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Take a walk on the wild side

The Chronicle-Journal,
Mallory Vanier,
July 16 2016

On June 17 and 18, local nature enthusiasts joined Ontario Nature to uncover reptiles and amphibians – known as herpetofauna – in the Manitouwadge area.

Ontario Nature is working with citizen scientists to fill in gaps in our knowledge of the Northern ranges of several species, including snapping turtles, red-backed salamanders and eastern garter snakes.

Almost all reptiles and amphibians are cold-blooded; they become hotter and colder depending on the temperature outside.

This means they are particularly sensitive to climate fluctuations. Increasing our knowledge of their habitats, and how far north they currently live can provide important information as we monitor the impacts of climate change.

Reptiles and amphibians are experiencing global declines of 20 and 40 per cent respectively. In Ontario, 75 per cent of reptiles and 35 per cent of amphibians are listed as nationally and provincially at-risk.

These surveys are part of Ontario Nature’s contribution to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, which is a citizen-science project that tracks distributions of these species across the province over time.

The over-arching goal is to increase the collective knowledge base. However, equally important is the engagement of non-scientists of all ages and abilities in nature study and conservation.

In addition, we are exploring candidate protected areas being managed by Nawiinginokiima Forest Management Corporation on the Big Pic Forest, just northeast of Marathon.

The Nawiinginokiima Forest Management Corporation is the first local forest management corporation in Ontario and has achieved third party certification through the Forest Stewardship Council for their sustainable forest management practices.

Local participants visited one of Nawiinginokiima’s candidate protected areas, where American toads, wood frogs and a pair of Bonaparte gulls were among the sightings.

Ontario Nature is a charitable, non profit organization that works to protect wild species and wild spaces. For more information on similar events this summer, please contact Mallory Vanier by calling 286-1989 or sending and email to malloryv@ontarionature.org

-Submitted by Mallory Vanier, Ontario Nature