Ontario is full of fascinating species. With so many plants and animals found in Ontario, it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start. Ontario Nature’s popular online Nature Guides provide an excellent (and free) resource to discover and learn more about the charismatic species that inhabit our province – many of which are under threat.
Here are five unique and fascinating species pulled from our Nature Guides.
1. Blue Racer
Status: Endangered Provincially and Federally
The second-largest snake in Ontario and among the most boldly coloured reptiles is the blue racer. This snake is incredibly fast, and it prefers open habitat like alvar and prairie.
One of only two species of toad in Ontario, the Fowler’s toad is a large, stout-bodied amphibian that is grey, yellow or brown in colouration. Similar in appearance to the widespread American toad, the best way to distinguish these two species is by counting the bumps on the large dark blotch on their backs. Fowler’s toads have three or four bumps per blotch, whereas American toads have one or two. The white or cream-coloured belly of the Fowler’s toad also lacks the dark spots seen on American toads.
The preferred habitat for this species is along sandy shorelines. Threats include habitat loss or degradation from shoreline development and disturbances such as large storm events or fluctuations in water levels. Fowler’s toads inhabit only a few localities in Ontario along the Lake Erie shoreline.
Many go their whole life without seeing the small-bodied nocturnal little brown myotis. Forming summer colonies in abandoned buildings, this brown glossy-furred bat was once widespread throughout southern Ontario. However, like other Ontario bats, little brown myotis populations are in rapid decline due to the deadly white nose syndrome.
The Jefferson salamander is heavy bodied and is grey to brown in colour with blue flecks and spots along the side. This species in found in southwestern Ontario in deciduous and mixed forest habitats. This species overwinters underground below the frost line in mammal burrows and other belowground hollows.
This biologically fascinating species is at risk due to habitat loss and fragmentation from urban and agricultural development.
The distinctive yellow-orange spots on the upper shell (carapace) gives the spotted turtle its name and makes it easy to distinguish from Ontario’s other seven turtles. This small-bodied turtle inhabit small, shallow bodies of water such as bogs, coastal wetlands, fens, and marshes. Habitat loss, poaching and wetland degradation are the biggest threats to this brightly coloured turtle.
The next time you’re out in nature and spot a species you’ve never seen before; you know where to look! By using our Nature Guides, you can learn how to accurately identify the unique species that call Ontario home and find out how to report your sightings of at-risk plants and animals. Reporting sightings of common species is also beneficial to conservationists.
Each of our 13 Nature Guides helps you learn about the biology, threats and status of Ontario’s wild species.
Maya Davidson was a Communications Intern with Ontario Nature in 2021. A wildlife photographer and freelance writer with a passion for biodiversity conservation, Maya is currently pursuing a B.A. in media information technology.