Click below to download the Species at Risk Observation Summary Sheet in the format of your choice for reporting sightings of species at risk.
The below list of Species at Risk (SAR) is based upon existing literature on SAR in the Haliburton Highlands.
From 2008 to 2014, many members of the Haliburton Highlands reported sightings of Species at Risk to the Land Trust, and combined with research projects, the Land Trust has increased the number of documented observations of SAR in the County by 465%.
The Land Trust hopes you use the below to increase your knowledge of SAR and learn about the tremendous biodiversity in the Haliburton Highlands.
Five Lined Skink
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
The Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) is eastern Canada’s only lizard and is limited to two disjunct regions in south central and southwestern Ontario. The Great Lakes/St Lawrence population is distributed along the southern margin of the Canadian Shield and requires a habitat consisting primarily of rocky outcrops embedded within a matrix of coniferous and deciduous forests. At a microhabitat level there is also an association with loose cover rock scattered over the rocky outcrops. Cover rocks are utilized for nesting, hibernation, foraging and thermo-regulating.
Home ranges are relatively small and are estimated to be between 300- 600 m2. However, individuals have been found up to 200 m from an original point of capture, indicating that they are capable of dispersing up to this distance.
The Five-lined Skink is categorized as a species of Special Concern nationally and provincially. The most serious threat to the Great Lakes/St Lawrence population is habitat loss on the macro and micro scale. Although the habitat of the Five-lined Skink is relatively robust (i.e. rocky barrens), damage to the vegetation in the surrounding landscape and microhabitat alteration in the form of loss or movement of cover rock can be detrimental.
Unlike salamanders, skinks have dry skin and move relatively quickly. Adolescent skinks have brilliant blue tails. A predator may pull off the tail, only to find it wriggling on its own while the skink escapes.
The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) is categorized as Threatened nationally and provincially due to its rarity, and a decrease in area of occurrence.
The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake hibernates in nondescript burrows (often abandoned rodent burrows) in upland forested habitat with a preference for dry mixed forests and pine/oak forests. It nests in open areas with sandy soils and a southeast aspect.
In the spring the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is not overly active until temperatures rise above 20oC at which point they will move to sunny areas to bask. Typically, these areas are characterized as small forest clearings with leaf litter or low plants such as blueberry, juniper or similar shrubbery rather than rock barrens.
The diet of the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake consists primarily of American toads (Bufo americanus) although it will also consume frogs, salamanders, turtle eggs, small mammals and birds.
Threats to this species have been attributed to habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, roads, persecution, collecting, and contaminants. With a defense strategy of flattening and raising its head and hissing, the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is often misinterpreted as dangerous and killed as a result. The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is non-venomous.
The Eastern Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) is categorized as a species of Special Concern nationally and provincially. The population occurs in small numbers scattered throughout Ontario and Quebec. Although the Eastern Milksnake can be found in a variety of forested habitats such as deciduous forests, pine plantations, bog forests, pine forests and mixed pine-hardwoods, they have a habitat preference for fields, rocky outcrops and marshes. In the spring and fall, Eastern Milksnakes have a preference for upland, possibly migrating to wetland edges in the summer. They also utilize edge habitats such as power-line cuts and railway embankments and have been reported to be in rural areas in and around buildings such as barns, sheds and houses.
Eastern Milksnakes often hibernate communally and suitable hibernation sites include mammal burrows, dirt banks, hollow logs, rotting stumps and rock crevices. They have also been found in old building foundations, stone walls, cisterns, crawl spaces, old wells and basements of older homes.
Human encroachment is of concern as road kill is one of the primary reasons for decline. In addition, habitat fragmentation by roads and residential development reduces the quality of the available habitat. Another contributing factor to its decline is persecution due to the Eastern Milksnake’s resemblance to venomous snakes.
The Great Lakes population of the Eastern Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus) is categorized as a species of Special Concern nationally and provincially.
The Eastern Ribbonsnake is a semi-aquatic species that frequents wetlands, ponds and streams with a preference for quiet, shallow water with abundant sunlight and bordered by low dense vegetation. Gravid females may move short distances from water prior to giving birth; however snakes are typically found within 5 m of the wetland, unless the adjacent land is an open field where prey may be found.
From September to October Eastern Ribbonsnakes will move short distances from the water to hibernate in other animal burrows or cracks and crevices created by geological events. It has been suggested that
Eastern Ribbonsnakes may be using submerged hibernation sites as all movement away from the water at this time is along the same gradient and not uphill. The Eastern Ribbonsnake suffers from habitat loss related to the availability and health of wetland and littoral habitats and shoreline vegetation, declines in prey (specifically amphibian populations), direct persecution and road mortality.
The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population of Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is categorized as Threatened, both nationally and provincially.
Blanding’s Turtles use a wide variety of habitats. A landscape with numerous small wetlands in close proximity has a higher probability of occupancy by Blanding’s Turtles. Blanding’s Turtles prefer small ponds and marshes with emergent and/or submergent and floating vegetation, and mucky substrates. Crustaceans, particularly crayfish are preferred food items. Insects, leeches, worms, small fish, tadpoles and frogs, snails and some plants are also part of their diet.
Blanding’s Turtles hibernate underwater and therefore permanent bodies of water are selected. When they emerge they become highly mobile and will utilize upland habitat for nesting, basking and summer dormancy. Upland habitat that they move through is generally mixed deciduous or coniferous forests. Nesting locations are open with substrates of loose sand or organic soils.
Due to their high level of mobility, Blanding’s Turtles are detrimentally impacted by roads. As well as the incidental crossing of roads by adults, the selection of road shoulders by gravid females as nesting sites increases vulnerability of the adult females and the hatchlings to road mortality andpet/trade collection.
The Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is categorized as a species of Special Concern both federally and provincially. This listing was denoted provincially due to a recent contraction of the Snapping Turtle’s range.
Snapping Turtles, Haliburton County’s largest freshwater turtles, prefer shallow, slow moving water so they can take cover under leaf litter and in the soft mud substrate. In Central Ontario, they are found in wetland habitat in ponds, marshes, shallow bays, and on the edges of slow moving rivers and streams. Because they spend so much time in water, algae often grows on their shells, providing excellent camouflage in their aquatic habitat.Females generally nest on sand and gravel banks but may also utilize muskrat houses, beaver lodges, road shoulders, fissures in rocky shorelines and gardens and lawns.
The Snapping Turtle can have a long life, but breeds late in its life cycle. Therefore when a mature female adult turtle is killed, the survival of the species can be drastically affected. Road mortality is a significant threat during the summer, when many venture into the uplands in search of food, mates and nesting sites. At this time they are unintentionally, or sometimes intentionally, targets for vehicles. The use of gravel shoulders of roads as nesting sites exposes them to more intense human interference. Even large, established populations are vulnerable to adult mortality and declines do not recover rapidly.
The Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) is categorized as Endangered nationally and provincially. This species occurs in small numbers in bogs and marshes, a habitat that is fragmented and disappearing due to human encroachment.
Although the habitat requirements of Spotted Turtles are somewhat ambiguous, a study in Dalton Township in the City of Kawartha Lakes defined the habitat requirements as mainly aquatic with limited terrestrial activity. More specifically, Spotted Turtles in Central Ontario tend to hibernate in bogs and shortly after their emergence, migrate to marshes. The bogs are described as covered with low shrubs and a prevalence of Sphagnum Moss. The marshes are generally shallow, with floating vegetation, sedges, submergent vegetation, and a periphery of low shrubs.
Nest sites are typically within 50 m from a wetland, but may be as far away as 120 m, in areas exposed to full sunlight including soil-filled crevices in the Canadian Shield bedrock. Spotted Turtles also utilize the forested uplands within 80 m of a wetland to aestivate during hot summer months.
Although habitat loss is likely the primary cause of decline, Spotted Turtles are also highly valued by reptile hobbyists due to their small size and bright colours. Road mortality is another cause of decline.
The Stinkpot (Sternotherus odoratus) is categorized as Threatened nationally and provincially.
Stinkpots prefer shallow water with a soft substrate and are rarely found at depths greater than 2 m. In Central Ontario, Stinkpots are found in association with vegetation typically associated with marshes. Stinkpots cannot stay out of water for extended periods of time as they are highly susceptible to desiccation and therefore their home ranges are limited to single bodies of water ranging from 50 – 155 ha in size. A lake with numerous small marshy bays would also be suitable. Hibernation occurs underwater, burrowing into approximately 30 cm of mud.
Stinkpots do not venture onto land except to nest. On the Canadian Shield, Stinkpots nest in rock crevices located on rock faces exposed to direct sunlight. These sites do not need to be immediately adjacent to a marsh as Stinkpots will travel along a littoral zone of a lake to reach a suitable site. Nests are typically found within 45 m of water. The Stinkpot has disappeared over most of the southern half of its range.
Motorboat traffic, fishing and habitat destruction through shoreline development (loss of nest sites), wetland drainage and pollution are the primary causes of population decline. On the Canadian Shield, suitable nesting sites may be limited due to the additional need for direct sunlight to compensate for the cooler temperatures. Therefore shoreline development on the Canadian Shield may be more detrimental than in other areas.
The Wood Turtle (Clemmys insculpta) is categorized as a species of Special Concern federally and Endangered provincially.
Wood Turtles are aquatic hibernators preferring shallow, slow moving, meandering rivers with sandy substrates. Cover is not always required however most hibernate at a depth of approximately 1 m.
During the active season, wood turtles utilize the uplands adjacent to streams and rivers preferring mixed forests near streams that are clear, with hard sand or gravel substrates, a moderate current and a mean width of at least 7 m. Alder thickets and alder swale are the preferred or most used habitats in Ontario and it is unlikely that Wood Turtles would utilize pure conifer stands. Wood Turtles have been located up to 600 m from water, but tend to stay within 300 m of the home stream.
Wood Turtles prefer to nest in sand or gravel-sand beaches and banks, gravel and dirt roads/shoulders and gravel pits if available. Studies have found that 84% of nests are less than 10 m from water with an eastsoutheast to west-southwest aspect if the slope is greater than 20o.
The primary factors limiting Wood Turtle numbers are road mortality, collection for the pet trade and degradation/destruction of habitat due to logging roads, recreational vehicles and stream and river bank alterations.
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is categorized as Endangered,both provincially and nationally, although it is not regulated under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.
American Ginseng prefers rich, moist, undisturbed and relatively mature,sugar maple-dominated deciduous forests with a forest canopy specifically dominated by Sugar Maple, White Ash, Bitternut Hickory and Basswood.
A basal area of 18m2/ha or greater would provide the necessary canopy closure for American Ginseng.American Ginseng requires soils of neutral pH such as soils over limestone or marble bedrock and colonies are often found near the bottom of gentle slopes facing south-east to south-west.
The primary threats to American Ginseng are illegal harvesting and habitat loss and degradation. The market value of wild American Ginseng remains high despite legal cultivation and exportation of Ginseng. If populations are harvested below their minimal viable population, estimated at approximately 170 plants, local extirpation can result.
American Ginseng is a shade-tolerant species with specific habitat requirements and therefore heavy logging operations that open the forest canopy significantly can be detrimental. Physical damage can also result from the skidding and felling of logs.
Butternut (Juglans cinera) is categorized as Endangered both federally and provincially.
Butternut is typically found on rich, moist, well-drained loams and possibly on well-drained gravelly sites, and is associated with calcareous soils such as that of limestone origin. Other trees species often associated with Butternut are Basswood, Black Cherry, Beech, Black Walnut, Elm, Hemlock, Hickory, Oak, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, White Ash and Yellow Birch. These habitat parameters are similar to that of American Ginseng and the presence of Butternut may be an indicator of this species.
Butternut is intolerant of shade and therefore is usually found as scattered individuals or in small groups in mixed hardwood stands. Stream banks are a common location for this species.
Butternut canker is rapidly and aggressively spreading across the landscape and can cause mortality in trees of all ages and sizes. The canker infects trees through leaf scars, buds, lenticels and wounds and kills trees by crown dieback and stem girdling. It has yet to be determined whether trees can have complete immunity or if resistance is only present at varying degrees. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is interested in knowing where Butternut are located and monitoring their health.
Engelmann’s Quillwort (Isoetes engelmannii) is an inconspicuous perennial plant with simple grass-like leaves.
This shallow water species is nationally and provincially listed as Endangered. There are only two known locations in Canada, both of which occur in Ontario and one of which is in the County of Haliburton.
Engelmann’s Quillwort is found in shallow waters in fresh, flowing, circumneutral(neutral pH) to calcareous waters and substrates. The substrates consist of a sand or silty sand layer over clay or clayey-sand, often within a dense granitic cobble bed, although it can occur on open relatively rockfree river sediment as well. River habitat is typically protected from heavy currents and wave action, but currents must be moderate as Engelmann’s Quillwort is rarely found in still, warm water. On-site surveys of approximately 120 potential sites along the Severn and Gull River were completed in 2002-2005; however no further populations were identified.
Threats to Engelmann’s Quillwort include mechanical damage (boat traffic, wave action, raking etc.), nutrient enrichment, herbicide application, competition and deliberate removal. The uplands adjacent to the Gull River population are privately owned.
The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is categorized as a species of Special Concern provincially and Not at Risk federally.
Persecution, habitat loss and pesticide use caused dramatic declines by the 1970s but thanks to a DDT ban and conservation efforts Bald Eagle populations have now increased four-fold across Ontario. This increase has been more notable in Northwestern Ontario.
Bald Eagle nesting sites are typically found within 350 m of large rivers and lakes with extensive shoreline and many large trees suitable for nesting. Nests can also be found on relatively undisturbed forested islands.
In Haliburton County, they utilize large White Pines for nesting and large old snags near their nests for perching. Large, contiguous areas of mixed coniferous and deciduous woods with open canopies are preferred upland habitat.
Human disturbances near their nests, including noise disturbances, are detrimental to reproductive success and shoreline development has resulted in the loss of suitable nesting and feeding habitat. In addition the degradation of lakes due to acidification and the corresponding decline of prey fish species has kept their numbers from increasing significantly in this region. They are also at risk of being poisoned by mercury, lead, pesticide and toxic waste contamination of their ingested prey.
The Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) is categorized as Threatened both nationally and provincially.
In Ontario the breeding range of the Bobolink is restricted to central and southern Ontario. As a member of the grassland bird community, the natural habitat of the Bobolink is tall-grass prairie. Following European settlement much of this habitat was converted to cropland and the Bobolink now nests primarily in forage crops such as hayfields and pastures. The Bobolink feeds on a variety of insects, some of which would be considered agricultural pests.
Declines in the Bobolink’s distribution have been attributed to incidental mortality from agricultural operations, and habitat loss through the spread of urbanization into agricultural lands, intensification of agricultural practices and natural forest succession. In the County of Haliburton, agriculture has declined dramatically over the last 100 years and much of the farmland is reverting to forestlands through natural succession.
Where agriculture is in practice cutting of hayfields before the end of June has resulted in the loss of nests, eggs and nestlings. Other threats to the Bobolink include habitat fragmentation and nest predation, and pesticide use.
The Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis) is categorized as Threatened nationally and a species of Special Concern provincially.
The breeding range of the Canada Warbler in Ontario is primarily in the Boreal Shield with the highest densities through the Southern Shield regions.
The preferred breeding habitat includes moist, mixed forests with a well-developed shrub layer. It favours thicket swamps, red maple swamps and conifer swamps dominated by Eastern White Cedar, Tamarack or Black Spruce. Forest stands regenerating after natural and human caused disturbances may also be used.
The Canada Warbler has shown dramatic declines in its population and with 8o% of its global breeding range occurring in Canada, Canadian conservation efforts will be critical for the Canada Warbler. Habitat loss and degradation in its wintering range in South America, and loss of swamp forests in its breeding range in Canada are thought to be the main reasons for the dramatic decline. In Canada the gradual drainage and development of swamp forests in the Southern Shield region may continue to contribute to the steady decline of the Canada Warbler. Other possible causes for the decline include degradation of the shrub layer by White-tailed Deer grazing and declines in insect outbreaks.
The Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) is categorized as Threatened both nationally and provincially.
In Canada, the Chimney Swift’s breeding range is primarily located east of Saskatchewan. Historically Chimney Swifts nested on cave walls and in hollow tree cavities in old growth forests. As hollow trees became scarce with extensive clearing of the land, these birds adapted and changed their habitat in urban areas to chimneys, old abandoned buildings and other man-made structures. Chimney swifts are often associated with bodies of water, where insects are abundant and they can forage on the wing.
The Chimney Swift mates for life and is monogamous. The nest is a small half saucer made of twigs and saliva attached to a vertical surface. The pair returns annually to the same site, typically with one pair to a chimney or hollow tree.
In Ontario the largest declines in Chimney Swift populations have occurred in the Southern Shield and Lake Simcoe regions. However, the County of Haliburton has maintained a population, possibly due to the presence of older forests. Loss of old growth forests and loss of suitable urban nest sites, through modern chimney construction and conversion to alternate forms of heating, are the main causes of the population decline. Other threats include a decline in abundance of their flying insect prey, severe weather events during breeding season, chimney sweeping and intolerance of nests by some building owners.
The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) is categorized as Threatened nationally and as a species of Special Concern provincially.
The breeding range of the Common Nighthawk extends from subarctic regions of Canada through to Central America. Their breeding habitat is varied and in the County of Haliburton would include recently burned-over areas, forest clearings, bogs, fens, marshes, lakeshores, riverbanks, rocky outcrops and rock barrens. They generally prefer natural sites although they have adapted to urban development by using areas such as flat gravel-covered roofs for nesting. In natural areas, they lay their eggs directly on the ground and one clutch is produced annually between late May and mid-August.
The Canadian population has shown broad scale decline and significant declines have also been reported in the Southern Shield Region in Ontario. The loss of natural breeding habitat may be the result of forest fire suppression, reforestation and natural forest succession. Loss of urban habitat, depredation by predators such as crows, ravens and cats and reductions in flying insect prey may also be some of the contributing factors to the population decline.
The Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) is categorized as Threatened nationally and a species of Special Concern provincially.
The breeding range in Ontario of the Golden-winged Warbler extends from extreme south-western Ontario north to Central Nipissing. The Golden-winged Warbler establishes territories of approximately 1-2 ha in size. Nest sites are on the ground in patches of herbs and low shrubs and foraging sites are typically scattered trees and forested edge. Territories in early stages of succession are preferable, specifically stands of northern hardwood <15 years of age. Examples of some preferred habitat include: hydro/utility corridors, field edges, recently logged areas and beaver marshes, and on the Boreal Shield, alder thickets with scattered Black Ash.
The Golden-winged Warbler is threatened by habitat loss and competitionand hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers: a species that is spreading north due to habitat and climate change. In regard to habitat loss, the Golden-winged Warblers are dependent on early successional scrub habitat.This habitat is in decline in the County of Haliburton due to the natural regeneration of farmland established in the mid to late 1800s.
The Olive-sided flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) is categorized as Threatened nationally and a species of Special Concern provincially.
Approximately 54% of the Olive-sided Flycatcher’s breeding range occurs in Canada. The Olive-sided Flycatcher prefers habitat consisting of open areas in coniferous or mixed coniferous forests near wetlands. In the County of Haliburton, these open areas would include forest openings, forest edges near open wetlands, swamps dominated by spruce or tamarack, and burned forest clearings and cutovers. This species will use early successional forest although the presence of tall snags and residual forest are necessary for nesting and for foraging of flying insects. Their nests are predominantly found in Black Spruce, White Spruce, Jack Pine and Balsam Fir trees.
There has been a widespread and consistent decline over the last thirty years and the Canadian population is estimated to have declined by 79% from 1968 to 2006. Causes of their decline are unknown. Their continued population declines, despite apparent increases in suitable breeding habitat, may be due to lower reproductive success, increased depredation in harvested habitats, and to decreases in insect abundance due to pesticide use.
Falco perigrinus anatum
The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) is categorized as a species of Special Concern nationally and Threatened provincially.
Peregrine Falcons inhabit a wide range of habitats but breed only in habitat with access to sufficient food supplies. In the County of Haliburton, prey would consist primarily of birds, particularly shorebirds, waterfowl and other water birds, pigeons and songbirds. Preferred nest sites are ledges or crevices found on cliffs ranging from 50-200 m high.
Peregrine Falcon populations suffered a DDT-induced collapse in North America in the 1950s and 1960s; however, surveys since the 1970s show substantial increases with notable increases between 2000 and 2005. Most Anatum Peregrine Falcon populations are now stable or increasing, although chemical pollution still remains a concern.
The Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferous) is categorized as Threatened both nationally and provincially.
In Ontario, the breeding range is confined to southern and south-central Ontario. Whip-poor-will breeding habitat is dependent on the forest structure rather than the type of trees in the forest. Whip-poor-wills will avoid both wide-open spaces and dense forest. In Haliburton preferred nesting habitat includes rocky barrens, early to mid-successional forests, old burns or other disturbed sites, and open conifer plantations. Eggs are laid directly on leaf litter and clutches are laid between mid-May and June in Ontario.
Whip-poor-wills are nocturnal and most active on bright moonlit nights when they can be heard singing their name often in long seemingly endless series. The Canadian population has shown broad-scale decline and in Ontario populations appear to have disappeared from large sections. Forest fire suppression and the natural succession of forests have likely reduced breeding habitat.
Declines may also be attributable to long-term, widespread changes in habitat resulting from intensive agriculture. Land development near breeding sites has also been shown to negatively affect breeding success. As with other aerial foraging species, reductions in insect abundance may be a factor in their dramatic decline
The Barn Swallow is categorized as “threatened”, meaning the species lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered, but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening it.
The Barn Swallow is a medium-sized songbird (about 15 to 18 centimetres long). Males have a glossy steel-blue back and upper wings, a rusty-red forehead and throat, a short bill and a broad blue breast band above its tawny underbelly. The male has long tail feathers which form a distinctive, deep fork and a line of white spots across the outer end of the upper tail. The female’s tail feathers are shorter, the blue of her upper parts and breast band are less glossy, and her underside is paler.
Barn Swallows often live in close association with humans, building their cup-shaped mud nests almost exclusively on human-made structures such as open barns, under bridges and in culverts. The species is attracted to open structures that include ledges where they can build their nests, which are often re-used from year to year. They prefer unpainted, rough-cut wood, since the mud does not adhere as well to smooth surfaces.
Barn Swallows have experienced a significant decline since the mid-1980s. While there have been losses in the number of available nest sites, such as open barns, and in the amount of foraging habitat in open agricultural areas, the causes of the recent population decline are not well understood. This bird’s nests are often destroyed when old buildings in rural areas are demolished or fall down.
In addition, as farms modernize, many old barns that offered easy access are being replaced by large metal sheds with tight-fitting doors and no windows. Massive pesticide spraying of fields can also reduce the insect population barns swallows need for food.
The number of Barn Swallows in Ontario decreased by 65 percent between 1966 and 2009.