Meewasin prepares for the annual return of the pelicans to Saskatoon

From warmer days to melting snow, signs of spring abound in Saskatoon.

Another sign of spring in the Bridge City is the return of Meewasin’s annual pelican watch contest.

Read more: Most wildlife resilient to Saskatchewan’s harsh winters

Every year, American white pelicans return to Saskatoon.

“This is that exciting time of year after we have been through a deep freeze, we have our contest to welcome back the pelicans,” said Meewasin Valley Authority CEO Andrea Lafond.

The American white pelican was once on the endangered species list, but not anymore.

“Pelicans are a conservation success story, being the first species to be ‘delisted’ from the threatened species list in 1987,” said Renny Gitz, a resource management officer at Meewasin.

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“This is an important reminder that (with) public engagement and education paired with effective conservation efforts, species that are in decline can thrive again.”

Read more: ‘Active’ ice fishing season soon wrapping up: Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

What draws the pelicans to make the 4,000-kilometre migration from the Gulf of Mexico where they spend their winters to Saskatoon and area?

“The native prairie is a fantastic place for mating and for grabbing their food. The weir produces a shallow area where they can access fish,” Lafond said.

The pelicans have been coming to Saskatoon since the 1970s and Meewasin has been running its contest to guess when they will return for 24 years.

Those entering the contest have to guess the date and time the first pelican is spotted by members of the Saskatoon Nature Society.

“The earliest the pelicans have returned is April 2, 2017, and the latest was April 20, 2020,” Lafond said, adding the contest gets competitive.

“We have over 5,000 folks who want to make that guess.”

Those wishing to enter have until March 31 to make their guess at Meewasin’s website.

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