White Pelican Provincial Park, located northwest of Williams Lake on the Chilcotin Plateau, provides a sanctuary for one of the world’s most beautiful birds, the White Pelican. The park incorporates and completely surrounds Stum Lake, and is managed exclusively to protect the provincial pelican population.
Stum Lake (also known as Pelican Lake) is closed to the public from March 1 to August 31 every year to protect the White Pelican nesting colony, as they are very sensitive to disturbance during nesting. The park provides a critical buffer to the only nesting colony in B.C. At other nesting locations in North America, disturbances caused by boats, low flying aircraft or people walking through the colonies have resulted in serious losses, even the complete abandonment of the nests. The park closure prohibits canoeing, boating, hunting, trapping, discharge of firearms, aircraft operation below 600 metres in elevation, and aircraft are prohibited from landing on Stum Lake during this period.
The American White Pelican is a migratory species and has been legally designated as an Endangered Species in British Columbia. The breeding population that nests at Stum Lake spends the winter in southwest California and the Pacific coast of Mexico. Lakes in the Kamloops and Okanagan regions are used as staging areas for both spring and fall migrations. These pelicans are colonial nesters, with Stum Lake being the only nesting location in B.C.
For nesting, the American white pelican requires isolated lakes with a food source nearby. Nesting lakes must contain at least one island with a water barrier around the island of sufficient depth and distance from the mainland to discourage mammalian predation. Water levels should be stable during the reproductive period to ensure that rising water levels do not flood nest sites and decreasing water levels do not eliminate the water barrier to predation. Nesting islands are usually relatively low, flat, sparsely vegetated and treeless.
They are a fish eating species that feed from the surface and require shallow water (0.3-2.5 m) for foraging. Their diet includes chub, suckers, squawfish, rainbow trout and other coarse fish. Breeding pelicans do not feed at Stum Lake, which has very few fish, but travel to surrounding lakes to feed and to obtain food for their young. A restricted number of lakes meet the necessary requirements for feeding. Loafing sites in the form of low, flat areas with little vegetation to obstruct the surrounding view are essential for good feeding habitat. Small islands provide the best loafing sites as they provide some protection from terrestrial predators. Floating logs as well as deltas and sandbars at river mouths are also commonly used loafing sites.
Since this species has a long period of sexual immaturity (does not breed until third year), and a relatively low reproductive rate (usually rears only a single chick), they have a very poor resilience to major population setbacks. The maximum life span is approximately 17 years.
Visitors are able to view these wonderful pelicans at Nazko Lake Provincial Park, and in other lakes in the Chilcotin.
In addition to providing security for the pelican nesting sites, the 2,763-hectare park also protects habitat for moose and aquatic fur-bearers.
There is no camping permitted, as the park is intended for day-use only outside of the nesting season.
White Pelican Provincial Park is located approximately 38 miles (60 km) northwest of Williams Lake on the Chilcotin Plateau, 11 miles (18 km) north of Alexis Creek. Access to the park is off the Bella Coola Highway 20 at Alexis Creek, travelling north on the Stum Lake forestry road.
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