ENDANGERED SPECIES: Oxford County

Oxford County Endangered Species Sighting

Recently, we received this message from Miranda Boeder…

“I recently found what I thought was a baby rat snake until now, I looked on your website at the endangered species list and learned the snake I found was a milk snake and they’re listed as special concern. I would like to share the pics I took! Also know that after photographing, I put him back safely where I found him.”


Highlighting Endangered Species of Oxford County


In honour of Endangered Species Day on May 16, (established in 2006), Ingersoll District Nature Club will take a moment to highlight the endangered species in Oxford County, and inform you on how you can participate in their protection.

Previously, you may have noticed our ‘Endangered Species in Focus’ column under the News & Updates but due to the sheer volume, we have amalgamated them under a single tab.  This is now where we focus on a particular endangered species each week and provide you with facts on that specific species.

Below is a list of 30 (thirty) Endangered Species, Threatened Species and Species of Special Concern in OXFORD COUNTY:

ENDANGERED & THREATENED SPECIES OF OXFORD COUNTY

SPECIES STATUS SPECIES STATUS
BIRDS
Acadian Flycatcher ENDANGERED Eastern Meadowlark THREATENED
Barn Swallow THREATENED King Rail ENDANGERED
Bobolink THREATENED Least Bittern THREATENED
Cerulean Warbler THREATENED Loggerhead Shrike ENDANGERED
Chimney Swift THREATENED Yellow-Breasted Chat ENDANGERED
FISH
Black Redhorse THREATENED Northern Brook Lamprey SPECIAL CONCERN
Silver Shiner THREATENED  
INSECTS
Laura’s Clubtail ENDANGERED Rapids Clubtail ENDANGERED
Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee ENDANGERED  
MAMMALS
American Badger ENDANGERED  
MUSSELS
Round Pigtoe ENDANGERED Wavy-Rayed Lampmussel THREATENED
PLANTS
American Chestnut ENDANGERED Green Dragon SPECIAL CONCERN
American Columbo ENDANGERED Large Whorled Pogonia ENDANGERED
Eastern Flowering Dogwood ENDANGERED  
SNAKES
Eastern Ribbon Snake SPECIAL CONCERN Milksnake SPECIAL CONCERN
TURTLES
Blanding’s Turtle THREATENED Snapping Turtle SPECIAL CONCERN
Northern Map Turtle SPECIAL CONCERN Spiny Softshell Turtle THREATENED

What is an ENDANGERED Species?

  • A species at risk of extinction because of human activity, changes in climate, changes in predator-prey ratios, etc., especially when officially designated as such by a governmental agency.

What is a THREATENED Species?

  • A species at risk of becoming endangered in the near future. A threatened species may have a declining population or be exceptionally rare.

What is a SPECIES OF CONCERN?

  • A species that may become a threatened or endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

 WHY SHOULD WE PROTECT ENDANGERED SPECIES?

  • Plants and animals hold medicinal, agricultural, ecological, commercial and aesthetic/recreational value. Our quality of life and that of future generations depends on our preservation of plant and animal species;
  • As species are lost, so are the options for future discovery and advancement;
  • More than 20 million Canadians spend billions of dollars a year to practice “nature” activities such as mountain hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, photography, bird watching and visits to zoos or nature centres.

 Did You Know?

  • We live in a province with over 30,000 species of plants and animals, but more than 200 of those species are in trouble;
  • Approximately 3079 animals and 2655 plants are endangered worldwide
  • Of the 150 medicines most frequently prescribed, about 100 are derived from plants – more than 3 million heart disease sufferers would perish within 72 hours of a heart attack without digitalis, a drug from the plant called purple foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea);
  • Millions of birds die every year because of collisions with windows. You can help by simply by placing window decals on your windows.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1. Learn about endangered species in your area

Teach your friends and family about the wonderful wildlife, birds, fish and plants that live near you. The first step to protecting endangered species is learning about how interesting and important they are!

The will to protect animals and nature in general demonstrates the value of society – Click the links in the above chart to start your discovery on the endangered species of Oxford County!

2. Visit, Become a Member, Participate or Volunteer at your local Conservation Area or Nature Space

These protected lands provide habitat to many native wildlife, birds, fish and plants;

Visit the Ministry of Natural Resources Webpage and learn more about the Stewardship Youth Ranger Program here

The members of Ingersoll District Nature Club are the formal stewards of the Lawson Nature Reserve Ingersoll, Ontario – find directions here

Plan a ‘Nature Day in Oxford County’ and visit one of the many sites listed here

3. Contact the Ministry of Natural Resources when you encounter an endangered species

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) provides an online form here to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specifics (ie. location, coordinates, viewing patterns, etc.) provide helpful assistance;

Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats. The will to protect animals and nature in general demonstrates the value of society

4. Start at Home

Reduce the use of water in your home and garden so that animals living in or near water can have a better chance of survival;

Use energy saving lights and appliances. Recycle – Keep trash out of the environment;

Use fewer pesticides and herbicides that are harmful to endangered species. Be a smart consumer – don’t buy illegal products that harm endangered species;

Plant native vegetation for wildlife habitat. This helps keep invasive species out;

If you have friends that live on farms, encourage them to keep patches of bush as wildlife habitats and to leave old trees standing, especially those with hollows suitable for nesting animals


BIRDS

ENDANGERED:  Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria Virens)

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chat2

Description:

  • The Yellow-breasted chat is a medium-sized songbird, about 18 centimetres long, with a long tail. It has a bright yellow chest and throat, olive-green back, white circles around its eyes, white belly and undertail. This bird eats insects and berries gathered from the foliage of low, dense shrubs, or from the ground.
  • The Juvenile Yellow-breasted chat lacks yellow and has dusky spotting on throat and chest.

Important Dates:

  • Nov. 30, 2011: Species is listed as “at risk”
  • Jan. 24, 2013: Species reassessed and labeled as “endangered”

Range:

  • Found in much of United States. In Canada, it lives in southern British Columbia, the Praries, and southwestern Ontario, where it is concentrated in Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island Lake Erie
  • Winters along the Gulf of Mexico

Habitat:

  • Lives in thickets and scrub, especially locations where clearings have become overgrown;
  • Spend winters in coastal marshes;
  • Nests in shrubs

Behaviour:

  • Gleans prey from foliage of low, dense shrubs, or from ground. Holds food with foot

Food:

  • Small invertebrates, fruits

Threats:

  • Habitat of overgrown clearings is disappearing

Protection:

  • The Ontario population has declined by 55% over the past 20 years and it is declining in neighboring jurisdictions as well
  • There are likely fewer than 10 breeding locations in Ontario
  • The population in the Point Pelee National Park also receives protection

What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • Maintain and enhance remaining riparian habitat including cottonwoods, aspen, rose thickets and snowberry;
  • Protect off-road vehicles from disturbing and degrading stream-side vegetation;
  • You can use an online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre (http://nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/);
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats;
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park;
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more info on how to help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org

Fun Facts:

  • Yellow-breasted Chat’s in Ontario tend to be more subdued in colour than their relatives in Western Canada, and separate subspecies are recognized;
  • The Yellow-breasted Chat’s song consists of a weird assortment of clicks, whistles and even chuckles;
  • Was first described in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus, Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist;
  • They will lay from 3 to 5 creamy white eggs with reddish brown blotches or speckles, incubated by the female, hatch in 11 to 12 days;
  • Both parents tend the young, who fledge in approximately 8 to 11 days;
  • Nesting occurs mid-May to JuneChats often sing at night;
  • The yellow-breasted Chat’s song consists of a weird assortment of clicks, whistles and even chuckles. Song is louder and lower pitched than those of their other wood warblers; one common phrase consists of three whistles exactly like someone calling their dog!

THREATENED:  Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)

Least Bittern2 Least Bittern1

Description:

The Least Bittern is one of the smallest and lightest herons in the world (no larger than an American Robin). It typically grows to only 13 inches in length, has a wingspan of 17 inches and an average weight of just 3 ounces. The crown and back of the males is black, but is lighter in the females and juveniles. The Least Bittern feeds on small fish, frogs and insects.

Important Dates:

  • June 30, 2008: Species Listed at Risk
  • June 30, 2013: Species Granted Habitat Protection

Range:

  • Widely found in North, Central and South America;
  • In Canada, the Least Bittern live in southern Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, but primarily breeds in southern Ontario;
  • Marsh bird monitoring programs estimate the decline in Ontario of over 30% between 1999 and 2009; and
  • In winter, the Least Bittern hibernates in the Southern United States, Mexico and Central America

Habitat:

  • The Least Bittern begins its nesting period in the prime marsh habitat of early spring. The presence of dense vegetation is essential for nesting because the nests sit on platforms of stiff stems – females lay approximately four or five eggs and can produce up to twice per season;
  • In Ontario, the Least Bittern can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, but strongly prefers cattail marshes with a mix of open pools and channels;

Threats:

  • The main threat to Least Bitterns is draining of wetlands for conversion to farmland and urban development;
  • The Least Bittern does not tolerate human disturbance well and will leave marshes if human activity or habitat alteration becomes too great;
  • Least Bitterns generally fly fairly low and as a result are sometimes killed by cars, where roads pass through wetlands. They are susceptible to collisions with hydro lines, guy wires on towers, or hitting tall buildings that are illuminated at night (when they migrate);
  • Invasive species such as Purple Loosestrife, Reed Canary Grass, Common Reed, and Flowering Rush are out-competing the cattails in which the Least Bittern breeds.

Protection:

  • The Least Bittern is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 – this statue makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed therein (“migratory birds”);
  • Also protected by Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007 and the Species at Risk Act (SARA);
  • The Least Bittern and its Nest are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act; and
  • Birds that live in provincial parks and conservation areas also receive additional protection through their programs.

What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • If you happen to see a Least Bittern and capture the sighting, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources to report your sighting and provide details of the location – learn about that process here (https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/report-rare-species-animals-and-plants);
  • Bird Studies Canada is a not-for-profit organization working on the conservation of wild birds and their habitats – learn more about them here (http://www.bsc-eoc.org/about/index.jsp?lang=EN);
  • Least Bitterns are quite shy and secretive, particularly during the breeding season (May to mid-July), and are easily scared away. If you know of a breeding zone, try to give them lots of room and distance;
  • Non-native plants create competition among the breeding ground for the Least Bittern. To learn what you can do to help eliminate these invasive species, visit Ontario Invasive Plant Council here (http://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/); and
  • As always, volunteer with your local Nature Club or Provincial Park to learn more about protecting our endangered species.

Fun Facts:

  • When alarmed, the Least Bittern freezes in place and sometimes sways to resemble wind-blown marsh vegetation;
  • Thanks to its habitat of straddling reeds, the Least Bittern can feed in water that would be too deep for other herons;
  • The nests of the Least Bittern are almost always within 10m of open water; and
  • The scientific name for this heron, Ixobrychus, was incorrectly translated from Latin in 1828. It was intended to mean “reed boomer” – a reasonable name given the bird’s call, however if translated literally means “greedy eater of Mistletoe”!

FISH

 THREATENED:  Black Redhorse (Moxostoma duquesnei)

BlackRedhorse3 BlackRedhorse1

Description:

The Black Redhorse is a member of the sucker fish. It sucks in materials from the bottom and then expels any silt (earthy matter, fine sand, or the like).They eat crustaceans and insects. The younger fish are thought to prefer plankton. It will grow to about 50 cm. in length and weigh up to 1 kilo. The age of maturity is between two and six years, some individuals have been known to reach the age of 16.

 Important Dates:

  •  2008: Species assessed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act
  • June 30, 2013: Species granted Habitat Protection

Range:

  • In Canada, the Black Redhorse is found only in southwestern Ontario at a few locations in the Bayfield River, Maitland River, Ausable River, Grand River, Thames River and Specier Creek ; and
  • It occurs in clean, swift flowing creeks and rivers with bottoms of gravel, rock, or sand and has a low tolerance for pollution.

 Habitat:

  • Generally lives in moderately sized rivers and streams, and with generally moderate to fast currents. In summer, they generally prefer pools and overwinter in deeper pools; and
  • Spring spawning has been observed in water temperatures between 15-21 degrees celsius and eggs are laid on gravel in fast water.

Threats:

  • The decline of the Black Redhorse in Ontario was probably caused by overfishing and habitat alteration;
  • Current threats include dam construction and reservoir development; and
  • The Black Redhorse requires clean, clear water and does not do well in rivers that are muddy or polluted.

 Protection:

  • Protected under the habitat section of the Fisheries Act;
  • Protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007;

 What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • If you have an encounter with the Black Redhorse, ensure that you report your sighting with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The Natural Heritage Information Centre has a handy online form to assist with this (find out how to do that here)
  • Maintaining the flows at the run-of-the-river would be helpful, especially during spawning.

 Fun Facts:

  • Every year between May and June, the sides of a male black redhorse darken to a greenish-black, and a pink stripe runs the length of its body. After spawning season, this colouration fades to a bluish-silver; and
  • There are a total of seven Redhorse species in Canada, the Black Redhorse is distinguishable based on a combination of tail colour, lip formation and scale counts – very hard to tell them apart!

 INSECTS

ENDANGERED:  Laura’s Clubtail (Stylurus laurae)

Clubtail1 Clubtail2

Description:

Laura’s Clubtail is a dragonfly with green eyes and a pale face with one or two dark cross bars. It has prominent green or yellow stripes on the thorax (the area between the head and the abdomen), and dark abdomen with a yellow stripe on its back.

  • It is named “clubtail” for a club-like widening at the end of its abdomen.
  • Laura’s Clubtail is about six centimeters long
  • Laura’s Clubtail eggs can take between five and 30 days to hatch
  • Once hatched, larvae spend two to four years in sand and mud river bottoms
  • Larvae emerge from the water and molt into adults in June. Adults die in early fall of the same year

Important Dates:

  • Sept. 28, 2010: Listed as Endangered
  • Jan. 1, 2014: Receives Habitat Protection

Range:

In Ontario, Laura’s Clubtail is only known to occur in two sites in Ontario; along Big Creek and Big Otter Creek in the Tillsonburg and Long Point area near Lake Erie.

  • Found from Texas and the Florida Panhandle up to southwest Ontario

Habitat:

  • Larvae need shallow, sandy or sadny-muddy bottomed creeks with forested shorelines;
  • Sensitive to water quality degradation and are only found in unpolluted waters;
  • During their adult life, they require forest cover beside the creek.
  • Adults use riffle areas in the stream for foraging and require vegetation along the creek to perch between flights

Threats:

  • Laura’s Clubtail has specific habitat needs and is sensitive to pollution, habitat loss and degradation are potential threats to the species
  • Development, agricultural practices, and invasive species – especially round goby – may also degrade Laura’s Clubtail habitat
  • Many dragonflies are also killed when hit by cars

What You Can Do to Help:

  • You can help improve dragonfly habitat and keep Ontario’s water safe and clean by maintaining natural vegetation next to rivers. The roots of plants reduce erosion and can stop soil from washing into water bodies.

Fun Facts:

  • Laura’s Clubtail is named for Laura Ditzler, a member of the group that first identified the species in 1931;
  • Laura’s Clubtail was first recorded in Ontario in 1999;
  • Laura’s Clubtail is one of over 170 different kinds of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) in Ontario
  • When Laura’s Clubtail are larvae, they start eating single-celled organisms and move on to tadpoles and small fish as they grow larger. Adults feed on small flying insects;
  • Newly emerged adults are at greater risk from predators – frogs, spiders, larger dragonflies and birds – because their exoskeletons have not yet hardened;
  • “LAURA THE DRAGONFLY” has FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/LauraTheDragonfly

ENDANGERED:  Rapids Clubtail (Gomphus quadricolor)

clubtail2 clubtailpic

Description:

The Rapids Clubtail is a small (42 to 45 millimeter-long), brightly coloured dragonfly. Its eyes are bluish-green, with a light yellowish-green face that is striped with two dark lines, a brownish-black and yellowish-green striped body and transparent wings.

  • Like all dragonflies, it begins as an aquatic larva and transforms into winged adult in the summer
  • Rapids fly from late spring through early summer and adults feed on small flying insects

Important Dates:

  • Sept. 10, 2009: Listed as Endangered
  • July 1, 2012: Granted Habitat Protection

Range:

The Rapids Clubtail is found throughout eastern North America. Within this range the species and its habitat are locally distributed and there are large areas where the species does not occur.

  • Mostly located in the U.S. Midwest, but range extends from northern Alabama and Georgia to southern Ontario, and from Maine to eastern Minnesota.
  • In Ontario, the Rapids Clubtail has only been found in four rivers in southern Ontario: the Thames, Humber, Credit and Mississippi

Habitat:

  • Typically found in clear, cool medium-to-large rivers with gravel shallows and muddy pools.
  • Larvae occupy quiet muddy pools
  • Adult males perch on exposed rocks and other projections in the rapids – males are quite territorial and make short flights over the water, repeatedly returning to the same perch.
  • Adult females typically inhabit forests along riverbanks, and only visit shallows and pools when they are ready to mate and lay eggs.

Threats:

  • The primary threat to the Rapids Clubtail is the degradation of river habitats;
  • Activities which impede or alter the quantity and quality of water in the rivers, such as dams and pollution pose threats;

Protection:

  • A recovery strategy and a species-specific habitat regulation are being developed
  • Recovery strategy: a recovery strategy provides the best available scientific knowledge on what is required to achieve recovery of a species.
  • Rapids Clubtail has also been assessed nationally as endangered by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)

Fun Facts:

  • Adult Rapids Clubtails only live for three to four weeks, between early June and mid-July;
  • Larvae ‘breathe’ through the exposed tip of their abdomen when buried under a fine layer of sediment;
  • The most significant predator of Rapids larvae are fish, larger dragonflies and spiders

ENDANGERED:  Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus afinis)

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Description:

The Rusty-patched bumble bee is a medium to large bee, ranging from about one to two centimetres long with queens being at the higher end of this range. Like most bumble bees, it is yellow and black, but males and workers have a distinctive rusty-coloured patch on their abdomen.

Important Dates:

  • Sept. 28, 2010: listed as endangered
  • Jan. 1, 2014: granted habitat protection

Range:

  • Once widespread and common in eastern North America, found from southern Ontario south to Georgia and west to the Dakotas;
  • Suffering rapid decline since 1970’s, only a handful have been collected in Ontario in recent years. The only sightings of this bee in Canada since 2002 have been at the Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron.

 Habitat:

  • Like other bumble bees, they can be found in open habitat such as mixed farmland, urban setting, savannah, open woods and sand dunes;
  • Found in variety of flowering plants in bloom from April to October, with the peak population in July – September;
  • During winter hibernation the bumble bee will be found in underground rodent burrows or fallen deadwood;

 Threats:

  • Suspected causes include pesticide use and the spread of disease from bumble bees used to pollinate greenhouse vegetable crops;

 What You Can Do to Help:

  • Pollinators, such as bees, are in steep decline across the globe and they play a key role in the survival of many of Ontario’s rare plants. For more information on how you can help scientists track pollinator pollinations visit: seeds.ca/proj/poll
  • To provide nectar and pollen for bumble bees, plant a variety of native flowering plants in your garden. Bees tend to prefer pink, purple and yellow flowers;
  • Visit the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee Project on Facebook here ;
  • Attend our free community event titled “Decline of the Honey Bee” scheduled for June 10, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. at the UNIFOR Hall on Victoria Street (further details here)

Fun Facts:

  • Only 3 specimens of the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee have been found in Southern Ontario over the last 6 years;
  • This type of bumble bee gets it nectar from “nectar-robbing” (biting a hole in the outside of flowers and sucking the nectar up through its tongue), this technique leaves marks in the flower allowing experts to detect their presence;
  • Bumble bees perform “buzz pollination”, in which the bee grabs the pollen-producing plant in its jaws and vibrates its wings causing vibrations that dislodge pollen that would have been trapped otherwise. Some plants, including tomatoes, peppers, cranberries and onion seed require “buzz pollination”;
  • Bumble bees carry ‘pollen baskets’ on their hind legs;
  • The female bumble bee is naturally docile and will only sting when its colony is disturbed or they are concerned;
  • Check out the Guide to Distinguishing a Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee here

MAMMALS

 ENDANGERED:  American Badger (Taxidea taxus)

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Description:

These nighttime loving carnivores are short and stocky with distinctive black and white markings on their face.  The American Badger is relative of the weasel family and is the only type of badger that lives in North America. Large males weigh up to 26 lbs.

Badgers are built for digging. Their dens can be up to 3 metres underground and contain up to 10 metres of tunnels, with a large chamber for sleeping. Badgers have long strong claws and a streamlined skull enabling them to create these dens and dig prey out of burrows, such as groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and mice.

Solitary for most of the year, adult males and females only get together to mate in late summer, when females are in peak condition and are most fertile.

Status:

  • Endangered Provincially and Nationally

Important Dates:

  • June 30, 2008: Species listed as endangered
  • Feb. 18, 2010: Species granted habitat protection

Range:

  • Ranges from California and Texas to the Great Lakes region. In Canada, the badger is found in southern British Columbia, all the prairie provinces and Ontario;
  • In Ontario, the badger is found primarily in the southwestern part of the province, close to Lake Erie. There are thought to be fewer than 200 in Ontario;
  • They have very large territories for their size; some badger families can range over several thousand acres to find enough food.

Habitat:

  • Found in a variety of habitats, such as tall grass prairies, sand barrens and farmland;
  • Since badgers are primarily nocturnal and quite wary of people, not many people are fortunate enough to spot one in the wild. They are often on the move and will usually only stay in one area for a few nights before moving on;
  • Badgers need habitats with deep top soils. This makes it easier for them to burrow and make dens.

Threats:

  • They have few natural enemies in Ontarion (possibly coyotes), and the main threats are habitat loss and susceptibility to being hit by cars;
  • Populations used to be as big as 20,000 individuals in some areas; however, badgers are losing their homes rapidly as land is cleared for farms and houses

 What You Can Do to Help:

  • Badgers depend on healthy grassland habitat such as tallgrass prairie. Unfortunately, tallgrass prairie is increasingly rare throughout the province. Visit Tallgrass Ontario’s website here to learn more;
  • At com you can start a fundraising campaign that will support environmental education and conservation efforts to help – this project will support the installation of signs along trails around Lake Erie, which will raise awareness to the American Badger;
  • If you find a badger den on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats;
  • Visit the following links to learn more about the American Badger:

 Fun Facts:

  • Badgers have a second eyelid which can be closed to protect their eyes from dirt. This eyelid is called the “nictitating membrane”
  • If cornered, the American badger will growl, squeal, and show their teeth. When threatened, badgers release a foul smelling musk to drive off enemies;
  • The den of the badger only has one entrance. That way, if the animal feels threatened, it will back into the den;
  • Badgers are mainly nocturnal, but seldom can be seen in the day.

MUSSELS

ENDANGERED:  Round Pigtoe (Pleurobema sintoxia)

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Description:

The Round Pigtoe is one of Canada’s 54 freshwater mussel species, it is a medium to large-sized freshwater mussel that may reach 13 centimetres in length. Adults have a thick, solid, mahogany-coloured shell with dark bands. Juvenile shells are tan with green lines. This species develops growth rings as it ages, which resemble those of a tree stump.

Important Dates:

  • June 30, 2008: Species listed at Risk
  • June 30, 2013: Species granted Habitat Protection

Range:

  • In Ontario, it is found in the Grand, Thames and Sydenham rivers, found around Walpole Island in Lake St. Clair, and shallow areas along the shorelines of Lake Erie.

Habitat:

  • Lives in a wide range of habitats, from small rivers in area of moderate flow with gravel, cobble and boulder bottoms, to larger rivers in mud, sand and gravel at varying depths;
  • Its breeding season lasts from early May to late July and the larvae are released before winter;
  • Like all freshwater mussels, this species feeds on algae and bacteria that it filters out of the water;
  • Mussel larvae are parasitic (an animal or plant that lives in or on another (the host) from which it obtains nourishment) and must attach to a fish host – some known hosts are Bluegill, Spotfin Shiner and Bluntnose Minnow

Threats:

  • Introduction and spread of the Zebra Mussel throughout the Great Lakes severely reduced or eliminated the Round Pigtoe in Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and the Detroit and Niagara rivers;
  • Decreased water quality from pollution continue to threaten the round pigtoe

Protection:

  • Under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, the Round Pigtoe is protected against threat of being killed, collected, possessed, sold or traded;
  • Under SARA (Species at Risk Act), a recovery strategy and an action plan have been developed to prevent the loss and maintain/return healthy self-sustaining populations of the Round Pigtoe.

What You Can Do To Help:

  • Help improve mussel habitat by maintaining natural vegetation next to creeks and rivers. The roots of the plants reduce erosion and can stop soil from washing into the river;
  • Fence off streamside areas to keep cattle (and their manure) out of the water;
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Fun Facts:

  • Round Pigtoe eggs hatch inside a special pouch in the mother’s gills called a marsupium, where the larvae are supported before being ejected into the water;
  • Mussel larvae have a very low survival rate, so mussels will produce a lot of larvae – often over a million;
  • Mussels rely on a lot of good luck in order to reproduce. Males release sperm into the water, and if there happens to be a female nearby, she will capture the sperm as she filters water for food;
  • Mussels are indicators of environmental health. Since they have a complex life cycle, are long-lived species (some can live up to 100 years!), and eat by filtering water and its pollutants, mussels can provide a snapshot of how healthy our waterways are.

 THREATENED:  Wavy-rayed Lampmussel (Lampsilis fasciola)

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Description:

The Wavy-rayed Lampmussel is a medium-sized freshwater mussel. The shell of this lampmussel is yellow, or yellowish-green and has numerous thin wavy green lines (hence its name “wavy-rayed”). This species grows to a 100mm, has a lifespan of at least 10 years, but rarely more than 20 years. Spawning of the Wavy-rayed Lampmussel likely occurs in late summer and the larvae is released the following May-August.

Important Dates:

  • February 23, 2007: Recovery Strategy prepared by the Species at Risk Act – Recovery Strategy Series
  • April 2010: Species listed as a “special concern” via the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
  • February 18, 2011: Recovery Strategy back in place for the Wavy-rayed Lampmusse
  • November 18, 2011: Government Response Statement prepared (advises of actions being taken)
  • March 2013: Species listed as a “special concern” under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)

Range:

  • The Wavy-rayed Lampmussel can be found in 13 states and Ontario;
  • It can be found in much of the Ohio and Mississippi River drainages, as well as the lower great lakes and their tributaries;
  • Although this mussel was once prevalent in the rivers of southwestern Ontario, its range and abundance is now limited.

Habitat:

  • The Wavy-rayed Lampmussel lives mainly in gravel or sand bottoms of riffle areas in clear, medium-sized streams;
  • Typically the mussels are found in waters that have good current;
  • The presence of fish hosts such as large and small mouth bass is one of the key features that support the Wavy-rayed Mussels habitat.

Threats:

  • Siltation is likely the most immediate threat to the Wavy-rayed Lampmussel;
  • The invasion of the zebra mussel may have been responsible for the decline of the Wavy-rayed Lampmussel from the Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and Detroit Rivers;
  • Water clarity plays a particular role in the Wavy-rayed Lampmussel’s endangerment as it uses a visual lure to attach its larvae to the fish hosts; and
  • Dams on the Grand and Thames Rivers have likely played a significant role in the decrease of the Wavy-rayed Lampmussel as well.

Protection:

  • Protected under the Endangered Species Act, 2007;
  • Provided additional protection under the Fisheries and Planning Acts;
  • Currently it is listed as a species of “special concern” under SARA
  • An ecosystem-based, multi-species recovery plan is currently being prepared for the Wavy-rayed Lampmussel;

What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • Maintenance, or establishment of land adjacent to streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands can help protect mussel habitats from many of their threats;
  • Fence of stream-side areas to keep cattle (and their manure) out of the water;
  • You may be eligible to receive funding assistance from Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association to help reduce soil erosion;
  • Report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre; and
  • Volunteer with your local Nature Club or Provincial Park to learn how you can help in many ways.

Fun Facts:

  • Wavy-rayed Lampmussels attach themselves to Bass gills and feed off their nutrients for the first few weeks of their existence. To attract the fish, the female produces a ‘lure’ that appears like a minnow to the fish, once attacked, the mussel ejects its larvae;
  • A single mussel can filter up to 40 litres of water per day;
  • As particularly sensitive creatures, the mussel is a great indication of the health of its surrounding ecosystem and will be one of the first species to disappear from their environment; and
  • Aboriginal people harvested mussels for food and to create jewelry and tools; in the 1800s massive numbers of musseld were harvested from the Grand River to create buttons; millions were shipped out every year until the 1940s when plastic became more popular.

 PLANTS

ENDANGERED:  American Chestnut (Castanea dentate)

chestnut1 chestnut2

Description:

The American Chestnut is a tall deciduous tree that formerly reached about 30 metres in height; however, trees in Ontario are now typically only 5-10 metres tall. Chestnut trees have both male and female flowers but cannot self-pollinate. The fruit is a spiny bur-like husk enclosing one to five edible nuts. The nuts develop through late summer, with the burrs opening and falling to the ground near the first fall frost. Don’t be confused, the following trees are commonly mistaken with the American Chestnut:

  • The Horse Chestnut;
  • Chestnut Oak & Chinkapin Oak; and
  • Beech.

Important Dates:

  • June 30, 2008: Species Listed as Endangered
  • June 30, 2013: Species Granted Habitat Protection

Range:

  • Was widespread in eastern North America, but now primarily restricted to southwestern Ontario;
  • Based on data dated 2004, it was estimated that there was 120 to 150 mature trees and 1,000 young trees in the province.

Habitat:

  • Prefers dryer upland deciduous forests with sandy, acidic to neutral soils;
  • In Ontario, it is only found in the Carolinian Zone between Lake Erie and Lake Huron; and
  • Will grow alongside the Red Oak, Black Cherry, Sugar Maple and American Beech trees

Threats:

  • The epidemic called chestnut blight, has and continues to have a drastic impact on the American Chestnut population;
  • Chestnut Blight: a fungus accidentally introduced to North America from Asia in the early 1900s killing 99% of the American Chestnut trees within 30 years; and
  • Habitat loss due to forest clearing and damage to trees during logging operations.

Protection:

  • A recovery team was formed in 1988 to conduct research to identify blight-resistant (some remaining trees have shown resistance) species. The key to recovery may be the successful propagation and planting of a disease resistant stock; and
  • Protected under the Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007.

What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • The Canadian Chestnut Council is a scientific and charitable organization dedicated to the protection and recovery of American Chestnut in southern Ontario.

Fun Facts:

  • Aboriginal people used the American Chestnut for treating numerous ailments (coughs, dermatitis and heart trouble), as a staple food, to build shelters, for firewood and a source of dye;
  • The American Chestnut has been referred as the “bread tree” because their nuts are so high in starch that they can be milled into flour; they can also be roasted, boiled, dried or candied; and
  • About 2,500 chestnut trees are growing on 60 acres near West Salem, Wisconsin – this is the world’s largest remaining stand of American chestnut

ENDANGERED:  American Columbo (Frasera caroliniensis)

American Columbo 1 American Columbo 2

Description:

This hearty perennial produces tall (the entire plant can reach heights over 2 meters), distinctive spikes of flowers that are green-yellow with purple specks. It grows in a wide range of conditions but prefers partly shaded slopes in deciduous forests. The American Columbo works hard at establishing its roots for up to seven years before it produces it flower spike (some have been known to take 15!) and then dies off.

Important Dates:

  • June 30, 2008: Species listed At Risk
  • November 22, 2013: Recovery Strategy Prepared
  • June 30, 2013: Species Granted Habitat Protection

Range:

In Canada, the American Columbo is only found in the Carolinian forest region of southern Ontario. Based on field surveys performed in 2004 and 2005, 13 populations are currently believed to exist.

Habitat:

  • American Columbo lives in dry upland areas, rocky woods and to a lesser extent along open forest edges and dense shrub thickets in Ontario
  • This species ranges from deciduous forest regions in southern Ontario, through southern Michigan, northern Indiana, southern Illinois, southern Missouri, southeast Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas and northern Louisiana

Threats:

  • Habitat loss and encroachment from invasive plants such as the Common Buckthorn, Japanese Barberry, White Sweet Clover and Tatarian Honeysuckle are the greatest threats to the American Columbo.

Protection:

The American Columbo receives species and habitat protection under the Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act

What YOU Can Do to Help:

Fun Facts:

  • It was a common belief in the early 19th century that the root of the plant might be externally used for gangrene. It was also claimed to be useful in treating jaundice, scurvy, gout and rabies;
  • Two new populations were discovered in Ontario during 2005;
  •  The Cherokee Nation used the American Columbo as a tonic, antidiarrheal, antiemetic and a disinfectant; and
  • Populations of American Columbo tend to flower synchronously, with individuals producing a single flower stem 2-3 meters tall

ENDANGERED:  Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

dogwood1 dogwood2 dogwood3

Description:

The Eastern Flowering Dogwood is a small shrub or tree that reaches 3-10 metres in height it has oval leaves arranged in pairs along its branches. In the spring, tiny yellow flowers grow in clusters at the end of small branches and are surrounded by showy white leaves that look like petals. In the fall, its leaves will turn to rich red-brown in colour and its berries/fruit ripen to a bright red. These berries are an important food source for our bird species, which in return distribute the seeds.

Important Dates:

  • February 18, 2009: Species Listed at Risk
  • February 18, 2010: Recovery Strategy Prepared
  • November 18, 2010: Government Response Statement Prepared
  • July 1, 2011: Species Granted Habitat Protection

Range:

  • The range of Eastern Flowering Dogwood in Ontario is limited to the Carolinian Zone, a narrow band in southwestern Ontario, extending from the south eastern shore of Lake Huron, south eastward to the west end of Lake Ontario (southwest of Toronto, to Sarnia, to the shores of Lake Erie)

Habitat:

  • When in the wild, the Eastern Flowering Dogwood can be found at the forest edge and most popular on dry ridges.

Threats:

  • The spread of dogwood anthracnose disease/fungus has caused a dramatic decline in the Canadian population. This fungus first attacks the leaves of the tree, then spreads through the twigs and trunk. The origin of the pathogen has not been established, but it is suspected of being introduced from overseas; and
  • Mowing the lawn can cause damage to the tree’s trunk or roots – this increases susceptibility to disease and pest pressure.

What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • The planting of healthy, disease-free stock is priority, therefore, transplanting is strongly discouraged;
  • In regions where dogwood anthracnose is a problem, homeowners and public land managers are encouraged to know the symptoms and inspect trees frequently;
  • Contact your local Nature Club or Provincial Park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk; and
  • Pollinators, such as bees, are in a steep decline across the globe and they play a key role in the survival of many of Ontario’s rare plants. For more information on this subject, visit http://www.seeds.ca/proj/poll or http://www.niagarabeeway.com/

Fun Facts:

  • The large white petals surrounding the yellow flower make an obvious target for insect pollinators in the spring;
  • The bright red fruit produced by the Easter Flowering Dogwood is poisonous to humans, but can be eaten by over 50 species of birds and small mammals;
  • Aboriginal people used Eastern Flowering Dogwood for medicinal purposes and used the wood for carving and making tools;
  • Earlier names for the Eastern Family Dogwood include; American Dogwood, Florida Dogwood, Indian Arrowwood, Cornelian Tree, White Cornel, False Box and False Boxwood;
  • The hard, dense wood has been used for products such as golf club heads, mallets, wooden rake teeth, tool handles, jeweler’s boxes and butcher blocks; and
  • Cornus florida is the state tree and flower of Virginia State. It is also the state tree of Missouri and state flower of North Carolina

SPECIAL CONCERN:  Green Dragon

greendragon1 greendragon2 greendragon3

Description:

The Green Dragon is a perennial wildflower which grows 15 to 90 cm tall. It is mostly found in wet forests along streams, and forests inhabited with Maple trees. Its leaves are slender and arranged in a semicircle at the top of the plant, it has a dense cluster of bright red berries, with light yellow seeds in each berry. It has one long protruding stem that will flower in May and June (from which the berries will grow in late summer).

Important Dates:

June 30, 2008: Species Listed At Risk
June 28, 2013: Management Plan created for the Green Dragon
January 20, 2014: Government Response Statement is created

Range:

• In Canada, the Green Dragon occurs in southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec;
• The following map, provided by the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre shows the species occurrence in Ontario:

greendragonMap

Habitat:

• Typically found along the river’s edge and in wet deciduous forests, particularly maple forests and forests dominated by the Red Ash and White Elm trees.

Threats:

• An estimated 50 sites across Ontario have been lost due to forest clearing in developing areas;
• The main threats are habitat loss and degradation;
• Because of the species’ special adaptations to the floodplain habitat, flood control by conservation authorities may be contributing to its low survival rate.

Protection:

• Visit Carolinian Canada Coalition’s Grow Wild Campaign (here) and learn how you can participate in protecting our endangered plant species;
• The Management Plan created in June 2013, advises the Ministry of Natural Resources on ways to ensure healthy numbers of the species return to Ontario. The plan identifies actions that can be taken to ensure that it does not become threatened or endangered.

What YOU Can Do To Help:

• Should you come across a Green Dragon in its habitat, contact the Natural Heritage Information Center and report your sighting in detail here;
• If you know the Green Dragon is growing on your land, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to find out about becoming a steward in support of protecting the species;
• As a wildflower, the Green Dragon plays a significant role in the pollination process. The population of pollinators (flying insects) is on a steep decline, contact Pollination Canada (here) to find out more;
• Do NOT collect the plant for medicinal, ornamental or any other personal uses;
• Fencing may be necessary to keep livestock out of the stream banks – grazing causes erosion, soil compaction, reduced water quality and damage to vegetation;
• Become a member with your local Nature Organization and learn more about identifying invasive and endangered species.

Fun Facts:

• The Green Dragon’s root is bitter tasting and poisonous unless specially prepared, but it was used medicinally by Aboriginal people and European settlers;
• When viewed from the side, it’s possible to imagine a silhouette of dragon wings;
• The Menomiee tribe of Wisconsin once used the root of the Green Dragon to create sacred bundles meant to encourage second sight in dreams.


SNAKES

SPECIAL CONCERN:  Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus)

ribbonSnake1 ribbonSnake2

Description:

The Eastern Ribbon Snake is a slim snake with a chocolate brown or black body and has three bright long yellow stripes along its frame. Adults grow to be about 70 cm long, with females typically coming in larger. Commonly mistaken for the gartersnake, this species has a distinct small white spot in front of each eye. In late summer, the adult female will birth 5-12 young, but has been known to have up to 26! Baby snakes are independent and begin their hunt for insect prey just after birth.

Range:

  • In Ontario, the Eastern Ribbon Snake is found throughout southern and eastern Ontario;
  • Found in small parts of Quebec and an even smaller population found in Nova Scotia; and
  • This map, provided by Ontario Nature, shows the range in Southern Ontario for the Eastern Ribbon Snake

ribbonsnakeMap

Habitat:

  • Almost always found close to water, especially in marshes where it hunts for frogs and small fish;
  • Will use forested areas for birthing sites following hibernation;
  • At the onset of cold weather, the Eastern Ribbon Snakes congregate together in burrows or rock crevices to hibernate together until the spring; and
  • Bask along rivers edge and shoreline on logs, vegetation and low shrubs

Threats:

  • The extensive loss of wetland and shoreline habitat continues to be the main threat to the species;
  • Pollution has proven to participate largely in the decline of amphibian populations – thus participating in the decline of the ribbon snake; and
  • Road mortality is a serious threat to snakes because they are slow moving.

Protection:

  • Currently listed as Special Concern under the Ontario Endangered Species Act and the Species at Risk Act ;
  • Designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act;
  • The habitat of the Eastern Ribbon Snake is protected by the Provincial Policy Statement under the Ontario Planning Act; and
  • National and Provincial Parks also offer protection under specific programs

What YOU Can Do To Help:

  • Visit the Ontario Nature Organization to learn more about their Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship program;
  • Between May to October, watch for snakes crossing the roads;
  • Volunteer at your local Nature Club to learn more about protecting our local species and their habitats;
  • If you encounter the Eastern Ribbon Snake in the wild, contact the Natural Heritage Information Centre and report your sighting; and
  • Visit the Adopt-a-Pond website via the Toronto Zoo to learn how you can participate in the conservation of rare snakes and their habitats

Fun Facts:

  • When the Eastern Ribbon Snake is captured, it will attempt to escape by squirming wildly and exuding a foul smelling musk to entice its release;
  • The Eastern Ribbon Snake is often mistaken for the Gartersnake. However, the white crescent-shaped marking in front of their eyes can quickly identify the Ribbon Snake; and
  • Many snakes lay eggs, but the Eastern Ribbon Snake gives birth to live young.

SPECIAL CONCERN:  Milksnake (Lampropeltis Triangulum)

snake3 snake2

Description:

Most often seen at night while hunting, the milksnake is grey or tan with alternating red or reddish-brown blotches (outlined in black) along its back and sides, its belly looks like black and white checkerboard. The milksnake can grow to be one metre in length or more. In early spring, the female lays approximately 3-24 eggs and the babies will hatch about 7-20 weeks later, with a life span of approximately 7 years, but have been known to live up to 20.

Important Dates:

• May 2002: Designated as Species of Special Concern;
• May 2014: Last time assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC);

Range:

• The below image provided by Ontario Nature Organization shows the milksnakes distribution in Southern Ontario:
snakemap
• Southern Ontario and a small section of the Ottawa River in Quebec appear to have the most recorded sightings of this species in Canada;

Habitat:

• Lives in a wide range of habitats, such as rocky outcrops, forests, prairies, pastures and farm buildings where rodents are common;
• In late October/early November will hibernate underground in rotting logs or in the foundations of old buildings.

Threats:

• Due to its mistaken identity (rattler) when threatened, the milksnake is often persecuted by pedestrians;
• Habitat loss remains a threat to this species as well;
• The slow-moving milksnake can be found crossing busy roads and will ultimately be ran over by vehicles if not moving fast enough.

Protection:

• Listed as a Special Concern under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 ;
• Listed as a Special Concern under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA) ;
• Designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 ;
• If existing in a National Park, is protected by the Canada National Parks Act;
• The Toronto Zoo and Georgian Bay Reptile Awareness Program are helping to educate the public on snakes and their protection.

What YOU Can Do To Help:

• If you encounter the milksnake on an outing, report your sighting to the Natural Heritage Information Centre with your coordinates for further investigation;
• The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas collects observations of the milksnake as well;
• Volunteer at your local Nature Club to learn more about the species of special concern in your area;
• Throughout May to October, keep your eye out for the slow moving milksnake crossing our roads;
• Never purchase snakes that have been captured in the wild – contact the Ministry of Natural Resources to report any known illegal activities (1.877.TIPS.MNR (847.7667));

Fun Facts:

• Sometimes mistaken as a rattlesnake when threatened, the milksnake raises its head high in the air and vibrates its tail and may attempt to bite;
• The milksnake received its name from the false belief that it took milk from cows in barns;
• This snake is the only snake in Ontario that has red blotches;
• The milksnake is actually a type of constrictor – it wraps itself around its prey to kill and them feed (similar to the tropical Boa Constrictor);
• The milksnake’s colouring gets darker as they age (red becomes more brown)


TURTLES

THREATENED:  Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)

turtle3 turtle2

Description:

Blanding’s Turtle is a medium-sized turtle with an average shell length of approx. 18-23 cm. The distinguishing feature of this turtle is its bright yellow neck and chin. The shell is domed with numerous yellow or light coloured flecks or streaks on black. The Blanding’s turtle takes 14-20 years to reach sexual maturity. The clutch size varies from 5 to 12 eggs. Mating likely occurs in April and early May and hatching will take place in September or early October.

Range:

  • Mostly, the Blanding’s Turtle can be found in and around the Great Lakes basin, western Nebraska, southern Illinois, eastern Ontario;
  • Isolated populations are found in Quebec, Nova Scotia and near the east coast of the United States;
  • In Ontario, it can be found throughout the Southern and Central parts, except along the Bruce Peninsula;
  • This map, provided by Ontario Nature, shows the Blanding’s Turtle range in Southern Ontario.
  • map1

Habitat:

  • In spring, the Blanding’s Turtle can be found basking on rocks and logs;
  • From late October until the end of April, the Blanding’s Turtle hibernates in mud at the bottom of permanent water bodies;
  • It feeds off crustaceans, insect larvae, tadpoles, leeches, fish, frogs, crayfish, carrion, berries and vegetable debris;
  • Prefers shallow waters with abundant vegetation; and
  • Nesting habitat can include sandy beaches and shorelines along lakes and ponds, roadsides or gravel roads

Threats:

  • The most significant threats the Blanding’s Turtle are loss of habitat, motor vehicles, and raccoons, coyotes, skunks and foxes that prey on their eggs;
  • Our cool summers have impacted the reproduction of the Blanding’s Turtle;
  • The Blanding’s Turtle appearance makes it look as though it’s always smiling. Because of this, poachers have been capturing the species for resale in the pet trade – thus effecting the population.

Protection:

  • The Toronto Zoo and Earth Rangers have started an incubation/conservation project for the Blanding’s Turtle. They will collect and incubate 55 turtle eggs annually from at risk nests and care for the turtles until ready for release in the wilderness;
  • Currently listed as Threatened under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007;
  • Currently listed as Threatened under the Federal Species at Risk Act;
  • Designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act

What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • As more and more development occurs, it brings more road traffic to the area. When driving through marshy areas, keep an eye out for a crossing turtle;
  • Should you see a Blanding’s Turtle at a pet store, contact the Ministry of Naturals Resources and make a report immediatel;
  • Should you encounter the Blanding’s Turtle in the public, make you sure you contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and report you sighting in detail;
  • Currently 7 out of 8 of Ontario’s freshwater turtles are either endangered, threatened or of special concern. Educate children about the threats involving turtles and the importance of wetlands in our environment;
  • Visit Earth Rangers to learn how you can participate, or donate to their conservation efforts (http://www.earthrangers.com/wildwire/blandings-turtle/); and
  • Volunteer at your local Natural Club to learn more and participate in activities focused on species at risk

Fun Facts:

  • The Blanding’s Turtle may live to be 80 years old, but some have been known to be 100!;
  • Turtles do not provide care to their little ones once they hatch;
  • Some scientists believe that the Blanding’s Turtle may also hibernate on land by burying themselves deep in moist soil through the winter;
  • Blanding’s have a hinge at the front of their shell, this allows them to close the entire shell when retracting its head; and
  • The temperature of the incubated eggs determines the sex of the of the turtle (between 22° and 28° = males, between 30° and 32° = female)

THREATENED:  Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)

softshell2

softshell1

Description:

The spiny softshell turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. It is Ontario’s only turtle with a flexible, leathery upper shell. The shell is olive-grey, brownish or tan, and its edges are yellow with a black outline, along each side of the head is a distinct yellow stripe outlined in black. In adult females, the shell may be smooth, but there are several large spines or cone-like projections. Spiny softshells begin mating between the ages 8 and 10 in mid-to-late spring and the eggs will hatch in late August to September.

Important Dates:

  • 2008: Species assessed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act
  • June 30, 2013: Species granted Habitat Protection

Range:

  • In Canada, the Spiny Softshell is found only in Quebec and southwestern Ontario in the Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and western Lake Ontario watersheds;
  • The majority of Spiny Softshells in Ontario are found in the Thames and Sydenham Rivers, as well as two sites in Lake Erie;
  • Some turtles travel up to 30 km. in a year from one part of their home range to another.

Habitat:

  • Generally found in rivers with soft bottoms, aquatic vegetation and sandbars or mudflats;
  • Require gravelly or sandy areas for nesting and deep water for hibernating;
  • They are active during the day, eating crayfish, aquatic insects and fish; and
  • It rarely ventures far from the shoreline, and may be seen basking on beaches, sandbars, logs and rocks.

Threats:

  • The main factor responsible for the decline of this turtle is thought to be habitat loss or degradation resulting from shoreline development or agricultural activity;
  • This turtle suffers high mortality due to collisions with motorboats, trapping and fisheries; and
  • The nests of the Spiny Softshell are threatened by human recreational activities and predators such as racoons and foxes.

 Protection:

  • The Spiny Softshell is protected under the Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007;
  • The Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act protects this species as well; and
  • Some populations that live in Provincial Parks and Conservation Areas will receive further protection through their programs.

 What YOU Can Do to Help:

  • Good nesting sites are limited; if you own riverfront property, maintain a buffer of open beach above the waterline; try not to disturb exposed sandbars or sand/gravel shorelines, especially during May to October;
  • To learn more about Ontario’s rare turtles, their habitat and conservation efforts, visit Ontario Nature’s Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (http://www.ontarionature.org/protect/species/herpetofaunal_atlas.php) or the Toronto Zoo Adopt-a-Pond (http://www.torontozoo.com/Adoptapond/);
  • The Spiny Softshell is at risk of collision with watercrafts; if you know they are in the area, proceed carefully and be observant while coming on shore, or driving over lakes and bays;

 Fun Facts:

  • Some turtles travel up to 30 kilometres in a year from one part of their home range to another;
  • Spiny softshells hibernate underwater in sand during the winter months; they can go without breathing for the entire winter and absorb small amounts of oxygen through their mouth;
  • Softshells ambush their prey by lying concealed in bottom mud;
  • A large female turtle may live up to 50 years.

SPECIAL CONCERN:  Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

turtle3  snapturtle1

Description:

The Snapping Turtle is a prehistoric looking, stegosaurus like (when moving) freshwater turtle. Its long tail, often longer than its body, has triangular spikes along the top. The upper shell is tan or black in colour and is often covered in algae. Reaching an average length of 20-36cm (max of 47 cm) and weight of 10-35lbs, the Snapping Turtle is Canada’s largest freshwater turtle. In Ontario, females do not begin to breed until they reach 17 to 19 years of age. Their nests are dug in late May or June, with hatchlings making their appearance in late fall. Snappers are omnivorous (feeding on both plant and animal origin) and feed on various aquatic plants and invertebrates, as well as fish, frogs, snakes, smaller turtles and aquatic birds

NOTE:  In Ontario, all native turtle species protected from hunting except the Snapping Turtle. The hunting season for the snapper is from July 15 to September 15 in central and southern Ontario, and year round in Northern Ontario. In 2009, Ontario Nature Organization began writing the Ministry of Natural Resources requesting that they remove the snapping turtle from the game list. However, with no response they subsequently wrote again in 2010, requesting a policy review of the hunting regulation. In February 2011, the Ministry rejected same and instead expressed their intention to prepare a Management Plan by September 2014 – this has yet to be published.

Important Dates:

• September 10, 2009: Species designated At Risk;

Range:

• In Canada, the Snapping Turtle can be found from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia;
• In Ontario, it is primarily found in Southern Ontario – see Ontario Nature’s map below for its range:

turtlemap

Habitat:

• Occasionally emerging from the water to bask, the Snapping Turtle spends most of its life in the water and prefers it to be shallow so that it’s convenient for them to hide under the soft mud and siltation;
• The females often place their nest sites at the side of the road, an embankment or the shoreline

Threats:

• During the summer months, the Snapping Turtle crosses roads in search of mates, food and nesting sites. This to and from action puts them at risk of getting run over by oncoming traffic;
• Eggs and nests around urban and agricultural areas are subject to predators such as Raccoons Skunks;
• Due to the length of time it takes for the snapping turtle to reach maturity, the survival and maintenance of the adult species is primal;
• Illegal poaching and harvesting continues to threaten the snapper.

Protection:

• Listed as a Special Concern under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 ;
• Listed as a Special Concern under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA) ;
• Designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 .

What YOU Can Do To Help:

• Visit the Ontario Nature Organization to learn more about their Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship program;
• Between May to October, watch for turtles crossing the roads;
• Volunteer at your local Nature Club to learn more about protecting our local species and their habitats;
• If you encounter a Snapping Turtle, or it’s nest in the wild, contact the Natural Heritage Information Centre and report your sighting here;
• Protect the wetlands surrounding your property to maintain a healthy environment for this and other rare plant and animal species;
• Visit the Toronto Zoo’s Ontario Turtle Tally Website (here) to learn how you can participate in this exciting project

Fun Facts:

• The snapping turtle spends so much time underwater that algae grows on its shell; this helps them blend in with their surroundings;
• Snapping Turtles are believed to live well over 100 years;
• The temperature that the eggs are incubated at, will determine the sex of the hatchlings. Eggs kept at 23-28° will produce male turtles, whereas eggs incubated at any other temp. will become females;
• Snapping turtles nests contain up to 50 small round eggs, whereas other Ontario turtles will lay only 3-15 small oval eggs;
• The snapper’s plastron (lower shell) is much smaller than the upper carapace (upper shell). Therefore, when feeling threatened, this turtle can’t withdraw into its shell for protection. While on land, its only manner of defence is to snap repeatedly and scare the predator away. Although in water, the snapping turtle rarely snaps and will likely swim away when threatened.

EXPECT MORE ENDANGERED SPECIES SPOTLIGHTS EVERY WEEK!!

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