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Paddlers Heading to Wolf Lake to Survey Birds and Highlight Need for Permanent Protection


Wolf Lake © James Paterson

Thunder Bay, ON (May 19 2022) – Hidden in plain sight within the city limits of Greater Sudbury is Wolf Lake – an ecological treasure. Wolf Lake is home to the largest remaining old-growth red pine forest in North America. A group of naturalists and birders are paddling Wolf Lake this summer collecting data to bolster the case for its protection.

Wolf Lake is currently designated as a “forest reserve”, meaning it is protected from logging but not mineral exploration or mining. The group is asking the Government of Ontario to expand the nearby Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park to include Wolf Lake and permanently protect this unique forest. That protection would realize a promise made by former Premier Mike Harris in 1999 that has yet to be upheld.

During this three-day paddling trip, the group will perform breeding bird surveys for Ontario’s third Breeding Bird Atlas (Atlas-3). Birds are great environmental indicators – meaning their presence can tell us a lot about the quality of the air, water and land they inhabit.

Community science projects such as Atlas-3 provide data necessary to assess the status of birds by mapping the distribution and relative abundance of the approximately 300 breeding birds in Ontario. Comparing this data to previous projects Atlas-1 (1981–1985) and Atlas-2 (2001–2005) can provide insight into which species may need more conservation attention and help identify important breeding locations.

The greatest threat to breeding birds in Canada is habitat loss. The Government of Canada took an encouraging step in 2021 when it committed to protecting 25% of lands and waters by 2025 and 30% by 2030. Further, in April 2021, the Government of Ontario committed to expanding Ontario’s protected areas network. Currently, less than 11% of Ontario is protected, so to achieve these goals we must explore every opportunity.

“Wolf Lake is the largest remaining old-growth red pine forest in North America and yet its biodiversity has been little studied,” said Franco Mariotti, Biologist, and member of the Save Wolf Lake Coalition. “Today, when habitat and biodiversity are threatened, more than ever it is essential that we need to study what is there.”

“The breeding bird data that we collect will help better understand what species are relying on this unique forest and are at risk of losing their breeding habitat,” said Kristen Setala, Community Science Intern for Ontario Nature, who will be joining the expedition. “This information may be crucial for at-risk bird species, two of which had been documented in the area in 2013: Canada warbler and common nighthawk.” Kristen is based in Thunder Bay and will be surveying breeding birds across northern Ontario this summer.

Atlas-3, which runs from 2021 to 2025, is a great opportunity for expert and beginner birders alike to participate in collecting valuable information about breeding birds in Ontario.


Learn More

Media Inquiries

Kristen Setala, Community Science Intern, Ontario Nature
kristens@ontarionature.org | 807-286-1790

Franco Mariotti, Biologist, Save Wolf Lake Coalition
Frankmariotti@gmail.com | 705-866-0442


Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. A charitable organization, Ontario Nature represents more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 155 member groups across Ontario. For more information, visit: ontarionature.org.

The Wolf Lake Coalition is a collaboration of businesses and organizations who support the Wolf Lake ancient pine forest and its inclusion within the Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park. visit: www.savewolflake.org/about.