Wainfleet bog is one of the few acidic bogs left in Southern Ontario. Many rare pant and animal species inhabit the bog and depend on it for their survival, including one of the smallest populations of massasauga rattlesnake. Wainfleet bog is also a source of water and aids in flood control. Various hiking trails encourage exploration of the bog and its wildlife. Once thought to have covered 20,000 hectares, Wainfleet bog currently covers 1,200 hectares - only about 6% of its original extent.
In the past, human actions have drastically altered the Wainfleet Bog area, reducing and fragmenting wetland habitat. Much of the bog was once owned by a peat extraction company, which dug drainage ditches to lower the water table, allowing for easier access to the bog for peat extraction, local farming, and potential development.
Today, Wainfleet is recognized as a provincially significant wetland, and peat is no longer harvested. Nearly three-quarters of the bog is publicly owned, thanks to a joint purchase by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
Because the ecosystem has been so disrupted, the future of the Wainfleet rattlesnakes depends on restoring their habitat. With peat collection stopped, the main restoration efforts are now focussing on restoring the water table and restarting bog plant communities. The recovery efforts are proving beneficial - water levels, now restored, allow for natural regeneration of bog plants species and the replenishment of natural soil moisture.
The Massasauga National Recovery Team is working with its partners to study the bog and its population of rattlesnakes. Information on snake movements is being used for habitat enhancement and protection. Now that's conservation in action!
© Brent Huffman, Toronto Zoo 2005