British Columbia Wildlife Watch - Oyster River and Black Creek Watersheds
copyright © A.L. Mol  2003
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The Oyster River and Black Creek watersheds are important for the survival of both the human, and the wildlife and fish populations that live within, or pass through, their boundaries.

These watersheds are located on the east side of Vancouver Island about midway between Courtenay and Campbell River. The Oyster River watershed stretches inland into Strathcona Provincial Park on the eastern slopes of the Vancouver Island Mountains. The Black Creek watershed winds through the lower elevation lands immediately south of the Oyster River.

Fish and wildlife populations abound throughout these areas, on land and in the water, co-existing with a small, rural-living human population. With careful management, this mix of species will continue to thrive.

This brochure is a joint publication of British Columbia Wildlife Watch and the Oyster River Watershed Management Committee. Its main audience is the local residents who live within the Oyster River and Black Creek watersheds.

Within this general area, the following 8 viewing sites are identified:

The main sections are:

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   Who Lives Here?

The Oyster River and Black Creek watersheds are home to human, wildlife and fish populations.

Humans

  • the human population lives in the lower 10 kilometres of these watersheds
  • agricultural activities are found within both watersheds
  • forest development is the main activity in 2/3 of the Oyster River watershed
  • licensed water users include domestic, agriculture and industrial consumers
  • recreational use in these watersheds includes camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting, hiking and water-based activities

Wildlife

  • wildlife populations depend on a wide range of habitats including forest, open area, grassland, wetland, stream and shoreline
  • mammal species include Black-tailed Deer, Raccoon, Black Bear, Mink and Red Squirrel
  • birdlife includes hawks, owls, woodpeckers, ducks, warblers, vireos, sparrows, swallows and thrushes; be sure to look for Red-tailed Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Western Screech-Owl and Belted Kingfisher

Fish

  • fish species using the Oyster River and Black Creek watersheds include Chum, Pink, Coho and Chinook Salmon, Steelhead, Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout, and Dolly Varden Char
  • some young fish, such as Coho and the trout species, live in these freshwater rivers forone year before migrating to the ocean
  • adequate water levels in the streams are critical for rearing, migrating and spawning fish
  • all of these fish populations require flowing water in order to spawn
  • maintaining cool water temperatures is essential to ensure optimum oxygen levels for rearing fish
  • intact riparian habitats are a key component of good fish habitat


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   Good for You & Good for Wildlife and Fish

Human, wildlife and fish populations can live harmoniously together with wise management and thoughtfulness. It is very easy to forget how quickly local habitats and watercouse quality can be negatively impacted by human activities:
  • the introduction of sediments, animal wastes, milking parlour wastes, silage or wood leachate
  • fuel spills
  • pesticide introductions
  • the removal of even a small area of vegetation along a ditch or narrow watercourse
  • the passage of cattle or all-terrain vehicles through watercourses
  • the disposal of debris in streams or ditches

Everyone can make a difference in retaining or enhancing the value of the habitats around them. In many cases it can be financially beneficial by reducing the potential for flooding and/or retain that pleasing natural look.

Here are some ideas on how you may contribute to maintaining a balance between all creatures who live in the Oyster River and Black Creek watersheds. You may even save time and money in the process!

Livestock Management

  • locate confined livestock areas at least 50 metres from the high water mark of a stream
  • contain runoff within the confinement area
  • divert clean runoff away from the confinement area

Animal Watering

  • provide off-stream watering areas for livestock
  • reduce livestock access to natural watercourses
  • if access to a stream is necessary, provide a fenced gravel walkway and fence all other parts of the stream

Waste Management

  • prevent or collect runoff from manure storage areas
  • ensure the storage capacity is large enough
  • cover manure storage
  • locate any manure storage facility at least 50 metres from a watercourse
  • collect milking parlor wastes and apply to cropland

Soil Erosion

  • maintain or restore a zone of permanent riparian vegetaion along all watercourses
  • protect drainage structures and subsurface drain outlets from erosion
  • permanently grass waterways that carry surface flow across fields
  • use erosion control blankets and geotextiles to address erosion problems

Loss of Riparian Vegetation

  • maintain a strip of trees and shrubs to reduce farm impacts on water quality
  • maintain trees to provide shade and cover for rearing fish
  • maintain a minimum 15 metre buffer between the stream and farmed zones
  • if you raise livestock, fence the riparian zone
  • to reduce erosion construct water storage ponds away from the stream channel to provide water for livestock

Agricultural Sustainability & Wildlife and Fish

A sound agricultural policy integrated with a sound environmental policy will:

  • sustain farming as an economically viable way of life
  • maintain the quality of life in all communities
  • permit human, fish and wildlife populations to co-exist
  • safeguard the natural systems and habitats that support all life, now and in the future


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   Fish Use

Oyster River
  • supports Coho, Pink, Chum and Chinook Salmon, Steelhead Trout, sea-run and resident Cutthroat Trout, Dolly Varden Char and Rainbow Trout
  • Chum Salmon spawn mainly in the lower 4 km
  • sea-run Cutthroat Trout spawn in the upper reaches of tributaries

Bear Creek

  • important sea-run Cutthroat Trout producer
  • home to Coho Salmon and Cutthroat Trout juveniles
  • some Chum Salmon spawning

Little Oyster River

  • Coho Salmon spawn mainly between 8 and 14 km in the mainstem
  • significant sea-run Cutthroat Trout producer
  • Chum and Pink Salmon found

Woodhus Creek

  • fishway near end of York Road provides fish upstream passage
  • Coho Salmon, Steelhead Trout, Cutthroat Trout and Dolly Varden Char found
  • home to Coho Salmon and Cutthroat Trout juveniles

Black Creek

  • Coho Salmon spawning
  • home to Coho Salmon juveniles
  • fish sence provides useful information on returning salmon and assists in management
  • Cutthroat and Steelhead Trout spawning
  • home to sea-run Cutthroat and Steelhead Trout juveniles


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   For More Information

The following contacts and publications will help you learn more about the Oyster River and Black Creek watersheds.

Contacts

  • Environment and Lands Office, Ministry of Water, Lands and Air Protection
    2080 Labieux Road, Nanaimo, B.C. V9T 6J9
    phone (250) 751-3100
  • Habitat Enhancement Branch, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    148 Port Augusta Street, Comox, B.C. V9N 7Z4
    phone (250) 339-9717
  • Oyster River Watershed Management Committee
    c/o 185 Pidcock Avenue, Courtenay, B.C. V9N 3C6
    phone: (250) 338-9717
    or
    c/o Father Charles Brandt, 2364 Catherwood Street, Black Creek, B.C. V9J 1J3
  • Oyster River Enhancement Society
    c/o Box 93, Black Creek, B.C. V9J 1K8
    phone: (250) 337-5967
    e-mail
  • Naturescape British Columbia
    P.O. Box 9354 Stn. Prov. Govt., Victoria, B.C. V8W 9M1
    phone: (250) 387-9369 or (800) 387-9853

Publications

Contact the Environment and Lands office listed above for information on how to obtain any of the following publications.

  • Watershed Stewardship - A Guide for Agriculture
  • Naturescape British Columbia: Caring for Wildlife Habitat at Home
  • Stewardship Options for Private Landowners in British Columbia
  • Caring for The Green Zone: Riparian Areas and Grazing Management
  • Improved Cattle Access to Water Using Geogrids
  • Stream Stewardship: A Guide for Planners and Developers