Flora And Fauna

Mercury Threatens Canada’s Loons

Have Your Say – Cormorant Hunting in Ontario
Posted December 14, 2018

See Member Comments after this article.

The new Government of Ontario is proposing a change in Ontario hunting regulations to create a hunting season for cormorants. The proposal would allow hunting of cormorants under a game licence between March and December, with a daily limit of 50 birds and no requirement for the carcasses of dead birds to be removed or disposed of.
The issue is highly controversial and there is quite a range of perspectives on the proposal:
In recent years, members of the fishing community have suggested that cormorants have been a major factor in the decline of the Lake Nipissing fishery.
Prior to the new Government taking power, MNRF officials were of the view that more effective slot size management has been very effective in recent years at restoring the game fish population.
The Ontario Federation of Hunters and Anglers has had a strong political lobby on this issue, citing not only the impact on fishing and other species, but also significant damage to shorelines from colony nesting behaviours.
Environmental groups are of the view that the science simply isn’t there to support the move and that there are examples of other effective cormorant population management practices that have been implemented on Toronto Island and Point Pelee.
Northern advocates have said that this is an example of policies made in Toronto by people who don’t understand the reality of the north.
Critics of the new government have suggested that the proposal is politically motivated to divide Ontarians (north vs. south, environment vs hunting/fishing)
Others have expressed public safety concerns about increased number of hunters on the water during the cottaging season and the fact that hunters will be able to leave the carcasses where they lie or float.
The proposal can be seen here on the Environmental Registry. The deadline for public consultation is January 3, 2019.  There are two ways you can post a comment – by creating a registered account, which means that your response will be part of the published public record, or anonymously, which means your response will not be published.

Member Comments on Cormorant Hunting Proposal
We received the following from a UFRCA member. It’s a copy of their submission to the Ontario Government’s Environmental Registry on the issue of the cormorant hunt.  We thought members might find it interesting.  If you submit something to the Registry on this issue, and would like to have it posted here, please send a copy to info@ufrca.com.

From Member "D"
Posted December 17, 2019

Dear Sir/Madame,

I have read EBR posting 013-4124 on the proposed change in hunting regulations to allow hunting of cormorants.
We own a cottage property on Lake Nipissing and have observed the increase in the cormorant population through the 1990s and early 2000s. The population now appears to have stabilized and I have heard from reliable MNRF sources that the population is declining. That is the normal result of an initial dramatic population increase that eventually slows and reverses. Fish populations are stressed, it is true, and most sources agree that there are two major human factors: (1) sport fishing that exceeds daily catch limits and (2) “rogue” native commercial fishers who set nets illegally. Investigations of cormorant food sources and how they affect the food chain of sport fish show that cormorants do not affect the sport fishery. Even if a hunt were to be allowed, the details such as 50 per day, that it will occur all through the summer, that hunters are exempt from spoilage regulations are unconscionable and irresponsible. The prospects of hearing shotguns throughout the summer, or seeing carcasses of rotting birds floating on the water are neither acceptable nor in synch with standard hunting ethics. The purpose of this is not to hunt for the purpose of sustenance (that is having a meal). The purpose indeed appears to be very clear: the elimination of the species. And why? To satisfy a small group of people who feel mistakenly threatened by another species. Cormorants are a very intriguing bird: generally quiet other than their muttering to each other on hot summer days, just going about their business. They deserve better. A more logical strategy is for MNRF to hire more COs to enforce fishing regulations.

Mercury Threatens Canada’s Loons
Posted December 14, 2013

From Bird Studies Canada

12 December 2013 – Toxic mercury escapes to the atmosphere anytime fossil fuels are burned. Once in lakes, it travels up the food chain to fish and loons. Loons, which are high on the chain, produce fewer chicks when they become burdened with the toxin.

Researchers at Queen’s University and Environment Canada recently determined the proportion of 1900 water bodies across Canada where mercury was high enough to cause problems for breeding loons. Their study was published in Environmental Science & Technology<http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es403534q>.

Fish had enough mercury to lower loon productivity at an alarming 10-36% of lakes. The researchers found the risk to loons was highest in acidic lakes in eastern Canada, because acid enhances uptake of mercury into the food chain.

For the complete Bird Studies Canada's report from the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, see http://www.birdscanada.org/volunteer/clls/resources/CLLSsummary.pdf 

Wildlife On The French River

Dave Minden, Revised Nov. 20, 2011
When people hear the word “wildlife”, the first thing that comes to mind is the group of animals that we call mammals. But the word “wildlife” literally means “life” that is “wild” and includes all living things from microscopic Algae and Protozoa to Fungi and Plants, as well as Animals. These 5 major groups: Algae, Protozoa, Fungi, Plants, and Animals are the five Kingdoms of all living things.
There are two main groups of animals: vertebrates (with backbones and internal skeletons) and invertebrates (without internal skeletons – the thousands of species of insects, crustaceans, etc.)

Classification of Living Things.pdf  
The following sections on the five classes of vertebrates (mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles) list some of the wildlife found on the Upper French River region. The list is not complete. If you observe a species of wildlife that is not listed, please let us know and we will add it to the list. Species of particular interest have additional descriptive commentary. Information about wildlife species is widely available using Internet search tools.

Mammals Of The French River Region

Thanks to Valarie Duquette (Dokis FN) and Chuck Miller (Superintendent - French River Provincial Park) for their advice. See also Kershaw, Maureen and Hawes, Kyle. Natural Science Inventory of Mashkinonge Provincial Park, 1999.
For details on these mammals, you can “Google” search on the web.
An excellent book is Elder, Tamara, Mammals of Ontario. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, 2005.

** Note: The following sections include many photos that were lost when the web site was switched from its temporary site to ufrca.com. We will restore these photos. Watch for updates.

Order Insectivora – Insect eaters - Shrews and Moles

Masked shrew                           (Sorex cinerus)

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Northern Short-tailed shrew       (Blarina brevicauda)

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Star-nosed mole                        (Condylura cristata
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Order ChIroptera – Bats

Little brown bat                          (Myotis lucifugus) 

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Over the years bats have earned an unfair reputation, mainly due to Hollywood movies. However, what some cottagers may not realize is that bats play a very important role at the cottage: every night they eat a lot of insects including mosquitoes. With the emergence of West Nile virus, bats are seen as a natural partner in mosquito population control.
The main bat species found in Ontario are the Little Brown Bat and the Big Brown Bat. Breeding usually occurs in late summer and the female stores sperm until the following April. The female then gives birth 60 to 90 days later. There are usually one or two young who are usually under parental care during June and July. No nest is required, as the young are able to fly and obtain their own food in just three weeks.

Hibernation occurs during the winter months from November to March. The Big Brown Bat is the most likely species to hibernate in buildings such as houses and barns. Little Brown Bats prefer caves or mines to hibernate in for the winter. Bats may select attics for nursery colonies. Bats can squeeze through very tiny spaces as small as 6 mm to access roosting areas. When there are many bats in a colony, they may pose a problem with odour and droppings. This may be a health risk if it has reached a stage where it is noticeable. During periods of extreme cold, bats will often squeeze through the vapour barrier and end up inside a home. If this happens, these bats cannot be immediately released outside, as they will freeze to death.
Bats are nocturnal animals. They feed at night and are most active during the second and third hours after sunset. During the day they roost in trees and buildings.
Bats may be carriers of rabies. Bats observed flying during the day or crawling about on the ground should be avoided, as they are most likely sick or injured. As with any animal, if you must handle it, always wear gloves and if possible use forceps or tongs to pick it up. Place it in a sealed container with air holes. If it has come into contact with humans or pets, contact your local health unit for advice if it's alive, or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency if it is dead. Bat bites are not always noticeable. If a bat is found in a bedroom where a person has been sleeping, contact your local health unit immediately for advice, and contact a local wildlife control agent to capture the animal.
Visit the Ministry of Natural Resources website for more information on bats and rabies.
Order Lagomorpha – Rabbits and hares           

              Snowshoe hare                          (Lepus americanus) 

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Order Rodentia (Gnawing animals – rodents)

            Eastern chipmunk                       (Tamias striatus)
            Least chipmunk                          (Eutamias minimus)
            Woodchuck (groundhog)             (Marmota monax)
            Red Squirrel                               (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
            Northern flying squirrel               (Glaucomis sabrinus)
            Beaver                                      (Castor canadensis)
            Deer mouse                               (Peromyscus maniculatus)
            Meadow vole                              (Microtus pennsylvanicus)
            Muskrat                                     (Ondatra zibethicus)
            Southern Red-backed vole           (Clethrionomys gapperi)
            Southern bog lemming                (Synaptomys cooperi)
            Meadow jumping mouse              (Zapus hudsonius)
            Woodland jumping mouse            (Napaeozapus insignis)
            Porcupine                                   (Erethizon dorsatum)



 Order Carnivora – Meat eaters

 Family Canidae (dog family)

            Red fox                  (Vulpes vulpes)
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           Coyote                   (Canis latrans)

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          Gray wolf                (Canis lupus)– usually called “timberwolf”

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        Red wolf             (Canis rufus)- probably the Algonquin Park wolf

  0 views (162 Kb)     (Also referred to as Canis lycaon –the Eastern Red Wolf)

Family Ursidae
             Black bear               (Ursus americanus) 

Every year, some cottagers either see black bears or have them visit their property. Here are some “bear facts” about bears and ways to lessen the frequency of bear/human encounters.

General Facts about black bears
  • Black bears are generally timid and avoid encounters with people, but they can come into conflict with people especially when natural foods are scarce.
  • Black bears are large, powerful animals. Adult males can weigh 120 - 280 kg (250 - 600 lbs.). Adult females can weigh 45 - 180 kg (100 - 400 lbs.). Black bears are not normally aggressive towards humans, however, on extremely rare occasions, bears can be dangerous.
  • There are about 75,000 to 100,000 black bears in Ontario.
  • Black bears are active from mid-April to late fall in most parts of the province.
  • Most black bears enter their dens by mid-October in the north and by early November in central Ontario. However, bears will stay out of their dens longer when fall foods are abundant.
  • Black bear cubs are generally born in January while their mothers are in their dens. Cubs stay with their mothers for approximately 16-18 months following their birth.
  • Between early July and late September bears typically double their body weight as they prepare for winter hibernation. Black bears do not eat or drink while in their winter dens.
  • Black bears are omnivorous (they feed on both plants and animals).
  • Black bears feed mainly on summer and fall berry crops such as raspberries, blueberries and mountain ash, as well as acorns and beechnuts in the fall.
  • Natural foods vary greatly in abundance from year to year. Bears may look for other food sources more actively in the spring if the previous year's food supply was poor and they are in poor condition. They may also look for alternate food sources in late summer and fall if the current year's food supply is poor. Consequently, food or garbage around homes, cottages and campsites will become attractive to bears.

For information on how bears become nuisance bears and how to prevent problems, and what to do during a bear encountersee www.bears.mnr.gov.on.ca 

Family Procyonidae
            Raccoon                                    (Procyon lotor)

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Family Mustelidae (Weasel family – scent glands)
            Marten                                      (Martes americana)
            Fisher                                       (Martes pennanti)
            Ermine – short-tailed weasel        (Mustela erminea)
            Mink                                         (Mustela vison)
            Striped skunk                             (Mephista mephitis)
            River otter                                 (Lutra canadensis)




Family Felidae (cat family)

            Lynx                                         (Felis lynx)

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             Bobcat                                      (Felis rufus)

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             Cougar                                      (Felis concolor)

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Sightings of cougar are documented in various regions of Ontario, but with no firm evidence.


Order Artiodactyla – Hoofed Animals
Family Cervidae 

            White tail deer                           (Adocoileus virginianus)

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            Moose                                       (Alces alces)

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*          Elk or wapiti                               (Cervus elaphus)

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* Remnant of re-established herd in 1920s at Burwash Industrial Farm. Recent sighting near Trout Creek Ontario (October 2007). Range is expanding.

Order Primate
Family Hominadae
            Human beings                            (Homo sapiens)           
Watch out for these guys! Very dangerous!

Birds Of The French River Region

A Special Note About The Cormorant

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Double-crested cormorant
Many are concerned about the impact of cormorants on fish stocks in Lake Nipissing and other lakes. While previously seen mainly on ocean coastlines and on the shores of the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay, there has been a large increase in the cormorant population over the last decade on inland lakes. Flocks of many hundreds of birds are now seen regularly on Lake Nipissing and the population is estimated at between one and two thousand. The population appears now to have stabilized. Sport fishers contend that the cormorants are eating the prey fish of walleye (pickerel) but the MNR contends that the impact of cormorants is minimal. The jury is still out on this. Cormorants are "quiet" diving birds and do not call like loons. But when they gather on a rock on a hot day to cool off by spreading their wings, you can hear them "murmuring" softly. They're probably discussing the large increase in human fishing in the area!

See Environment Canada: Cormorant website for the following information:
  •  Information about the species
  •  Information on the expansion of the species in Ontario
  •  Control Measures
  •  Cormorant decline in 1950s and 1970s and resurgence 1970-1990
  •  Concern - How much fish do cormorants eat?
  •  Competition with Sport Fish

Shore And Water Birds Of The French River Area 

Posted July 10, 2013
For a list of bird sightings by Bonnie Witmer and others at Solid Comfort, Boreal_Bird_Checklist_copy-1.pdf

*     Denotes birds observed by the FRIENDS OF MASHKINONJE, (no photos below).
**   Denotes birds shown in the collages below.
*** Denotes additional bird sightings from Solid Comfort

Common Loon **
Arctic Loon***
Double-crested Cormorant **

Am. Bittern
Great Blue Heron  **
Green Heron *

Canada Goose  **
Wood Duck **
Mallard  **
Pin-tailed Duck **
American Black Duck
Buffle Head Duck  **
Gadwall *
Am. Wigeon *
Northern Shoveler *
Blue-winged Teal *
Green-winged Teal *
Redhead **
Lesser Scaup *
Ringed-neck Duck *
Common Goldeneye **
Hooded Merganser *
Common Merganser **
Red-breasted Merganser ***
Ruddy Duck *

Osprey **
Bald Eagle **
Golden Eagle **

Sandhill Crane **

Spotted Sandpiper *
Least Sandpiper **

Bonaparte's Gull***
Ring-billed Gull *
Herring Gull **
Black-backed Gull **
Black Tern *
Caspian Tern**
Common Tern **

Belted Kingfisher **


Land Birds Of The French River Area

Sharp-shined Hawk *
Broad-winged Hawk **
Red-tailed Hawk **
Marsh Hawk **
Sharp-shinned Hawk***
Barred Owl **
Common Nighthawk *
Sparrow Hawk **

Turkey Vulture **

Am. Kestrel*
Merlin *

Ruffed Grouse **

Am. Coot *
Common Moorhen *
Killdeer *

Greater Yellowlegs *
Wilson’s Snipe *
Am. Woodcock

Rock Pigeon **
Mourning Dove **

Black-billed Cuckoo *
Yellow-billed Cuckoo *

Ruby-throated Hummingbird **

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker **
Hairy Woodpecker **
American Three-toed Woodpecker*** 
Black-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker **

Eastern Wood-Pewee **
Alder Flycatcher *
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher *
Eastern Phoebe **
Great-crested Flycatcher *

Eastern Kingbird *
Philadelphia Vireo *
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo***

Blue Jay **
Grey Jay
Northern Shrike**
Am Crow **
Common Raven**

Tree Swallow **
N.Rough-winged Swallow *
Bank Swallow *
Cliff Swallow *
Barn Swallow **

Black-capped Chickadee **
White-breasted Nuthatch **
Red-breasted Nuthatch **

Brown Creeper***

Marsh Wren *
Winter Wren *

Ruby-crowner Kinglet***

Veery *
Hermit Thrush *
American Robin **

Gray Catbird *
Brown Thrasher *
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing **

Nashville Warbler *
Yellow Warbler **
Chestnut-sided Warbler *
Yellow-rumped Warbler**
Pine Warbler *
Black-throated Green*
Blackburnian Warbler *
Black and White Warbler***
American Redstart
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Waterthrush *
Ovenbird *
Common Yellowthroat *
Canada Warbler *

Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow *
Song Sparrow **
Swamp Sparrow *
White-crowned sparrow **
White-throated Sparrow **
Dark-eyed Junco *
Indigo Bunting *

Bobolink *
Eastern Meadowlark *
Red-winged Blackbird**
Brewer’s Blackbird **
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird *
Northern Oriole

Purple Finch *
American Goldfinch
Pine Siskin
Rose-breasted Grosbeak **
Evening Grosbeak *



Reptiles Of The French River Region


On the Upper French River there are several common species of snakes:

Water Snake            

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Garter Snake

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 Eastern hognosed snake (a species at risk)

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 Ribbon snake



Note that the Massasauga Rattlesnake is found on the lower French River west of Highway 69 and is rarely seen east of the highway.

For information on identification of local snakes.

Turtles of the French River area
Turtles have a hard shell to protect themselves from enemies. The top part of the shell is called the 'carapace', and the lower part is called the 'plastron'. The carapace and plastron are solidly fastened (fused) on each side of the body in an area known as a 'bridge'. The carapace and plastron are covered with 'plates' or 'scutes' that give each species of turtle a unique colour and design. These plates or scutes are shed as the turtle grows and replaced with newer, larger plates.

Turtles, like all reptiles, are cold-blooded animals and can often be spotted sitting in open areas gathering heat from the sun. This behaviour is known as 'basking' and it allows the turtles to increase its body temperature. By increasing its body temperature the turtle can digest food more quickly. While basking, a turtle stretches out its legs, head and tail. This may help remove pests such as leeches which can attach themselves to turtles. Basking in the sun also reduces the growth of algae on the turtle’s shell. If too much algae grows on the shell, the shell can be damaged. In the summer, turtles are quite active and hunt regularly. This allows the turtle to maintain a good reserve body fat, which is needed to survive the winter when the turtle is inactive.

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Snapping Turtles are carnivores (meat eaters), while other species such as the Painted Turtles are omnivores. Snapping turtles eat crayfish, dragonfly larvae, snails, leeches, frog, and fish.

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The Painted Turtles, being omnivorous, feed on algae and duckweed plants, as well as aquatic insects, crayfish, tadpoles, and snails.

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There are many species of turtles in Ontario. In order to help identify different species, turtles can be divided into groups according to size. Small species include the Stinkpot and the Spotted Turtle. Medium-sized turtles include the Painted Turtle and Map Turtle. Larger species include the Snapping Turtle, Blanding's Turtle and Wood Turtle.To learn more about turtles:  http://www.torontozoo.com/adoptapond/turtles.asp  

Amphibians Of The French River Region 

Toads and Frogs

American Toad

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Bull frog                                               Spring Peeper                                                                                                                        

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Grey Tree Frog                                       Wood Frog

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Green Frog                                             Leopard Frog  

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Mink Frog 

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Western Chorus Frog                                            Pickerel Frog 

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For frog and toad identification, range, and songs go to http://www.torontozoo.com/adoptapond/frogs.asp 


Salamanders and Newts
Four-toed Salamander
Northern Two-lined Salamander
Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Spotted Salamander (yellow)
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Blue-spotted Salamander 
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Red Spotted Newt
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Fish of the French River and Lake Nipissing

See http://ufrca.com/index.php?page=sport-fishing

Flora (Plants and Fungi)

Fungi Found In The French River Area

website:  ontario wildflowers and fungi

Book: Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada, a Lone Pine Guide by Gearoge Barron


Wildflowers of the French River

Water Plants on the French River 

Trees and Bushes of the French River