Canadian Wildlife Service Releases Report on Off Leash Dogs in Bird Sanctuaries

Updated: Jun 1

A summary of the key messages from the report are as follows:


We understand that a day at the beach is a great thing for dogs and their people; but these beaches are very important for migratory birds, which are as a group are experiencing significant declines (https://www.3billionbirds.org/)


While dogs have other options for exercise areas (such as a grassy park), many migratory birds do not have suitable habitat elsewhere.



The Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS), Shoal Harbour MBS and Esquimalt Lagoon MBS are federally protected areas that are important for the preservation and conservation of migratory birds/habitat.


The Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA) and its regulations protect migratory birds and prohibit the disturbance or destruction of migratory bird nests and eggs in Canada.


Under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations (MBSR), S.5(1) “No person who owns a dog or cat shall permit the dog or cat to run at large in a migratory bird sanctuary.”


Under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is authorized to protect migratory birds, their nests and populations and to regulate potentially harmful human activities that may impact them.


Off-leash dogs impact birds within these MBSs by:

  • Displacement from foraging areas / reduced foraging rates

  • Reducing colony attendance / colony abandonment

  • Increased predation rates

  • Direct mortality

There is a heronry for the Great Blue Heron (listed on the Species at Risk Act (SARA)) near Cadboro Bay; this happens to be one of the places where off-leash dogs are commonly observed harassing herons.



Shorebirds use the MBSs year round. Many shorebirds (including SARA-listed Red knot) use the MBSs as a migratory stopover to rest and replenish their energy reserves as they migrate north in the spring, and south in the fall. Other shorebirds are known to overwinter in the MBSs. Three species of shorebirds species that breed within the MBSs are ground-nesters, meaning that nests and fledglings are particularly vulnerable to harassment by off-leash dogs, though all shorebirds are susceptible to harassment due to their shoreline habitat association.





It is anticipated that this report will help improve knowledge and awareness, enable prioritization of compliance promotion activities within Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, and ultimately improve outcomes for migratory birds and species at risk.

If you have questions please direct them to Enviroinfo@ec.gc.caso that your inquiry can be directed to the department/branch that may be best able to respond.


The report can be found here:

In EN: https://publications.gc.ca/pub?id=9.905671&sl=0

in FR: https://publications.gc.ca/pub?id=9.906198&sl=1

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