Wild Ontario, our new exhibit at the Butterfly Conservatory, introduces visitors to the amazing diversity of Ontario’s native species. Wild Ontario is included with regular admission to the Conservatory and features a live animal exhibit, panel displays and zoo keepers that are available on-site to help educate visitors on both common and at-risk Ontario species and what we can do to help protect them.
Ontario is home to an amazing diversity of plants and animals. Following your visit to Wild Ontario, travel south down the Niagara Parkway to discover a unique spot of beauty deep in the Niagara Gorge. Approximately 490 species of vulnerable plants and animals call the Niagara Glen home and an unprecedented number of them are listed as either “at risk” or “rare”. Visitors to the Niagara Glen can explore 4 kilometres of paths that wind through this refuge for wild flora and fauna that are unique to this region.
During your hike through the Niagara Glen, keep an eye out for these Ontario species. As with all wildlife, be respectful and always observe from a distance.
Northern Dusky Salamander
- Northern dusky salamander are mainly found on land and live under rocks, logs or leaf litter within or near water. The northern dusky salamander is tan or dark brown in colour with sparse dark spots on its sides.
- They were once thought to be absent from Ontario but were recently rediscovered in 1989.
- The Northern Dusky Salamander is only found in the Niagara Gorge in Ontario. This endangered species lives in only a few coldwater seeps along the face of the gorge.
- The Snapping Turtle is a species of special concern. This once common species is the largest freshwater turtle in Canada and spends most of its life in water. They have have large black, olive or brown shells and long tails.
- In Canada, the Snapping Turtle can be found mostly within southern Ontario.
- During the summer months, many Snapping Turtles cross busy roads in search of mates, food and nest sites. Watch for turtles on the roads especially between May and October.
- The Eastern Milksnake is grey or tan with alternating red or reddish brown blotches that are distinctly outlined in black. It is currently a Species at Risk and is designated as being of Special Concern.
- It is often mistaken for a venomous Massasauga Rattlesnake due to its colour and tendency to vibrate its tail when disturbed, but an Eastern Milksnake is not poisonous.
- We rely on these snakes to control populations of small rodents and insects, which would otherwise have detrimental effects to our native plant life.
Visitors should be aware that hikes through the Niagara Glen involve an elevation change of over 60 metres so proper footwear suitable for steep and rugged terrain is required. You can report sightings of common and at-risk species in Niagara Parks to us on social media by using the hashtag #NiagaraParks.
Learn more about environmental protection in Niagara Parks here.
General Tours of the Glen
During the summer, daily guided hiking tours will depart from the Niagara Glen Nature Centre to take visitors on a search for rare and unique blooms, birds and wildlife.