Wildlife In Ontario

Even people who live in Ontario can have trouble appreciating the sheer size of the province -- more than one hundred million hectares of land and water!  Partly as a result of its size, Ontario boasts a diverse range of habitat types and wildlife species, including:


  • More than 80 mammal species:
    • 5 of these species are considered 'at risk'
    • 23 of these are managed as furbearers
    • 10 are managed as small game
    • 5 are managed as big game
  • 400 bird species
  • 80 species of reptiles and amphibians
  • 20,000 types of insects, spiders and other invertebrates
  • More than 3,300 species of plants
  • More than 1,000 types of fungi and algae
  • About 170 species at risk (40% of Canada's species at risk are found in Ontario, and most of these occur in the southern part of the province)


The Ministry of Natural Resources has responsibility for ensuring the sustainable management of these species and their habitats. 


Ontario's Ecological Zones

Ontario has such a broad range of species because of its diversity of habitat types, spread across four major ecological zones (ecozones).  Each one has distinctive ecological characteristics such as its climate, vegetation, geography and wildlife.

Location of Ontario's ecozones, including Hudson Bay Lowlands, Ontario Shield, Great Lakes, Mixedwood Plains

The four ecological zones

(ecozones) of Ontario


Hudson Bay Lowlands


This northernmost ecozone is located along the coasts and inland from Hudson Bay and James Bay. It consists of many small wetlands and swampy forests of stunted trees. The Hudson Bay Lowlands is one of the world's largest wetlands. This region provides habitat for mammals such as the Polar Bear and Arctic Fox, as well as birds such as the Snow Goose and the Willow Ptarmigan.


Ontario Shield

This ecozone occupies 60% of Ontario.  Forests of Black Spruce, Balsam Fir, Jack Pine and Tamarack cover this area.  In the south, mixed forests and hardwood forests of Maple and Beech are seen.  The Precambrian Shield An area of Ontario located north of the French River and West of the Ottawa, typically with shallow soils, rocky outcrops, and pine, spruce and poplar forests.  underlies this ecozone. This region provides habitat for large mammals such as Eastern Timber Wolf, Woodland Caribou, Moose and Lynx.  Bird species using this habitat include the Common Loon and the Bay-breasted Warbler.


Mixedwood Plains


This is Ontario's southernmost ecozone.  It is located south of the Precambrian Shield.  The vegetation here is diverse. This is where you will find hardwood and mixed (deciduous Deciduous plants or trees lose their leaves for part of the year (i.e. winter). Examples of deciduous trees include maple, birch, oak and aspen.  and evergreen) forests as well as savannahs and tall grass prairies.   Typical species include the White-Tailed Deer, the Southern Flying Squirrel, Wild Turkey, and the Barred Owl.  In the most southerly part of this ecozone is Carolinian Canada.  With its mild temperatures it is home to a rich variety of species unique to the area, such as the Spiny Softshell Turtle, the endangered King Rail, and the Badger.


Great Lakes


The Great Lakes contain almost 20% of the Earth's fresh water.  The lakes support thousands of wetlands and a variety of water-based and land-based organisms.  In this ecozone you will find the Ring-Billed Gull, Caspian Tern, the Lake Erie Watersnake and the Map Turtle.


All of these species and their habitats together represent Ontario's rich biodiversity The variety of life on the planet, including the different habitats and types of plants, animals, fish, and insects. . Understanding this variety of life is key to living sustainably with wildlife.