The next time you take your kids or grandkids for a trek through your favourite Ontario provincial park, stay on the lookout for salamanders. Some of these wondrous little amphibians are on the endangered species list so if you see one skulking through your park, snap a selfie and send it to Ontario Nature, or download a free app at ontarionature.org/atlas. Your scientific discovery could help scientists understand more about why these fascinating creatures are disappearing.
According to a study done by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, amphibians such as salamanders, frogs and toads are experiencing one of the biggest declines globally. In fact, 41 percent of amphibians worldwide are endangered or threatened, including here in Ontario.
Continue reading Year of the salamander
Imagine having the power to help endangered species become not so endangered. Actually, you do! Right here in Ontario! All you have to do is grab your binoculars, smart phone or digital camera and become a Citizen Scientist.
Citizen Science is taking off around the world as a way for everyday people to become directly involved in helping to record nature and preserve endangered species. No scientific degree required, just a healthy dose of curiosity and concern for the environment and a way to share your information.
Continue reading The joy of citizen science: see it, save it, send it
Are you going to bear country this summer? Remember we share our parks with these wonderful creatures. Be prepared and aware!
To be prepared, let’s first understand some basics about bears. Black bears, despite their name, aren’t always black and will range in colour and weigh 250lb to 650lbs. Due to hibernation during winter months, finding food is very important from April to late fall. Although portrayed as meat eaters, bears are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and plants. Berries, nuts and other plants are the majority of their diet. However, bears are opportunistic, meaning if they smell food they will search it out and eat it. Once they find a food source they will keep returning.
Since bears have such a keen sense of smell, it’s your responsibility to keep your campsite clean. If you have a vehicle, pack up all your food into containers and keep it in your trunk. This includes anything with a smell, so pack up those toiletries and clothes you have cooked in. Also, do not dump your dish water on your site. Waste water should be dumped down a vault privy.
Continue reading Are you bear wise?
The next time you visit your favourite Ontario provincial park, be on the lookout for one of our most threatened “umbrella” species, the iconic Blanding’s turtle.
This hard-working, helmet-shaped, eco-soldier does more than walk through wetlands searching for food. Its very existence, ergo conservation, helps a variety of other species and ecosystems survive and thrive. This “pay-it-forward” sort of interdependence is what makes the Blanding’s turtle so important in Ontario.
Continue reading When is a turtle like an umbrella?
Everyone knows that moose are brown, even if they’ve never seen one in person. Big and brown. Even Bullwinkle, the famous cartoon moose is brown. Moose calves can be very light-coloured when they are very young – even a bright cinnamon colour, but they always turn brown as they get older. Always.
There is a place, however, where the moose aren’t following the rules… west of Timmins there’s a place not shown on any map. You could call it “The White Moose Forest”. Some locals call the ghostly inhabitants “Spirit Moose”. In this forest some of the moose are white. Yes, completely white. The little town of Foleyet and Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park seem to be at the centre of this White Moose Forest. Folks, local to this area, have seen them, surprisingly, while driving along Highway 101. The Ivanhoe Lake park superintendent has seen them. Continue reading The White Moose Forest
Congratulations to Wasaga Beach Provincial Park (WBPP) staff, the many volunteers and the Friends of Nancy Island and Wasaga Beach Park for receiving the prestigious Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s (ECO) 2013 Recognition Award for their role in protecting the endangered Piping Plovers.
Listed as an endangered species in Canada and the United States, the arrival of the Piping Plovers at Wasaga Beach in 2006 marked a significant turning point as this species had not successfully nested on the Canadian Great Lakes for over 30 years, and had no breeding success at the park in over 70 years.
The Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Piping Plover Program has been helping to foster awareness, appreciation and understanding of the plight of the Piping Plovers in the Great Lakes region for six consecutive years. The program attracted support from many volunteers and community partners. Together the WBPP staff and the Piping Plover Guardians, a group of 40-80 volunteers who work three-hour shifts, monitor the Piping Plovers and protect them from predators daily. And, they do it every day in the middle of one of Ontario’s busiest beaches from spring until late August.
Last year there were 66 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes population of which five were on the Canadian side in Ontario with two nests at Wasaga Beach. Thanks to the tireless efforts of WBPP staff, the volunteers and the community partners, the 2013 program’s success rate was the highest since its inception: 63 per cent of the eggs hatched into fledgling chicks. This is a vast improvement over the 25 per cent average survival rate of Piper Plovers in the wild.
Keep up the great work!
Did You Know?
- The ECO’s Recognition Award acknowledges ministries that best meet the goals of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR) or use the best internal EBR practices.
- WBPP staff monitor the entire 14 km of beachfront starting early in the spring watching for the arrival of piping plovers. Once pair bonds are established, staff monitor courtship and breeding.
- After a single, sand-coloured egg is discovered; staff set up a perimeter fence and the area is closed for 50 metres either side of the egg. A predator enclosure is installed after the fourth egg is laid – this ensures the nest is protected from predators.
- Park staff and Piping Plover Guardians then monitor the plovers on a daily basis from 8 am – 8 pm until the plovers’ departure in late August.