By John Urquhart

Ontario Nature supports 22 unique nature reserves across southern and eastern Ontario that together protect more than 2,250 hectares of ecologically sensitive land. One of the gems is the Lost Bay Nature Reserve, which includes the beautiful shoreline of Gananoque Lake, areas of mature forest and a provincially significant wetland.

Ontario Nature staff are still exploring what lives and grows on this protected reserve, which recently doubled in size thanks to the local communities’ fundraising efforts. This summer, John Urquhart, a conservation scientist with Ontario Nature, will oversee a team of staff and volunteers that will identify the rare species and natural communities found in this newly protected area. The focus will be on reptiles that the provincial and federal governments list as endangered, threatened or of special concern. Information received from local residents and cottagers, coupled with our knowledge of the habitats in the reserve, indicate that it may contain as many as eight at-risk reptile species, including Ontario’s largest snake, largest turtle and only lizard.

Classifying the ecological communities in the reserve and estimating how many reptiles are using the various habitats will also inform Ontario Nature’s Reptiles at Risk program. Members of the field crew will have the opportunity to use their expertise to identify other plants and animals in the reserve and on neighbouring properties. This information will be used to write a conservation plan for the Lost Bay Nature Reserve.

All the reptile and amphibian data gathered will be forwarded to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas project.