Things to Watch Out for in the Wilderness

Black Bear

The Bruce Peninsula is Southern Ontario’s largest patch of wilderness. There are vast tracts of forest, rock and water. Animals outnumber people. The peninsula offers a chance to see many plants and animals that only live in the wilderness.

There are a few species you should know about — Black Bears, Massasauga Rattlesnakes, Poison Ivy and Wild Parsnip. You don’t need to worry about them, but you should be wary of them.

Black Bears

Black Bears can weigh 200kg (440 pounds) or more. They are unbelievably strong and can run much faster than you can. If you are lucky, you might see one. As long as you don’t do something stupid, they are not a threat. They do eat meat if it’s easy to get, but their favourite food is apples.

Bears: Four Stupid Things Not To Do

• Don’t keep food in your tent. Leave all food — and garbage that smells like food — in your car.

• Don’t try to approach a bear. Make noise while you are hiking so that they can hear you coming.

• If you do find yourself too close to a bear, hold your jacket over your head to make yourself look bigger (they don’t see very well), make noise and back away slowly. Don’t run from a bear. That’s how they tell food from not-food — food runs away.

• Don’t feed the bears. Ever. Don’t do anything to make bears associate the smell of humans with food.

Massassauga Rattlesnake sunning himself on the road.

Massassauga Rattlesnake sunning himself on the road.

Poison Ivy

Poison Iv

Wild Parsnip

Wild Parsnip

Massasauga Rattlesnakes

There are about a dozen species of snakes on the Bruce Peninsula. All but one of them are harmless.

Massasauga Rattlesnakes use their venom mainly to make mice hold still long enough to be eaten. But they will also bite in self defense if you do something stupid.

They will usually rattle their tail (sounds like a horsefly buzzing against a metal screen) if you get too close. Their striking range is half their length and they only grow to a metre or so. They will almost always retreat into cover when people are around.

So if you’re lucky enough to see one, keep your distance. Don’t do anything stupid.

Massasauga Rattlesnakes are a protected species under provincial law.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy can make you break out in blisters if the plant’s juice comes in contact with your skin. The plant is common in rocky areas and is particularly prevalent along the Georgian Bay shore between Cabot Head and Cape Chin. Mostly it’s a ground plant a few cm high, but it can grow to a metre or more under ideal conditions.

So don’t worry about it — just don’t touch it or step on it.

If you need to treat poison ivy, remember that the irritant is an oil which (eventually) washes off with warm water and soap. Once the irritant is gone, the blisters will stop forming.

Wild Parsnip

And finally, there is Wild Parsnip. The juice of this plant contains a substance which makes your skin extremely light-sensitive, so much so that you can burn in a matter of minutes. The resulting raised sores can look a lot like poison ivy. As with poison ivy, the oil can be washed off with soap and water and the symptoms should stop developing at that point.

Wild Parsnip is abundant along roadsides, mainly in the Ferndale and Stokes Bay areas.

Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! Invasive Species On The Bruce Peninsula

Submitted by Jenna McGuire,
Parks Canada Resource Technician

Did you know that there are over 180 aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes basin?  Some of the more notorious species, including quagga Invasive-Speciesand zebra mussels, round gobies and European common reed, have had a really big impact to the waters that they have been allowed to colonize. What makes them so concerning, is that they displace native species and take much of the energy and nutrients for themselves. Remarkably, the inland lakes of Bruce Peninsula National Park are currently free of aquatic invasive species!

To keep these lakes healthy requires actively preventing the spread of invasive species. Unfortunately, boats and paddles still wet from Lake Huron have introduced species into other lakes. Even a thin film of water that appears to be free of any “hitchhikers” could be harbouring mussel larvae, tiny plant seeds, invasive zooplankton or fish viruses!  Make sure if you use any boats, life jackets, snorkels, etc that have been used in another water body, you remember to “check, clean and dry”.  This means inspect your vessel for obvious hitchhikers, wash it (preferably with a high pressure rinse) and ideally, make sure it has been dried (preferably for 24 hours).

Cyprus Lake Campground provides a pressure wash station near the office to help with washing vessels before entering the lake. Together let’s keep our lakes natural and amazing!