Taking stock of McIntyre Creek’s plants and critters

The sun is shining, the surface of the pond is shimmering, the marsh grasses are waving. The dragonflies flit back and forth above the water, their iridescent bodies glittering in the sunlight.

The sun is shining, the surface of the pond is shimmering, the marsh grasses are waving. The dragonflies flit back and forth above the water, their iridescent bodies glittering in the sunlight.

And then – the sharp flash of a butterfly net slicing through the air. A single dragonfly disappears into the folds of nylon.

Crispin Guppy, a biologist and butterfly expert, reaches into his net and pulls out his captive. He holds it by its wings and shows it to the small group of volunteers clustered around him. Its legs wave as it struggles to escape. Guppy points out the blue markings on the long, slender abdomen and the gold and green stripes at the base of the wings. This one, he says, is a darner.

One of the volunteers, Cheyenne Bradley, reaches out tentatively to touch the insect. It’s clear she has mixed feelings about it.

“I just like how they look,” she said. “But if they were in my hand, I’d probably freak out a little.”

Bradley, 18, was one of a group of volunteers of all ages who attended the first annual BioBlitz at McIntyre Creek last weekend. They were there to help local biologists like Guppy build an inventory of all the species they could find in and around the creek: plants, fish, birds, mammals, and insects – including dragonflies.

The event, organized by the Yukon Conservation Society, aimed to gather information about McIntyre Creek’s biodiversity to help protect it against future development proposals. But it was also designed to teach local people like Bradley about all the plants and animals living right in their backyards.

Before the BioBlitz, Bradley didn’t know much about birds or insects. She’s just finished her first year at Yukon College and is part of the Yukon Youth Conservation Corps – a summer job program ran by the Department of Environment. She hopes that experiences like this will help her get a job as a conservation officer one day.

“I love animals. I love being outdoors,” she said. “I’ve learned different species of birds and I’m learning about what different types of dragonflies there are.

“But I don’t remember the names,” she added. “It’ll take me a while to remember the names.”

BioBlitzes are a common citizen science event in southern Canada, but this was a first for Whitehorse.

Christina Macdonald, executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society, said she chose to focus on McIntyre Creek because it’s an important recreational area for Whitehorse residents. Last year, the city adopted a regional parks plan for McIntyre Creek and four other local parks. Macdonald said the BioBlitz will help provide more specific information about the area’s biodiversity, which could help guide management decisions.

“It made a lot of sense… because of the enormous love the community has for this area,” she said.

McIntyre Creek was at the centre of a development controversy in 2011, when the city nearly decided to develop part of the area around the creek to build the Porter Creek D subdivision.

That project was eventually shelved, but Macdonald pointed out that the area is still zoned for development.

“It’s definitely a very real threat still, unfortunately,” she said. “[City council] didn’t vote to protect the area. They voted to postpone planning. So council could reverse that decision at any minute.”

Macdonald said the area serves as important bird and fish habitat, and as a wildlife corridor for larger mammals.

For the BioBlitz, biologists chose eight sites in McIntyre Creek that represented the different habitat types in the area. Then biologists and volunteers moved from site to site, making lists of all the plants, insects, birds, and mammal tracks they could find.

In the creek itself, fisheries technician Paul Sparling set out minnow traps to assess the creek’s fish population.

The creek is too small to serve as salmon spawning ground, but chinook salmon fry use the creek to feed for their first summer, before heading out to sea.

Sparling said he found lots of juvenile chinook in the creek, though he found the largest number below the Range Road bridge. That could mean the salmon are having a hard time getting through the culvert beneath the bridge.

He also found more rainbow trout and fewer Arctic grayling than he did the last time he assessed the creek in 2006. He said that could be a sign that the introduced rainbow trout are out-competing the native grayling.

Overall, though, he said the creek is doing well.

“It’s very healthy and in a unique way because it’s probably one of the most extensively altered ecosystems in the Yukon,” he said. “It’s got all the bridges and roads crossing it. It’s got huge fishing pressure.”

Macdonald plans to publish a report with the complete species list later this summer. She also hopes to make the BioBlitz an annual event, so biologists and volunteers can build up the list for years to come.

Back at the pond, the BioBlitz was as much about having fun as it was about science. At one point, one of the volunteers went tearing off after a small, white butterfly, his net waving in the air.

“Accuracy and speed,” said Guppy as the young man disappeared. That’s what it takes to make a good butterfly catcher.

Soon after, the volunteer returned to the group, his net empty except for a few leaves.

Speed, he’s got nailed down. Accuracy, he’ll have to work on. Maybe next year.

Contact Maura Forrest at


Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

A draft plan has been released by the Dawson Regional Use Planning commission on June 15. Julien Gignac/Yukon News
Draft plan released by the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission

Dawson Regional Land Use Commission releases draft plan, Government of Yukon withdraws additional lands from mineral staking in the planning region

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Let them live in trailers

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city… Continue reading


Wyatt’s World for June 18, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs nine new COVID-19 cases, 54 active cases

More CEMA enforcement officers have been recruited, officials say

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read