IBA Utikuma and Utikumasis Lakes
Atikameg, Alberta
Site Summary
AB054 Latitude
55.880° N
115.431° W
641 - 670 m
745.98 km²
deciduous woods (boreal/alpine), mixed woods (boreal/alpine), rivers/streams, freshwater lake, freshwater marsh
Land Use:
Fisheries/aquaculture, Hunting, Tourism/recreation, Urban/industrial/transport
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Hunting, Interactions with native species/disease, Oil slicks, Recreation/tourism
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Waterfowl Concentrations, Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status:
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Site Description
Utikuma and Utikumasis lakes are two very remote lakes approximately 80 km northwest of the town of Slave Lake. The closest community is Atikameg, on the northeast corner of Utikumasis Lake. Utikuma Lake is a large, extremely shallow lake with three islands and a maximum depth of 5.5 metres. Roughly 18% of its surface area is covered by emergent vegetation and it is subject to large algal blooms. The east side of the lake consists of a Sphagnum-dominated bog with an adjacent forested fen. The much smaller Utikumasis Lake, which lies immediately to the west of Utikuma Lake, also has extensive emergent vegetation. The flat to rolling terrain is underlain mostly by shales and ironstones. Utikumasis Lake drains via a small river into Utikuma Lake which eventually drains into the Peace River. Woodland Caribou and Moose are two large mammals that utilize area uplands.

Both Utikuma and Utikumasis lakes attract globally significant numbers of waterfowl, especially in fall migration and the summer moult period. More than 20,000 ducks have been seen on each lake in late summer and fall. In July 2000, approximately 50,000 were seen on Utikuma alone. Some species are also often seen in high numbers. For example, Canvasbacks numbered about 40,000 birds in July and August, 1975, on Utikuma Lake; this represents about 6% of the global population.

Many species of colonial waterbirds nest on Utikuma Lake. A 2000 survey documented: Double-crested Cormorants (1,572 nests), American White Pelican (60 nests), Common Tern (160 nests), Franklins Gull (3,903 nests), and Western Grebe (851 nests, which probably represents over 1% of their uncertain global population). Other species found at this site include Forsters Tern and Great Blue Heron. The average waterfowl production for Utikuma Lake is estimated at 600 broods.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Canvasback 1975 SU 40,000
Franklin's Gull 2000 SU 7,806
Waterbirds 1985 FA 40,000
Waterbirds 1985 OT 20,000
Waterbirds 2000 SU 50,000
Western Grebe 2000 SU 1,702
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
One of the major threats to the high number of ducks utilizing these lakes is avian botulism. In 1998 alone, 80,000 diving ducks were collected after an outbreak on Utikuma Lake. Smaller outbreaks were reported in 1990, 1991, and 1992; in the latter year, 7,242 ducks were collected. Another natural phenomenon affected the lake in March, 1989, when a severe fish winterkill occurred. The recovery of fish stocks was expected to take several years.

There is extensive oil and gas activity around Utikuma Lake, especially in the northeast corner, and this activity has intensified recently. Utikuma Lake is managed for recreational, commercial and domestic fisheries, and Utikumasis Lake is also highly valued for local and sport fisheries. The water levels have been maintained and controlled since 1948 by a weir at the outlet; this outlet is maintained by Ducks Unlimited.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
   © Birds Canada