As people around the world prepare to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, Ontarians have everything they need right in their own backyard. With more than 330 provincial parks covering 8.2 million hectares of parkland, Ontario is a veritable playground for all things fun and environmental.
Here are five ways you can enjoy the spirit of Earth Day in April and throughout the year:
By: Corina Brdar, Southeast Zone Ecologist, Ontario Parks
There is some cutting edge research on preemie health and survival taking place in Ontario Parks. The “preemie” babies in question are Blanding’s turtles –a species at risk in Ontario. Each year the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre (KTTC) in Peterborough takes in injured (or sadly, dead) female Blanding’s turtles and rescues their eggs. Injured turtles treated at this unique animal hospital are “induced” to release their eggs using oxytocin, just like an expectant mom would be. The eggs are hatched at the centre and raised until they are 2 years old.
Scientists are combing the backcountry of Ontario this winter scooping up samples of wolf and caribou scat, hoping the DNA-rich pellets will provide precious clues into the lives of these endangered species.
The collection is part of ongoing efforts to capture the important data far less invasively than by trapping or collaring the animals. Every winter for the past few years, scientists have flown by helicopter over parts of the province and landed where they have spotted certain tracks. They then follow the tracks on foot and bag the scat along the way. That way they can capture the samples they need without ever having to frighten or interact with the animals in any way.
Summer campers love Ontario Parks but many have never experienced their favourite park in winter. Ontario Parks aims to change that. Nineteen provincial parks are open this winter season with cross-country trails to ski. Thirteen have groomed or track-set trails. And eight of the nineteen have comfortable roofed accommodation for rent. Designated snowshoe trails are in many parks. Some have skating and tubing too. Three parks will host ski loppets. Another will host an annual snowshoe race and at least five plan to celebrate February’s Family Day weekend with special events. Below are tips to help visitors plan their own exotic park adventure this winter:
Christmas bird counts have been a tradition that has been taking place for the past 114 years. In 1900, A single man set out to count the number of different bird species and now these counts take place in over 2000 localities in Canada, US, Latin America and the Caribbean. Bird Studies Canada now coordinates with all the local organizers to help make these counts possible. This year, all counts must take place between December 14 and January 5. Birds are counted in a 24km diameter circle; the same area is then used every year.
Piping Plovers are small shorebirds seen scurrying along sandy shorelines or backs of beaches where water has pooled, searching for insects and small crustaceans. Although well camouflaged, Piping Plovers are identifiable by their short orange bills and bright orange legs. These shorebirds may be little, weighing about 2 ounces and 6 inches in length, but they are mighty. Twice a year they migrate approximately 2,000 miles to the Atlantic Coast of Mexico.
Every year, more than a million people visit Ontario Parks to witness the splendor of the fall colours. After all, there are 8.2 million ha of provincial parks that set the horizon on fire, with their ever-turning reds, greens, oranges and yellows.
But is there anything else to see other than the leaves? Absolutely! With 1800 km of trails across the province, you just have to know where to look and what to look for.
Fall hiking is one of the best ways to appreciate the splendors of autumn that continue long after the leaves have fallen.
Government agencies of both Ontario and Quebec, as well as hydropower producers, Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Algonquin’s of Ontario, and other stakeholders are working together to restore the American eel (Anguilla rostrate) within its historic range in Ontario waters. Earlier this summer, over 400 juvenile eels (yellow eel) were collected from the eel-ladder at Hydro-Quebec’s Beauharnois Generating Station in Quebec and released in the Ottawa River at Voyageur Provincial Park. This marked the first assisted passage of American eel into the Ottawa River, and the beginning of a long journey to help restore populations of eel in the Ottawa River Watershed.
If you are looking for an enchanting way to ride out the rest of the summer or early fall, why not tour the coast of Lake Superior and finish your journey at Thunder Bay and Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park? The coastline boasts several different parks that follow Lake Superior north and west. When you reach the lakehead (Thunder Bay, Ontario’s western end of the lake), travel inland to Kakabeka Falls, home to the second largest waterfall in Ontario.