Seven rare species in the Carolinian zone

It’s the brightly coloured wildlife that catch our eye, the grass underfoot and the trees overhead. It’s the creatures that sing in the morning and howl at night. It’s also the little things, such as insects and micro organisms that are invisible to the naked eye. Biodiversity – the incredible variety of life – is all around us, even in our cities and backyards.
Take southern Ontario’s Carolinian zone, a region one-quarter of Canadians call home. It is one of the most biologically diverse places in the country and among the most threatened, as once-abundant forests, wetlands, tallgrass prairies and oak savannahs are lost or broken into smaller islands of green. Amidst the skyscrapers, residential neighbourhoods, farmland and road and railways, there are more rare species of plants and animals here than anywhere else in the country.
Learn more about seven of the Carolinian zone’s at-risk species and how you can help restore lost habitat in this biodiverse region.

American badger

American badger (c) iStock

Status: Endangered
There are thought to be fewer than 200 left in Ontario, often found on farmland and field edges. This nocturnal creature, known for its bold black and white stripes and strong claws, is at risk as tall grass prairie habitat is converted to farmland.

Midland painted turtle

Midland painted turtle basking in the sun (c) Paul Reeves Photography

Status: Special concern
Every one of Canada’s 10 native freshwater turtle species is now at risk in at least some part of the country with the recent addition of the midland painted turtle to the growing list of species at risk found in the Carolinian zone. It is primarily threatened by vehicle collisions and the loss of Ontario’s wetlands.

Jefferson salamander

Jeffersons Salamander (c) Matthias Graben

Status: Endangered
Salamanders are the unsung heroes of Canada’s forest ecosystems. Usually hidden under woodland rocks and old logs, these amphibians eat mosquito larvae (as young) and ticks and help move nutrients into forests from ponds, where they spend part of their lives. The Jefferson salamander, which lives in isolated pockets of the Carolinian woods and along the Niagara escarpment, is threatened by the fragmentation of its shrinking habitat and road deaths as it crosses from woods to wetlands to breed in the spring.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in California © Hannes Strager

Status: Endangered (COSEWIC)
During the past two decades, monarch populations have dropped by more than 80 per cent. Monarchs are threatened by deforestation of winter habitat  in Mexico and the loss of native plants along their migratory routes and breeding areas.

Wavy-rayed lampmussel

Wavy-rayed lampmussel (c) Ackerman Lab, University of Guelph

Status: Special concern
Living in shallow riffle areas of small to medium-sized rivers with clear water, this yellowish mussel with green wavy lines plays an important role in freshwater health by filtering water to find food (bacteria and algae). In Canada, it’s now found in only a few of Ontario’s rivers and is threatened by pollution and silt from urban and agricultural runoff and invasive species, such as zebra mussels.

Southern flying squirrel

Southern flying squirrel clinging to a tree at night (c) EEI Tony/ iStock

Status: Special concern
This small nocturnal squirrel is named for its ability to glide through mature forests, supported by a furry fold of skin that extends from its wrists to ankles and using its flattened tail to steer. The southern flying squirrel is threatened by the loss of mature forests that once covered 80 per cent on Ontario.

Canada warbler

Canada Warbler perched on a branch (c) Paul Reeves Photography

Status: Threatened
Most of the world’s Canada warblers breed here, usually nesting low to the ground in shrubby, wet and lush mixed woods. Throughout its wide range across the country, the Canada warbler’s habitat is shrinking. Meanwhile, much of their wintering grounds in South America have been cleared. This double loss of habitat has resulted in a 70 per cent drop in Canada warbler populations since 1970.

How you can help protect Canada’s biodiversity

The Living Planet Report Canada found that half of monitored vertebrate wildlife populations are declining. You’re needed to ensure the life, colour and wildlife in our communities is not entirely lost. No matter where you live, you can make a difference for wildlife.

  • Join In the Zone for free resources to help turn your garden into a native plant habitat for birds, amphibians, butterflies and bees in the Carolinian zone.
  • Be a Wildlifer. Channel your love of wildlife into action by joining grassroots conservation efforts near you.
  • Donate to save monarchs