as the ‘dirty thirties’. These dust storms affected the American and Canadian prairies by blowing away much of the topsoil damaging the agriculture, ecology, and economy. In south-eastern Alberta, more than 10,000 farmsteads were abandoned. This wind erosion initiated the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act and The Control of Soil Drifting Act in 1935, which was replaced by The Soil Conservation Act in 1962. Many of the soil conservation practices and procedures such as grass cover, extending crop rotations, shelterbelts, and construction of dams and dugouts are still used today.

To learn more about the Soil Conservation Act and Soil Compaction Causes and Management please call the Environmental Services Department or visit the links below : Manual (gov.ab.ca)/ 510-1.pdf (gov.ab.ca)

What is the Pest Control Act?

The Pest Control Act refers to any animals, insects, birds, or disease that can destroy or harm livestock, land, or property in Alberta and enables the Minister’s authority to declare them as pests. Big game, game birds, endangered animals and birds of prey are not included in the Pest Control Act to ensure no conflict with the Wildlife Act. There are two categories that the Pest Act refers to: Pest Species and Nuisance Species.

Some pest species include grasshoppers, bacterial ring rot, rabies, Dutch elm disease and any rat species or strains derived from genus Rattus. Wild boars are also considered to be pests where they are at large in Alberta. Nuisance species include coyotes, house mouse, skunks, and Columbian ground squirrels. A horse can be declared as a nuisance in Alberta where it is at large within the seven wildlife management units. To see a full list of these wildlife management units, please refer to the Wildlife Regulation.

Alberta has had the Rat Program since 1950 and has rat-free status meaning there is no resident population within the province. If you see a rat, note location, and safely take a picture and send the information to 310-FARM or contact the Environmental Services Department.

What is the Animal Health Act?

The Animal Health Act is designed to control the spread of disease that affect animal health, public health, and food safety. This act enables inspections, treatments, surveillance, control zones and bio-security measures to be taken by the province to respond to these issues. These regulations under the Animal Health Act have several key elements including segregation and inspection of animals, specific risk material, importation conditions and requirements, eradication of diseases, requirements for transportation, permits and licensing, and tag and identification requirements.

For more information on enhancing emergency management on the livestock and poultry industry, please visit Animal Health Emergency Management (AHEM) Project – Animal Health Emergency Management (AHEM) project. The Animal Health Emergency Project (AHEM) website offers training, workshops, and has some great resources about biosecurity and animal disease information. The Environmental Services Department currently has extra copies of the AHEM Producer Workbook and Producer Summary pamphlet, contact us today to pick up your copy!

Animal Health

Detecting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Cattle
Early detection of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in cattle is vital in preventing the spread and avoiding major economic consequences for the cattle industry. In Canada, many animal diseases are absent, however, they are present throughout the rest of the world and continue to threat Canada’s beef and dairy production. If you notice your cattle have depression/ fever/ anorexia with excessive saliva, vesicles, or painful lameness, call your veterinarian right away.


Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is also known as swamp fever, is a disease that affects horses and other members of the equine family and is caused by a retrovirus and is transmitted by bloodsucking and biting insects such as horseflies and deer flies. This endemic virus is found in the Americas, parts of Europe, South Africa, Russia and the Middle and Far East and can be transmitted through blood, milk and through the placenta. A loss of coordination may be the only symptom observed though general weakness, jaundice, weight loss and swelling of the extremities are other clinical signs. As of Dec 6th, 2021 there were 87 cases in Alberta located in 10 different counties. Infected animals remain carriers of the virus for life putting other animals at risk. EIA is a federally reportable disease, so if you suspect your horses may have EIA, you must notify the CFIA and contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible. Please note, there is no human health risk with EIA.

Canada's Agriculture Day

Agriculture day started in 2016 to celebrate farming and food and to learn more about where our food comes from. Agriculture is key for economic growth and recovery in Alberta, it is the backbone for the province. Alberta agriculture has been happening for over a century and is made of up cattle herds, wheat fields, chickens, bees, pigs, sheep, bison, barley, potatoes, canola and so much more!  Agriculture employs 75,000 Albertans and contributes billions of dollars to our GDP. Alberta’s agriculture has a well-earned reputation for food safety systems, high-quality agricultural products, safe farming practices, and techniques that help reduce disturbance on ecosystems, wildlife and the land. Albertan farmers export wheat to nearly 70 countries around the world and Alberta beef is world famous being graded as AA or higher! Albertan beef producers set the standard for ethically raised beef. Canada’s Agriculture Day is a great opportunity to show our appreciation for producers and those that work in the agriculture and food processing sector. You can share what agriculture means to you by going to social media and post photos of working farmers, prairie landscapes, all- Canadian cooked meals, post a ‘Fork-up’ selfie and tag it with #CdnAgDay ! Fun fact: As of 2019, Alberta is home to 41% of Canada’s cows and 40% of honey bee colonies!

Play Clean Go

Play Clean Go is one of the most effective ways to prevent invasive species from spreading to new natural areas. You can apply these actions throughout the entire year, even in winter! It may not be growing season, but plants are still able to spread seeds in the winter time. All you have to do is check your gear, equipment and animals for mud and plants before leaving the recreational site.

If you follow these simple steps, you are helping to stop invasive species in their tracks!
REMOVE plants and mud from animals, boots, gear, and vehicle.
CLEAN your gear before entering or leaving the site
STAY on designated trails and roads
USE certified or local firewood and hay

Whether you are a fisherman, camper, mountain biker, backpacker, or off-road vehicle operator, you all have a risk of spreading unwanted seeds. Unwanted seeds and pests can easily spread through water, mud, wind, vehicles, and clothing so it is important to make sure you aren’t taking anything with you when you leave!

June 1- June 8th 2024 is Play Clean Go awareness week, check out their webpage for dozens of free materials to help you campaign to show outdoor enthusiasts how to stop spreading invasive species and pests.


EDRR stands for Early Detection Rapid Response, this is a protective approach to detect invasive species and response quickly to contain, control and prevent the spread of a new or rare invasive species. EDRR is critical when responding to invasive species because it increases the likelihood of containment and eradication while decreasing the long-term control costs.

When looking at invasive species, we are always referring to the bell-curve. The invasion curve starts with prevention, this is the most important stage of weed control because it has the highest economic return, and keeps invasive species absent by raising awareness. The next stage is eradication; you have localized populations in small numbers and eradication is still possible. After eradication we have containment; eradication starts to become unlikely, and the economic costs begin to arise very quickly. EDRR falls in between eradication and containment. The last part of the invasion curve is the long-term management and resource protection. This is when invasive species are widespread and abundant. So how can you help? You can call your local Agriculture and Environmental Department if you have an unknown species on your property, get involved in community weeds pulls and down EDDMaps. Stay tuned for Weed Wednesday post to learn more about the benefits of this app and how to use it!


This is an app used for EDRR (Early Detection Rapid Response). It is a documenting, web-based mapping system for invasive pests and plant species. It has local and national distribution maps, a library of identification and management information. It is fast, easy to use, and all reports will be checked by a verifier. You can mark your location using a pin or a polygon and upload photos of the specimen.

Participants can submit their findings and observations through interactive queries into the database where you can maintain your personal records. Your submissions will be reviewed by a verifier prior to appearing on maps. Once verified, this data is available to researchers, scientists, educators, conservationists, farmers, ecologists, foresters, agricultural fieldmen and parks. You can create a profile through the app or upload your files on the computer.

Alberta's Rat Program

Alberta has been rat free since 1950 when the Rat Program was introduced - meaning we have no resident population of rats. The Norway rat is not able to survive in natural areas and cannot overwinter, so it needs to live in human structures to survive. Norway rats were introduced to the east coast of Canada in 1775 and spread westward. Rats entered Saskatchewan in the 1920’s and could extend their range about 24 km each year. Alberta put a quick stop to this range extension by putting the Rat Program in place. If you suspect a Norway rat or any member of the genus Rattus, please report to your Environmental Services department or call 310-FARM.