Point Pelee National Park of Canada

Saving Middle Island - Point Pelee National Park

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Middle Island Conservation Plan?
Why does Middle Island need a conservation plan?
Why is Parks Canada culling adult double-crested cormorants on Middle Island?
Are there alternatives to a cull?
Why not let nature take its course on Middle Island?
Will the cull be done humanely?
What science is the Middle Island Conservation Plan based on?
What is the current research and monitoring on Middle Island?
Will the culled birds be removed?
How many double-crested cormorants will be culled?
For more information


What is the Middle Island Conservation Plan?
  • The Middle Island Conservation Plan provides the science, research, management approaches, and on-going monitoring required to guide restoration of ecological integrity on Middle Island, which is part of Point Pelee National Park.

Why does Middle Island need a conservation plan?
  • Parks Canada has a mandate to protect all species of plants and animals that belong in national parks. Middle Island is a rare and fragile place that supports more than 150 plant and animal species, including 9 Species at Risk under the Federal Species at Risk Act.
Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly, Species at Risk
© Parks Canada 2010

Why is Parks Canada culling adult double-crested cormorants on Middle Island?
  • Since double-crested cormorants were first recorded nesting on Middle Island their nest numbers have increased exponentially. The extremely high nesting population is a serious threat to the fragile balance between the island's plants and animals, most specifically to the Species at Risk. Parks Canada has a legal obligation to protect the Species at Risk.

  • The nesting habits and the guano of the nesting double-crested cormorants on this tiny island is killing trees, vegetation, and the habitat of hundreds of plant and animal species that depend on Middle Island for survival.
Blue ash and Kentucky coffee tree covered in guano
Left: Blue Ash, Species at Risk on Middle Island
Right: Kentucky coffee tree, Species at Risk, covered in guano

© Parks Canada, 2010

Are there alternatives to a cull?
  • The best option that will reduce the nesting population in time to enable restoration of the ecological integrity of Middle Island is culling.

  • Culling is one of three active management approaches Parks Canada is taking to reduce the over-abundant population of nesting cormorants on Middle Island. The other two approaches, which are focused on protecting the rare and endangered vegetation species, include nest removal and the installation of scarecrows in trees with nests to discourage nest building.
Scarecrow and removing nests in red mulberry tree
Placing scarecrow (left) and removing nests (right) in red mulberry tree, Species at Risk
© Parks Canada, 2010

Why not let nature take its course on Middle Island?
  • If nothing is done, Middle Island's precious ecosystem of more than 150 species of plants and animals, including 9 Species at Risk, will disappear.

Will the cull be done humanely?
  • Humane treatment of wildlife is paramount. Parks Canada takes many measures to ensure this. The Animal Care Task Force (comprised of veterinarians, academics, members of Canada's First Nations, and representatives of the general public) has approved Parks Canada's Middle Island Conservation Plan.

  • In their October 2008 report, Cormorant Defenders International stated that they "strongly recommend that all government agencies embarking on the culling of tree nesting cormorants follow the guidelines developed by Point Pelee National Park …"

  • In 2008, the Windsor/Essex Humane Society, representing the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) determined that there were no concerns with Parks Canada's culling procedures.

  • Parks Canada's veterinarian has visited Middle Island during the active management period between mid-April and mid-May each year to support staff and provide ongoing expertise, ensuring the expectations of the Animal Care Task Force are met.
Parks Canada veterinarian
Parks Canada veterinarian, Middle Island
© Parks Canada, 2010

What science is the Middle Island Conservation Plan based on?
  • Parks Canada bases active management actions on research and monitoring conducted by or on behalf of Parks Canada, and the publications of independent scientists. Much of the recent research on Middle Island has been undertaken through collaborations with government agencies such as the Canadian Wildlife Service and Ontario Parks and academic institutions such as the University of Windsor and the University of Waterloo. For more detailed information, please consult Appendix II of the Middle Island Conservation Plan.

What is the current research and monitoring on Middle Island?
  • Nest Counts
    Nest counts of all colonial nesting water birds are conducted annually through a cooperative effort between Parks Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and Ontario Parks. This data helps Parks Canada to understand the numbers, densities, and fluctuations of nesting double-crested cormorants from year to year.
Nest count on Middle Island
Nest counts on Middle Island
© Parks Canada, 2010

  • Forest Health Monitoring
    Both aerial and ground monitoring of canopy cover, tree health, and ground cover continue to be conducted annually to track changes in forest health on the island. Species at Risk inventories and monitoring is ongoing.
Middle Island over the years
Middle Island - (left) 1990, (centre) 1999, (right) 2007
© Parks Canada

  • Academic Research
    Studies on the soil and seed bank of Middle Island in collaboration with the University of Windsor and Environment Canada show that some areas of the island remain relatively intact. This is good news for possible future restoration because the presence of native seeds in the soil could help re-establish native plant communities.
Soil collection on Middle Island
Soil collection on Middle Island
© Parks Canada, 2010

  • Lake Erie Water Snake Monitoring
    Annual monitoring on Middle Island includes inventories of Species at Risk. The 2010 monitoring of the Lake Erie Water Snake captured and released 20 Lake Erie Water Snakes and spotted another 20. This is the greatest number of Lake Erie Water Snakes viewed on one day on Middle Island. Also of interest, a snapping turtle and an eastern fox snake were observed during one of the Lake Erie Water Snake monitoring sessions in 2010. These species have not been seen on Middle Island in the past ten years.
Lake Erie Water Snake monitoring
Lake Erie Water Snake monitoring
© Parks Canada, 2010

Will the culled birds be removed?
  • To protect Species at Risk that would be damaged or destroyed through the removal of culled birds, most birds will remain on the island. This was the conclusion of the environmental assessment of the Middle Island Conservation Plan. Only birds collected for research will be removed.

How many double-crested cormorants will be culled?
  • It is premature at this time to know exactly how many birds will be culled this year due to external factors such as weather.

  • To protect Species at Risk and meet the goals of the Middle Island Conservation Plan, the nest numbers of double-crested cormorants must be reduced to between 600 and 1,100 nests.

For further information, please contact:
Point Pelee National Park of Canada
407 Monarch Lane, RR 1
Leamington, ON
N8H 3V4
Telephone: 519-322-2365
Facsimile: 519-322-1277
Email: pelee.info@pc.gc.ca