Lac La Biche

Basic Info
Map Sheets73L/13, 83I/16
Lat / Long54.8666667, -112.0833333
54°52'N, 112°4'W
Area234 km2
Max depth21.3 m
Mean depth8.4 m
Dr. Basin Area4,040 km2
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinAthabasca River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishNorthern Pike, Lake Whitefish, Walleye, Yellow Perch
Trophic StatusEutrophic
TP xWest: 117
East: 108 µg/L
CHLORO xWest: 23.4
East: 29.8 µg/L
TDS xWest: 162
East: 161 mg/L
Photo credit: Patricia Mitchell


Lac La Biche is a large, scenic lake that is valued for its excellent beaches and well-forested parks and shoreland areas. The lake is located about 220 km northeast of the city of Edmonton in Improvement District No. 18 (South). The closest urban centres are the town of Lac La Biche on the southeast shore and the village of Plamondon, 3 km west of the lake (FIGURE 1). To reach the lake from Edmonton, take Highway 28 north to Highway 63. Drive north past the village of Boyle to the junction of Highway 63 with Highway 55, then drive north and east on Highway 55 to the town of Lac La Biche. Secondary Road 868 from Lac La Biche circles the east and northeast sides of the lake and Secondary Road 858 from Plamondon runs along the west and northwest sides of the lake. A local road skirts much of the south shore (FIGURE 1).

The Cree name for the lake was Waskesiu Sakhahegan, which means Elk Lake. The word biche is French for "hind", specifically, the female of the European red deer. French Canadians applied the word to North American elk and brought the term west on their travels. The English translation of Lac La Biche - Red Deer Lake - first appeared on the Mackenzie map of 1793 (Chipeniuk 1975; Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982[a]).

The first recorded voyage into the area was made in 1798 by David Thompson of the North West Company. He established a trading post, Buckingham House, on the southeast shore of the lake (Chipeniuk 1975; McMillan 1977). In 1799, Peter Fidler of the rival Hudson's Bay Company arrived on the south shore of the lake and also established a trading post. This post, Greenwich House, operated until 1821, when the two companies amalgamated. In 1853, the Hudson's Bay Company opened a new trading post at the present townsite of Lac La Biche (Chipeniuk 1975).

The first settlers to arrive in the area were the Oblate Fathers in 1855 (Chipeniuk 1975). They established a mission and farm at Mission Bay, on the south-central shore of the lake. In 1915, the Alberta Great Waterways Railway was built along the eastern shore (Finlay and Finlay 1987). Later that year, the townsite of Lac La Biche was surveyed on land alongside the newly opened railroad. Lac La Biche became a hamlet in 1919, a village in 1922, and a town in 1951 (Chipeniuk 1975). In 1987, the town's population was 2 553 people. Commercial fishing became important with the coming of the railway, and from the 1930s until the late 1940s, mink ranching was a significant industry. The commercial fishery for cisco supported the mink industry until the cisco population collapsed during the 1947/48 fishing season. Subsequently, many mink ranches closed. In 1981, only four ranches were operating (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982[a]).

In 1925, all of the islands in the lake were established as a bird sanctuary, and in 1952, the largest island became Big Island Provincial Park (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.[b]) (FIGURE 2). In 1965, the park was renamed Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park, for the British prime minister. In 1968, a 2.5-km-long causeway was built between Big Island, Long Island and the mainland to provide better access to the park. At present, the park provides day-use services year-round and camping services from 1 May to Thanksgiving Day. There are 90 campsites, tap water, outdoor showers, beaches and swimming areas, a change house, a boat launch, playgrounds, viewpoints and a picnic area with a picnic shelter. In 1988, a major upgrading and construction project for park facilities was completed. Except for Big Island, all of the islands in Lac La Biche are reserved for recreation by Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. Since 1984, they have also held the status of protective notation, which means that their potential as a natural area has been recognized but a natural area has not been established (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987).

Plamondon Beach Provincial Recreation Area is located at the west end of the lake (FIGURE 2). It is operated by Alberta Recreation and Parks, and is open from Victoria Day to Labour Day. There are 69 campsites, pump water, a beach, a boat launch, picnic tables and a picnic shelter. Within the town of Lac La Biche, there is a public park along the waterfront, a federal wharf and boat launch, and a town dock. There are no boating restrictions over most of the lake, but in posted areas such as designated swimming areas, all boats are prohibited. In other posted areas, power boats are restricted to speeds of 12 km/hour or less (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

In a 1976 survey of cottage owners at Lac La Biche, it was noted that many cottagers valued the natural beauty of the lake, good fishing, good water quality, and abundant wildlife (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1971). More than three-quarters of the respondents, however, felt that there were problems with the lake for recreational use. Problems included algal density, aquatic macrophyte growth, fluctuating water levels, and water too rough for boating. The two most important summer recreational activities enjoyed by cottagers were swimming and fishing. Sightseeing, power boating, water skiing, picnicking, canoeing, camping, hiking and photography were also important, and nature study, sailing and golfing were of minor importance. During winter, more of the surveyed cottage owners went ice fishing and snowmobiling than they did cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Lac La Biche is very fertile. Blue-green algal blooms occur annually in midsummer but the intensity of the blooms varies from year to year. The amount of algae is usually higher in the east basin than in the west basin. Algae often drift in currents onto the provincial park causeway and into the bay on which the town of Lac La Biche is located. Sport fish in the lake include walleye, northern pike, lake whitefish and yellow perch. To protect spawning walleye, sport fishing regulations stipulate that the portion of Lac La Biche within 1 km of the mouth of the Owl River is closed to sport fishing for a period in April and May each year (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). The lake also supports a commercial fishery for cisco, lake whitefish and northern pike, and a domestic fishery for lake whitefish.

Drainage Basin Characteristics

Lac La Biche drains an area of 4,040 km2, mostly located to the east and north of the lake (FIGURE 1). The drainage basin is about 17 times the size of the lake (Tables 1, 2). The major inflow is the Owl River and its tributaries: the Logan, Clyde and Piche rivers and Gull Creek. A small stream, Plamondon Creek, flows into the western side of Lac La Biche and two unnamed creeks flow into the south shore at Mission Bay (FIGURE 1). Several unnamed streams also flow into the southeast and north shores and intermittent creeks are located all around the shore. The outflow is the La Biche River, which eventually joins the Athabasca River.

The general physiography, surficial geology and soils of Lac La Biche's drainage basin have been described in several studies (Wynnyk et al. 1963; Kjearsgaard 1972; Kocaoglu 1975). As well, Alberta Environment commissioned two detailed studies, in 1978 and 1979, of the soils and land suitability of most of the land surrounding the lake (Knapik and Brocke 1978; Knapik and Carson 1979).

The drainage basin (FIGURE 1) is part of the Eastern Alberta Plains, which is mainly an undulating plain with several isolated areas of rolling and hilly topography. In the northern part of the watershed, the land ranges from mostly level and undulating north of Heart Lake, to gently rolling and rolling northwest of, and surrounding, Heart Lake. The main soil parent material on the level to undulating areas north of Heart Lake is Sphagnum moss, and the soils are Luvisolic. In the gently rolling to rolling areas, the main soils are either Podzolic Gray Luvisols formed on sandy outwash material, as in the area northwest of Heart Lake, or Orthic Gray Luvisols formed on sandy clay loam till, as in the area surrounding Heart Lake (Wynnyk et al. 1963). East of Lac La Biche, in the Gull Creek drainage area, the land is a hummocky morainal plain characterized by rough, irregular knob and kettle topography. The soils are mainly Orthic Gray Luvisols formed on glacial till, with Organic and Gleysolic soils in poorly drained depressions (Kocaoglu 1975).

Lac La Biche is underlain by the marine shales of the La Biche Formation. The land close to the lake is level to rolling moraine composed of glacial till that is often blanketed or veneered with glaciolacustrine clays and sands. The lake is at an elevation of approximately 544 m, and the surrounding land generally does not rise higher than 610 m above sea level. Steep escarpments occur along many parts of the shoreline, but in other areas the shore has a low profile. Sand and gravel or cobble beaches are present along the shore of the lake and sand dunes are a distinctive feature of the landscape just north of the lake. On the north side of the lake west of Owl River, the soils are mainly Luvisols and Brunisols developed on sandy materials, with Organic soils in depressional areas. The Owl River delta is characterized by a Regosolic-Organic soils association that is often flooded. East of Owl River, the soils are mainly Orthic Gray Luvisols developed on clayey till. At the southeast end of the lake, the soils are mainly Orthic Gray Luvisols that formed on a variety of surficial materials; in this area, Gleyed Gray Luvisols are also common. Organic soils associated with bogs and fens are common in many areas along the south and west sides of the lake (Knapik and Brocke 1978; Knapik and Carson 1979).

The Lac La Biche watershed is part of the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion. Land north and east of the lake is part of the Moist Mixedwood Subregion, and land west and south of the lake is part of the Dry Mixedwood Subregion. The main tree in the Dry Mixedwood Subregion is trembling aspen on well-drained to moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols, whereas in the Moist Mixedwood Subregion, the main trees are trembling aspen and balsam poplar on moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols. In both areas, stands of jack pine grow on well-drained Eutric Brunisols, white spruce grows on imperfectly drained Gleysols and Gray Luvisols, black spruce and willows are present on poorly drained Organics and Gleysols, and sedges grow on very poorly drained Organics (Strong and Leggat 1981). At the beginning of the twentieth century, forest fires destroyed the vast spruce forests that grew near Lac La Biche, and few old stands of white spruce remain (Knapik and Carson 1979).

Although a large percentage of the land near the lake is used for agriculture (FIGURE 1), less than 5% of the total drainage area (inset FIGURE 1) is used for this purpose. Forest and wetlands cover 90% of the watershed, and lakes other than Lac La Biche cover the remaining 5.5% ofthe drainage area. Improved pasture and hay production are the most common types of agriculture, and barley, oats, canola and wheat are also grown (Knapik and Carson 1979). Natural gas is extracted from four fields located near the lake. In 1982, one gas processing plant was operating northeast of the lake in the Tweedie Field (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982[a]). A number of oil leases have been issued for land on the east side of the lake, but as of 1982 no wells had been drilled. Forestry is an important industry in the area, and in 1988, construction of a pulp and paper mill west of Highway 63 was proposed. Although the mill site is outside Lac La Biche's drainage basin, some of the trees to supply it may be cut in the watershed (Noton 1989).

Relative to the lake's size and the amount of shoreland present, Lac La Biche is not extensively developed. Land along the south and west shores was subdivided in the early 1900s when 79 Settlement lots were created, based on the French Canadian system (Alta. Mun. Aft. 1982[a]). In 1977, Alberta Environment prohibited most further development around the lake under the Regulated Lake Shoreland Development Operation Regulations. Subsequently, Alberta Municipal Affairs prepared a lake management plan and an area structure plan, which were adopted by Improvement District No. 18 (South) in 1982 (Alta. Mun. Aff.1982[a];1982[b];1982[c]). Lake management plans determine the extent of future land developments, allocate land use and determine ways to minimize environmental impacts and conflicts in uses of the lakeshore. They recommend preferred lake uses and ways to minimize lake-user conflicts. In 1982, 72 of the original 79 lots were privately owned and, between 1945 and 1982, approximately 66 subdivisions around the lake were registered. By 1988, a total of 935 country residential lots had been created within 1.5 km of the lake. Of these lots, 389 were developed and 546 were undeveloped (Alta. Mun. Aff. n.d.).

Lake Basin Characteristics

Lac La Biche comprises two main basins separated by a peninsula and two islands (FIGURE 2). The west basin has a simple shape and is relatively deep (maximum depth 21.3 m) compared to the east basin (maximum depth 12.2 m). At the northwest end, the sides of the west basin slope quite gradually, but along the north and south shores the slope of the sides becomes progressively steeper. In comparison to the west basin, the east basin is quite complex, with several sub-basins separated by numerous islands and connecting sand and gravel spits and a causeway between the provincial park and the mainland. Some of the spits are very shallow and create a serious hazard for motor boats.

Sudden storms occur fairly frequently on Lac La Biche. The water level at the east end of the lake can increase by as much as 0.3 m during storms, and rough water creates dangerous conditions for boaters. Because of the many islands and sub-basins in the east basin, large waves are funnelled onto localized areas, such as along the north shore of the provincial park. Areas exposed to heavy wave action in the west basin are the northeast shore of the basin and the east side of Mission Bay (FIGURE 1). In spring, ice jams and floods are common along the east shore of the east basin (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982 [a]).

The elevation of Lac La Biche was recorded sporadically in 1930, 1931 and 1932, and has been monitored regularly since 1933 (FIGURE 3). The water level has fluctuated over a range of 2.27 m, from a high of 545.08 m in September 1960 to a low of 542.81 m in November 1981. Water level fluctuations have resulted in considerable changes to the lake's area and capacity (FIGURE 4) and have caused both flooding and lake access problems. In 1988, Alberta Environment began a feasibility study of water level stabilization.

Water Quality

Water quality in Lac La Biche was studied by the University of Alberta during 1965 and 1966 (Pinsent 1967), by Alberta Environment in 1978, 1979, 1988 and 1989 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]; Mitchell 1980; Alta. Envir. 1984).

The ionic composition of the water in the lake's two basins is very similar (TABLE 3). The water is fresh, hard and well-buffered, and the dominant ions are bicarbonate and calcium.

Both basins are generally well-mixed throughout the open-water period. In early August 1988, the lake was weakly thermally stratified (FIGURE 5). During July and August in 1988, dissolved oxygen concentrations declined in the deeper parts of both basins (FIGURE 6). In the west basin, dissolved oxygen concentrations declined to less than 5 mg/L below a depth of 16 m, and reached a minimum of 0.2 mg/L at a depth of 20 m. Depletion was not as severe in the east basin, where the concentration of dissolved oxygen in early August fell to 4 mg/L at the bottom in water 9-m deep. During winter, the dissolved oxygen concentration in Lac La Biche sometimes becomes critical for fish survival, and fish kills have been reported in the past. In March 1989, the concentration of dissolved oxygen immediately under the ice in both basins was 12 mg/L. Oxygen depletion was evident, however, at greater depths. In the deeper west basin, the water was anoxic below a depth of 18 m, and in the east basin, the dissolved oxygen concentration declined to 1 mg/L at the bottom depth of 9 m.

Lac La Biche is eutrophic. In 1988, similar patterns of total phosphorus and chlorophyll a concentrations were recorded in both basins during the open-water period (FIGURE 7). Concentrations of both variables were low during May and June, rose during July and reached maxima in August or September. In 1988, chlorophyll a maxima in both basins were about 50 5g/L, but the maximum occurred earlier in the shallower east basin. Total phosphorus levels in both basins rose to almost 180 5g/L by early September, and in the west basin, the level remained that high until early October (FIGURE 7). This suggests that phosphorus is released from the bottom sediments during late summer and is then mixed into the surface water when the water column mixes. In 1988, the average concentration of phosphorus was slightly higher, and the average concentration of chlorophyll a was slightly lower, in the west basin than in the east basin (TABLE 4).

The total phosphorus loading to Lac La Biche from sources external to the lake is estimated to be 37,866 kg/year, or 0.16 g/m2 of lake surface (TABLE 5). This loading rate is comparable to rates calculated for Sturgeon (0.14 g/m2) and Gull (0.15 g/m2) lakes, but is much higher than the rate calculated for Moore Lake (0.06 g/m2) and much lower than the rate calculated for Lac la Nonne (0.41 g/m2). The largest contributor to the total phosphorus loading to Lac La Biche is runoff from the forested portion of the immediate watershed (59%), followed by runoff from agricultural land and open areas (15%), precipitation and dustfall (13%) and inflow from other lakes (12%). Sewage and runoff from urban and cottage areas . contribute minor amounts of phosphorus (less than 2%). Sewage inputs to Lac La Biche were not actually measured; they were calculated from data collected for other Alberta lakes. A gross calculation of phosphorus loading from internal sources during the period from early July to early September in 1988 suggests that internal loading during this period could amount to 4 times the annual external loading (Mitchell 1989).

Biological Characteristics


The phytoplankton community in Lac La Biche was sampled monthly from May to September in 1965 and biweekly from May to September in 1966 by a researcher from the University of Alberta (Pinsent 1967). It was also sampled on 19 October 1977, on 20 February in both 1978 and 1979, monthly from May to September in 1978 and 1979 and on 4 July 1983 by Alberta Environment (Alta. Envir. n.d.[al; Beliveau and Furnell 1980). From October 1977 to February 978, samples were taken by vertical net (60 micron mesh) hauls, hereas during 1979, samples were taken with a Van Dorn water bottle. The abundance of algal groups was measured by cell counts, and biomass was expressed as total cell volume per m2 of surface area. In 1979, blue-greens (Bacillariophyta) were the dominant group at one of the three sampling sites from late June through mid-September, forming 66 to 93% of the volume. At the two other sites, blue-greens were dominant from late July to mid-September (65 to 100% of the volume) and diatoms (Bacillariophyta) and cryptophytes were the most important groups in May and June. Species present on each sampling date were not identified. On 4 July 1983, biomass was measured and species were identified. Blue-greens (particularly Anabaena flos-aquae) accounted for 49% of the total biomass of 3.31 mg/L. Of secondary importance (11 to 14% of the biomass) were green algae (Chlorophyta: mostly Tetraspora lacustris and Pediastrum duplex), Cryptophyta: mostly Cryptomonas ovata, dinoflagellates (Pyrrhophyta: entirely Ceratium hirundinella) and diatoms (mostly Fragilaria crotonensis). The importance of blue-green algae in Lac La Biche in the summer is related to the high total phosphorus concentrations in the surface water and the low dissolved oxygen concentrations that are present over the bottom sediments in midsummer (Trimbee and Prepas 1987; 1988).

The rooted macrophytes in Lac La Biche were surveyed briefly in 1966 (Pinsent 1967). As well, the distribution of emergent vegetation was mapped in 1982 by Alberta Municipal Affairs, but species were not identified (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982[a]). In 1966, nine species of rooted aquatic plants were identified (TABLE 6). That year, emergent vegetation, generally common great bulrush (Scirpus validus), was most abundant along the north shore and in protected bays. Lac La Biche has extensive areas of sandy and rocky shore where the submergent vegetation was predominantly Richardson (Potamogeton richardsonii) and Sago pondweeds (P. pectinatus) and the main emergent species was bulrush (Scirpus sp.). A large filamentous alga, Cladophora sp., was sighted in thick mats on the bottom of several areas in the littoral zone.


Zooplankton and bottom fauna were sampled during 1965 and 1966 by a researcher from the University of Alberta, but the number of bottom samples was small and collection sites were not separated into depth zones (Pinsent 1967). Zooplankton were collected bi-weekly at three sites by means of 8-m vertical tows with plankton nets. The dominant cladocerans were Chydorus sphaericus and Daphnia retrocurva and the dominant copepods were Diacyclops bicuspidatus thomasi and Diaptomus oregonensis. Diacyclops is noteworthy because it serves as the intermediate invertebrate host for Triaenophorus crassus. The cysts of this tapeworm heavily infest the lake whitefish and cisco in Lac La Biche; the final host of the tapeworm is northern pike. An August 1978 sample collected by Alberta Environment contained D. bicuspidatus thomasi, Acanthocyclops vernalis, Mesocyclops edax, Daphnia galeata mendotae, Diaptomus sicilis and D. oregonensis.


The fish species in Lac La Biche are walleye, northern pike, lake whitefish, cisco, yellow perch, burbot, white sucker, longnose sucker, spottail shiner, brook stickleback and Iowa darter. The lake is managed for sport, domestic and commercial fisheries, but catch data are available only for the commercial fishery. Although Lac La Biche has good sport fishing potential, the water can be very rough, so angling from small boats is limited (Chipeniuk 1975; Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982 [a]).

Records of the commercial catch have been kept since 1942 (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; Alta. Rec. Parks Wild. 1976). The most important commercial species are cisco, lake whitefish and northern pike. The fishery has been fairly erratic due to changes in market demand, overfishing, variable year-class strength, and occasional die-offs. Nevertheless, total harvests in excess of 1,370,000 kg were recorded in 1946/47, 1964/65, 1968/69 and 1969/70; 68 to 89% of the catch in these years was cisco. The total catch from 1980/81 to 1987/88 has varied between only 327,000 and 381,000 kg/year. The average catch for this period, 348,000 kg/year, consisted of 53% cisco, 35% whitefish and 12% pike. The harvest of yellow perch, burbot and suckers was not recorded.

Although cisco are the main catch, they have long been infested with cysts of the tapeworm Triaenophorus crassus and are not sold for human consumption. Historically, the cisco catch has been variable, with periods of high catches followed by population crashes. These crashes were caused partly by overfishing and partly by die-offs that coincided with low water levels and reduced oxygen concentrations (Robertson 1969). During the 1920s and 1930s, cisco had little commercial value and were used for fertilizer and hog food. During the 1930s and early 1940s, the mink farming industry in the area grew and developed into the primary market for cisco. The average cisco catch from 1942/43 to 1946/47 was 726,000 kg/year. There was a large die-off of juvenile cisco during June and early July in 1947. Large numbers of juvenile cisco washed ashore, yet shallow-water species apparently were not affected. In 1947/48, the commercial harvest was only about 10,000 kg and in 1948/49, the fishery was closed. Consequently, many mink ranches closed. The cisco population rebuilt slowly during the 1950s, and from 1958/59 to 1975/76, the average catch increased to 594,000 kg/year. The demand for mink food, however, continued to decline as the demand for mink fur declined during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Between 1966 and 1981, mink ranches decreased from 49 to 4 and pelt production declined from 34,000 to less than 10,000 pelts/year (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982[a]). The reduction in fur ranching led to greatly reduced demand for cisco: the average cisco harvest from 1980/81 to 1987/88 was 184,440 kg/year, or 53% of the total catch.

The commercial harvest of lake whitefish in Lac La Biche has been highly variable. From 1942/43 to 1947/48, the catch varied from 244 to 55,700 kg/year, with an average of 16,400 kg/year. The average catch from 1949/50 to 1978/79 was 87,100 kg/year. The maximum recorded harvest was 353,000 kg in 1960/61. Lake whitefish in Lac La Biche are infested with Triaenophorus crassus cysts, which lower the commercial value of the fish. In 1979, a roe fishery for lake whitefish was started. Subsequently, the average catch of whitefish for the period from 1979/80 to 1987/88 increased to 122,000 kg/year.

Burbot and suckers have been a significant part of the commercial catch. Records are available from 1949/50 to 1975/76. The average combined catch for that period was 81,400 kg/year. The maximum catch, 285,000 kg, was taken in 1968/69.

Northern pike have always been an important part of the commercial fishery. Catches averaged 28,000 kg/year from 1942/43 to 1947/48, 28,800 kg/year from 1949/50 to 1975/76, and 40,900 kg/year from 1980/81 to 1987/88. The greatest reported harvest was 84,500 kg in 1949/50 and the second highest harvest was 82,600 kg in 1987/88.

Walleye were abundant in Lac La Biche until the 1960s. Many were caught, both legally and illegally, by the commercial fishery, sometimes in nets set across approaches to the Owl and La Biche rivers during the walleye spawning runs (Chipeniuk 1975) . Consequently, the population collapsed. Because of the extent of the illegal harvest, catch records greatly underestimate the total harvest. The maximum reported catch was 58,600 kg in 1946/47. The average reported commercial catch from 1968/69 to 1987/88, however, was only 204 kg/year. A walleye rearing pond was built in 1984 to help rebuild the walleye population. Walleye fingerlings were stocked at a rate of 3,680 in 1985, 522,700 in 1986 and 511,900 in 1987 (Alta. En. Nat. Resour. 1985; Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1986; 1987[a]). It is too early to assess whether these stockings have helped accelerate the natural, ongoing recovery of the walleye population in Lac La Biche.

Yellow perch have been a small part of the commercial catch since records were first kept. The catch is usually less than 5,000 kg/year. From 1964/65 to 1971/72, however, the perch catch varied between 35,000 and 280,000 kg/year, with an average of 96,500 kg/year. The harvest was only 2,400 kg in 1975/76, the last year for which records are available.


Lac La Biche is an important staging area for migrating birds and is a designated Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Over 200 species of birds in Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park have been identified (Finlay and Finlay 1987). Almost 41% of the lake's shoreline has only slight limitation to waterfowl production and 53% has some limitation because of steep banks or reduced marsh edge. The lake is an important feeding area for White Pelicans, which occasionally nest on the lake, and for Double-crested Cormorants. The lake provides important nesting areas for Western Grebes, Common Terns and California Gulls. In 1981, one Bald Eagle and three Osprey nests were reported. Frequently observed waterfowl species are Mallard, Lesser Scaup, American Widgeon, White-winged Scoter, American Coot, Franklin's Gull, Blue-winged Teal and Bufflehead. In the backshore areas, Spruce Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse and Ruffed Grouse are common (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982[a]).

White-tailed deer are the most abundant large mammal in the watershed, and timber wolves, coyotes and black bears are often seen. Some mule deer are present and moose roam in areas north of the lake. Red foxes are present throughout the drainage basin and also live on the islands in the lake. Aquatic fur-bearers that use the lake include beaver, mink and muskrats (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1982[a]).

M.E. Bradford and J.M. Hanson


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