The South Shore is home to many Species at Risk. This area is designated as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, which are places of significance for the conservation of birds and biodiversity.
The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario is an independent body that classifies native plants and animals in 1 of 4 categories of at risk status.
Extirpated: lives somewhere in the world, and at one time lived in the wild in Ontario, but no longer lives in the wild in Ontario.
Endangered: lives in the wild in Ontario, but it facing imminent extinction or extirpation
Threatened: lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered, but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening it.
Special Concern: lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
Some species are not studied well enough to know the local or provincial population numbers. For this reason, some species listed have Canadian population numbers.
Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) - Threatened
The Blanding’s Turtle is a medium-sized turtle easily identified by its bright yellow throat and chin. Unlike most Ontario turtles that have wide, flatter shells, the Blanding’s Turtle has a domed shell that resembles an army helmet. Its shell is black to brown with yellow flecks and streaks and can reach 27 cm long. Its head and limbs are black-grey.
Ontario Population: Between 25,000 and 45,000
Threats to this Species: The most significant threats are loss or fragmenting of habitat, motor vehicles, and animals that prey on eggs.
Fun Fact: Unlike other Ontario turtles, the Blanding's turtle can completely close their shells.
Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) - Special Concern
The Snapping Turtle is Canada’s largest freshwater turtle, reaching an average length of 20-36 cm and a weight of 4.5-16.0 kg. Snapping turtles have large black, olive or brown shells typically covered in algae. Their tails, which can be longer than their bodies, have dinosaur-like triangular crests along their length.
Threats to this Species: It takes 15 to 20 years for a Snapping Turtle to reach maturity. As a result, adult mortality greatly affects the species' survival. During the summer, many turtles cross roads in search of mates, food and nest sites. This is risky for turtles as they are too slow to get out of the way of moving vehicles. Snapping turtles are also sometimes intentionally persecuted.
Fun Fact: Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on dead animals, insects, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and aquatic plants.
Eastern Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) - Special Concern
The Eastern Musk Turtle is a small freshwater turtle. Its narrow, highly arched shell, less than 13 centimetres long, easily distinguishes this species from most other Ontario turtles that have wide, flatter shells. The Eastern Musk Turtle has a dull black-brown body except for two distinctive yellow stripes often found on the side of the head.
Canadian Population: 10,000
Threats to the Species: The most significant threat to the Eastern Musk Turtle is habitat destruction, primarily through wetland drainage, pollution and shoreline development. This turtle is extremely vulnerable to drought and abnormally high water levels can drown eggs. Heavy motorboat traffic and intense angling increase adult mortality rates to potentially unsustainable levels.
Fun Fact: Eastern Musk turtles enjoy sitting on low hanging tree branches over the water and sometimes the only way you know they're there is a quick plopping sound in the water, of them making a quick getaway.
Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) - Special Concern
The Northern Map Turtle gets its name from the lines on the upper shell, or carapace, that resemble contour lines on a map. The lines on the carapace are shades of yellow, tan, or orange and are surrounded by dark borders. The rest of the carapace is olive green or greyish brown. The lower shell, or plastron, is light yellow to cream. There is a yellow spot behind the eyes, and both the head and legs have an intricate pattern of bright yellow lines.
Canadian Population: 10,000+
Threats to the Species: Habitat loss and degradation due to shoreline development and decline in water quality threaten the Northern Map Turtle in Ontario. It is also vulnerable to mortality on roadways and injury from boat propellers.
Fun Fact: Northern Map Turtles are known for their communal basking, and may be found piled up together in several layers of up to 30 turtles.
Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) - Special Concern (Federally)
Midland Painted Turtles have a smooth, gently rounded carapace (upper shell) that is dark green to black in colour with red markings on the sides. The plastron (lower shell) is usually tan to yellow and often has a dark, irregularly shaped blotch in the center. The head and the limbs are black to green with yellow and red stripes. Individuals can reach a maximum carapace length of 19.5 cm
Canadian Population: 10,000+
Threats to Species: Wetland loss has resulted in decline, primarily in southern parts of the Canadian range, and ongoing habitat loss continues to threaten this species. Painted Turtles are especially susceptible to mortality on roads, particularly during the nesting period when females are making overland movements.
Fun Fact: You can identify the sex of a Midland Painted turtle by the length of their front claws. Males of this species have long pretty ones!
Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) - Endangered
The Wood turtle gets it's name from the appearance of the carapace (upper shell), as it looks like wood grains. It can be easily identified by the orange or brick-red colour of its legs. A mid-sized turtle, the Wood Turtle reaches its full size of 20-24 cm long around the age of 20.
Canadian Population: 6,000 - 12,000
Threats to Species: habitat loss and degradation; predation by raccoons, skunks, foxes and pets; human activity such as illegal collection for personal pets or for the pet trade; and road mortality.
Fun Fact: The Wood turtle has been observed stomping the ground which researchers believe is to mimic rain falling, in order to trick worms into coming above ground.
Bridle Shiner (Notropis bifrenatus) - Special Concern
The Bridle Shiner is a small minnow with a slender body growing up to six centimetres in length. It has a small mouth which extends back to the lower edge of the eye. Adult Bridle Shiners are generally silvery, often with a green-blue iridescence. The surface of the body is straw-coloured while the underside is silvery-white. Bridle Shiners also have a dark stripe that extends along the side of the body, but at times may be quite faint and difficult to see.
Threats to Species: Bridle Shiners are sensitive to sediment and chemical runoff into the water from agricultural lands, and the resulting decrease in water clarity and quality.
Pugnose Shiner (Notropis anogenus) - Threatened
The Pugnose Shiner is a small, slender minnow that can reach five to six centimetres in length. It is a silvery colour with pale yellow to olive-coloured markings on its back and a dark (sometimes inconspicuous) stripe along the side of the body that extends from the tail to the snout. The fins are pale and without pigmentation. This species has large eyes and a very small, upturned mouth.
Threats to Species: The main threat to the Pugnose Shiner is habitat degradation, including the alteration and destruction of wetlands and increased erosion from shoreline development. Waterbodies where this fish currently lives are becoming less suitable due to soil washing into the water from nearby urban and agricultural development. Invasive species, such as Eurasian Watermilfoil, are also a concern in some areas.
Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus) - Endangered
Little brown bats have glossy brown fur and usually weigh between four and 11 grams. They are typically four or five centimetres long, with a wingspan of 22 to 27 centimetres. They can be distinguished by the fleshy projection that covers the entrance to the ear. In little brown bats, the projection is long and thin, but rounded at the tip.
Threats to Species: Little brown bats are threatened by a disease known as white nose syndrome, caused by a fungus which is believed to have been inadvertently brought from Europe to North America.The fungus grows in humid cold environments, such as the caves and mines where little brown bats hibernate.
Fun Fact: Little brown bats are one of only two bat species in Ontario that are known to use human structures as summer maternity colony habitat.
Northern Long-eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis) - Endangered
Northern long-eared bats have dull yellow-brown fur with pale grey bellies. They are typically about eight centimetres long, with a wingspan of about 25 centimetres. Northern long-eared bats usually weigh between six and nine grams
Threats to Species: Northern long-eared bats are threatened by a disease known as white nose syndrome, caused by a fungus which is believed to have been inadvertently brought from Europe to North America.
Fun Fact: Northern Long-eared Bats live in tree cavities in the summer months.
Butternut (Juglans cinerea) - Endangered
Butternut is a medium-sized tree that can reach up to 30 m in height. It belongs to the walnut family and produces edible nuts in the fall. The bark of younger trees is grey and smooth, becoming ridged as it ages. Butternut is easily recognized by its compound leaves, which are made up of 11 to 17 leaflets (each nine to 15 centimetres long) arranged in a feather-like pattern. The fruit is a large nut that contains a single seed surrounded by a light green, sticky, fuzzy husk.
Ontario Population: 10,000
Threats to Species: Butternut Canker is a fungal disease that spreads quickly and can kill a tree within a few years. This fungus has already had a devastating impact on North American Butternut populations.
Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) - Threatened (federally)
The western chorus frog is small and smooth skinned and varies in colour from green-grey to brown. A dark stripe runs through the eye and a white stripe along the upper lip. This species is distinguished from most other tree frogs by three dark stripes down the back. In some individuals, the stripes are broken into dots, dashes or small blotches. The maximum size of the adult is just less than four centimetres.
Threats to Species: Populations of western chorus frogs have been documented to have declined by 30 percent in Ontario in the last 10 years. The causes of this decline include habitat loss and fragmentation. In particular, the forests and seasonal wetlands these frogs use as breeding habitat are being developed for agriculture and urban expansion.
Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) - Special Concern (federally)
It has large red or reddish-brown oval blotches outlined in black along its back, and one or two rows of smaller blotches along each side. The blotches are bright red in young Eastern Milksnakes, but fade as the snake ages. There is usually a light-coloured y- or v-shaped pattern on the back of the head and neck. The belly has a black checkerboard pattern on a tan, gray or whitish background, which may be obscured by dark pigment in older individuals
Canadian Population: 10,000
Threats to Species:
Fun Fact: They are often confused with copperheads and coral snakes because they all have bright, blotchy coloration. Nonvenomous milk snakes evolved to look like these venomous species in order to scare predators. It can be an effective defensive strategy, but has caused milk snakes other problems. Humans often kill harmless milk snakes, thinking they're dangerous.
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
As a caterpillar, the Monarch is distinctively white, yellow, and black-banded. They have two sets of wings and a wingspan of three to four inches (7 to 10 centimeters). Their wings are a deep orange with black borders and veins, and white spots along the edges. The underside of the wings is pale orange. Male monarchs have two black spots in the center of their hind wings, which females lack.
Canadian Population: 200 million (over 1 billion in the 90s)
Threats to Species: Monarchs are threatened by deforestation of wintering forests in Mexico, disruptions to their migration caused by climate change, and the loss of native plants (including milkweed species but also all nectar-producing native plants) along their migratory corridors.
Fun Fact: Monarch butterflies travel as much as 100 miles a day during its 3,000-mile migration south.
Species descriptions are from the Species at Risk in Ontario website.
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