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Save Our Species at Risk By Lisa Roach A/Natural Heritage Education Coordinator Bon Echo Provincial Park

Have you spotted a Five-lined Skink, a Blanding’s Turtle or a Peregrine Falcon? What do these three living beings have in common?   They are species at risk that can still be found in Bon Echo Provincial Park. You may not know it but Bon Echo is home or a temporary home for a few provincially and nationally species at risk. The Friends of Bon Echo Park and its members have been instrumental in helping protect some of these species and their habitats by supporting research on Peregrine Falcons and Prairie Warblers. This protection is more important than ever due to the alarming number of wildlife species that are disappearing each year. Endangered Species Act The provincial Endangered Species Act (ESA) came into force in June 2008. The 2 main purposes of the ESA are: a) To identify species at risk based on the best available scientific information. b) To protect species at risk & their habitats, and to promote the recovery of species that are at risk. Under the ESA, a committee assesses and compiles a list of species, the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) list. A species at risk is put into 1 of 5 categories:
  • Extinct: no longer lives anywhere in the world;
  • Extirpated: species no longer exists in the wild in Ontario but is found outside Ontario;
  • Endangered: lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation;
  • Threatened: lives in the wild in Ontario but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening to lead to its extinction or extirpation;
  • Species of special concern: species may become endangered or threatened because of a combination of characteristics that make it sensitive to natural events or human activities.
The Act prohibits people from killing, harassing, capturing, or taking a living member of a species on the list that is extirpated, endangered, or threatened; or possessing, collecting, buying, selling, trading or offering to buy, sell, trade or lease a living or dead member of a species that is extirpated, endangered, or threatened. It also prohibits damage or destruction of the habitat of a species that is endangered or threatened. A recovery strategy is required for each species on the endangered or threatened list. There are 183 species currently on the list including fish, insects, mammals, birds, mussels, reptiles, and plants. Peregrine Falcons are listed as threatened, and with the passing of the ESA, they will be one of the first species to have specific habitat protection regulations and a recovery plan set out. This is mandatory and will eventually be done for all endangered and threatened species in the Act.
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Peregrine Falcons The Peregrine Falcon population was devastated in the 1950s and 1960s due to the effects of the pesticide DDT and human disturbance of their nesting sites.  However, they have recovered due to reintroduction efforts. Did you know that one of these reintroductions took place in Bon Echo Provincial Park? During 1994-1996 hacking boxes were placed on Mazinaw Rock. These fast flying birds (up to 300 km per hour) are also a species of concern federally. A draft recovery strategy has been written and is currently being reviewed. In 2007, Park staff was excited to see a pair of Peregrine Falcons nesting in Bon Echo and raising two young. Last year the pair returned to Bon Echo and fledged one chick on Mazinaw Rock. Because of the nesting, a number of rock climbing routes on Mazinaw Rock were closed so the nesting areas were not disturbed. Visit the Park this year to find out if the birds return to Bon Echo. Other wildlife on the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) list that are in Bon Echo are the Bald Eagle – endangered; Blanding’s Turtle – threatened; and Monarch Butterfly, Milk Snake, and Five-lined Skink – species of special concern. In addition to the provincial Endangered Species Act there is a federal act that protects species at risk. This is the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Sometimes a species is listed in both acts but in different categories e.g. it may be threatened under the ESA but a species of special concern under SARA. For the complete Species at Risk list go to http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Species/index.html. What are Park staff doing to protect species at risk and their critical habitat?
  • Natural Heritage Education staff and others compile information on the species seen in the Park. The date, time, location, and behaviour of the species at risk are recorded and staff may note if the specimen was an adult or juvenile. The collected data helps protect important habitat in the Park from development & other disturbances and provides vital information to people working on recovery plans.
  • Park staff and others monitor species at risk wildlife.
  • Education programs pass on the importance and identification of these species to Park visitors to encourage stewardship and the Park Tabloid often contains related information.
What can you do to help?
  • You can learn how to identify some of the mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and birds that are at risk in Bon Echo or around your home or cottage by reading articles and books, talking to Park staff, or checking web sites such as www.sararegistry.gc.ca or www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php.
  • If you see a species at risk, try to take a photo and contact the Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC) at http:// nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca to give them information. You might be the first person to provide information on a new location for a species!
  • Ensure that healthy ecosystems such as wetlands and mature forests remain for future generations.  This may be on your own property or elsewhere.
  • Grow native plants in your garden. Ensure that you buy them from people that do not harvest them from the wild.
  • Give a donation to organizations that are helping species at risk such as the Friends of Bon Echo Park, Ontario Parks, Ontario Nature, or the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Offer to help teams working to recover species at risk in your area.