Ontario is home to a wide variety of habitats, but few people think of prairies when they think of Ontario landscapes.  However, patches of  tallgrass prairie still exist, such as the thriving 350 hectare Ojibway Prairie Complex, located within the City of Windsor (in Essex county).
Our native tallgrass prairie is home to beautiful tall flowers and grasses, as well as many plant and animal species - including the massasauga rattlesnake.  And because there is so little native prairie left, Ojibway plays an important role in the conservation of our natural heritage.

The Ojibway Prairie Complex from Space
From east to west (left to right) the enclosed regions are:
the Black Oak Heritage Park, Ojibway Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Ojibway Provincial Nature Reserve, and Spring Garden Natural Area

The Ojibway Prairie Complex is one of the few remaining patches of tallgrass prairie left in Ontario.  Just minutes from downtown Windsor, it is a refuge for the last prairie population of Ontario's massasauga rattlesnakes. All around the complex is an ever-expanding sea of development, effectively stranding the rattlesnakes within the city.  To make matters worse, the 350 hectare complex is not a continuous block of land, but rather five closely situated parks.  The parks are separated by a network of roads, which limits the movement of snakes within their local ranges and between the few protected areas.

Conserving the massasauga rattlesnake in Windsor means protecting the Ojibway Prairie Complex.  Since the prairie needs fire to survive, every year parts of it are burned in a controlled way, maintaining the prairie while protecting the surrounding neighbourhoods. 

© Brent Huffman, Toronto Zoo 2005