Species At Risk

Land Owner and Farming Success Stories

Success Stories: Living with Species at Risk

Living with species at risk on the land you own is about appreciating the value of protecting a rich, diverse ecosystem and wanting to protect it for the future. Many land owners and farmers in Ontario feel proud to be doing their part to help wildlife. They've shown that it's possible to accommodate the needs of species at risk and still carry out their work.

These stories are inspiring examples of how several farmers across southwestern Ontario have successfully managed species at risk issues. These stories were generously provided by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association).

Learn more about the association and get stewardship ideas (pdf).

Bringing back the Butternut tree

Butternut tree

I can remember cracking butternuts as a child for the nutmeat inside. It was part of putting food away for the winter.

John Dunsmore, farmer

Woodlot owner John Dunsmore keeps his eyes open for Butternut trees on his land and does his part to conserve them. Dunsmore says it doesn’t hurt his forest harvesting practices one bit, and he’s proud to have a piece of Ontario’s natural heritage right on his property: “I like diversity in my woodlot,” says Dunsmore, “and having Butternut there doesn’t affect my own forest management activities.” He has been working with local Ministry of Natural Resources staff to develop ways to help the trees on his property have a good shot at living long and healthy lives. Based on ministry advice, Dunsmore thins vegetation around Butternut trees because they prefer sun over shade. This encourages growth and also gives seedlings a chance to germinate and grow.

Finding fungus-resistant genes

The number of Butternut trees in Ontario has seriously declined in recent decades due to a non-native fungal disease called Butternut canker. Tapping into the genes of healthy native trees that are resistant to the disease, conservation experts are using seeds and grafts to basically clone more canker-free trees. Partnerships are at the root of Butternut recovery efforts, with organizations such as the Forest Gene Conservation Association, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and several stewardship councils working with land owners like Dunsmore to find good candidate trees for seeds and grafting.

Get the facts about the Butternut

Learn more about ministry research into the Butternut canker

Read the Butternut Assessment Guidelines (pdf) on identifying retainable Butternut trees and criteria to determine whether it is exempt from protection.

Review Regulation 242/08 on the legal removal of Butternut trees

Does Butternut protection affect you?

While Butternut trees are listed as endangered in Ontario, having these trees on your land might not interfere with farming or forest harvesting practices. For example, once assessed as dead or dying from Butternut canker, they can be harvested with no further approval. It is healthy Butternut trees (and those which could be studied for a cure to the canker disease) that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The ministry has developed guidelines which outline how the health of a butternut tree is determined.

Contact your local ministry office to learn more.

Hidden but not forgotten: American Badgers

American Badger

While many farmers may not be aware that they have company, it’s possible that the solitary and nocturnal American Badger may be quietly living on their land. Ginseng farmers Mike and Bernie Bilinsky uncovered clues while cleaning up a corner of their 10-hectare lot: “There are four badger dens there now. We've seen tracks, and hair snags installed just inside the den mouth also tell us they've been there.” The Bilinskys know that the badger habitat is protected under the Endangered Species Act. This includes dens that are currently active or have been used in the past 12 months, as well as a five-metre radius around the den's entrance. But the law doesn’t interfere with their ability to work the land. The Bilinskys don’t have to do anything other than leave well enough alone. If the badgers ever become an issue, they know they can contact their local Ministry of Natural Resources office for advice.

Get the facts about the American Badger

We never see them. They don't cause us any trouble, and having them around hasn't meant any changes to our operation.

Mike and Bernie Bilinsky, farmers

Habitat creation for Eastern Foxsnake

Eastern Foxsnake

Nature is amazing in its adaptability.
Nancy Schrade, farmer

Nancy Schrade is a cash crop farmer who knows that Eastern Foxsnake is a part of Ontario’s ecological heritage and feels it’s worth the effort to protect the threatened species. While land owners often spot them near buildings and in hayfields, Eastern Foxsnakes actually need a range of habitats for their life practices -- hibernation, foraging, basking, nesting and travel corridors. They prefer wide strips of prairie, old fields and semi-maintained grass along drainage ditches, creeks, roads and railway tracks.

Creating artificial nests

Habitat protection and recovery are key to the survival of this snake, since its decline in Southwestern Ontario is mainly due to the loss of wetlands and forest fields. Land owners and farmers can help by creating critical nesting and hibernation habitat. Schrade, for example, constructed an artificial nest on her property by placing a 1.2-metre diameter circle of 5 x 10 cm page wire on the ground and filling it with wood chips and straw.

Get the facts about the Eastern Foxsnake

Manmade hibernation

Some farmers have created hibernation sites for Eastern Foxsnake, which require somewhat more effort than nest building. It involves digging a two-metre deep hole two metres across, filling it with rocks or concrete chunks and leaving openings to provide underground access. Besides hibernation, these sites are also a place for the snakes to sun themselves and hide from prey.


The Endangered Species Act


Contact your local ministry office


Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.