Managing Wildlife in Ontario


Marsh wren in the bullrushes

Many Ontarians are interested in helping to ensure the sustainable management of the wildlife on their land or on public lands.




The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) acts on behalf of the public as steward to Ontario's forests, fish, wildlife, mineral aggregates, and the Crown lands and waters that make up 87 percent of the province's 1,070,000 square kilometres. MNR manages this through a diverse legislative mandate, and an array of programs and tools aimed at meeting the needs of a broad client base. 


Managing wildlife in a province the size of Ontario is a big job. It includes managing to provide diverse, healthy, sustainable wildlife populations and habitats for the benefit and enjoyment of all Ontarians. 

Management of wildlife species and their habitats is a collaborative effort of government ministries, including MNR, federal agencies and stakeholders. For example, the Canadian Wildlife Service is responsible for managing most migratory birds, and municipalities consider "natural heritage" needs when making certain planning decisions on private lands.

Strategic guidance for MNR's wildlife management program occurs in two documents:


  • Our Sustainable Future
  • Protecting what Sustains Us - Ontario's Biodiversity Strategy


Management goals for the province's wildlife resources are to:


  • protect and sustain wildlife populations and their habitats
  • ensure the health of wildlife
  • manage the use of wildlife to meet the present and future needs of Ontarians
  • ensure the environmental, cultural, social and economic well being of Ontarians through activities that include hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and tourism.


Achievement of these goals uses the best available science and information, and consultation with the public and a broad range of interest groups before making management decisions.  

Application of an adaptive management process to manage the habitats on which wildlife depends, and/or to manage the use or harvest of wildlife provides for sustainability of wildlife resources.  An adaptive management process involves:


  • setting objectives
  • consulting with the public and a broad range of interests on policy and management options
  • implementing selected management actions to achieve objectives
  • monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of management actions
  • adjusting management actions, if necessary, to better achieve objectives
  • conducting research.


Managing native wildlife populations and providing for the habitat that sustains them are the primary management considerations for sustainable management of Ontario's wildlife resources. Research and monitoring programs help to determine the status of wildlife populations and habitats. 

Habitat Management

Habitat is an essential element in the health and survival of wildlife. Habitat is a species' "home", the places that provide everything it needs to survive.

MNR uses a variety of approaches and tools for sustainable management of wildlife habitats across the province.


  • Crown Land Planning - On crown lands, careful management of forest operations under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act provides the continued supply of habitat for more than 300 species of wildlife over time.


  • Private Land Planning - On private and municipal lands, MNR helps municipalities with planning decisions by providing legislative support, information and advice. The Natural Heritage Policies contained within the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act provide important policy direction for the protection of important wildlife habitat on private lands.


  • Parks and Protected Areas - Ontario has one of the world's leading parks and protected areas systems. These areas are vital to conserving the province's wildlife resources. 


  • Tax Incentives - Tax incentives are available to the owners of certain lands including provincially significant wetlands or significant woodlands if they agree to manage these lands sustainably.


  • Stewardship - Many Ontarians are interested in helping to ensure the sustainable management of the wildlife on their land or on public lands. A variety of resources and programs are available to help plan and undertake this work.


  • Recovery Planning - Government ministries, federal agencies, stakeholder groups and conservation partners work collaboratively to develop and implement 'recovery plans' for species that have been designated as either threatened or endangered.


Population Monitoring and Management

Management of wildlife populations is a collaboration of several government ministries, including MNR, federal agencies, and conservation partners.  

Garter snake on the forest floor
Managing native wildlife populations and providing for the habitat that sustains them are the primary management considerations for sustainable management of Ontario’s wildlife resources.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA) provides for regulation of species that are hunted or trapped. Regulation includes setting quotas or bag limits, establishing seasons and placing restrictions on gear types. Monitoring of harvest levels and/or population trends occurs to assess achievement of management objectives and to determine adjustments to management actions.

Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service regulates the hunting of migratory game birds under the authority of the Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA).

The FWCA prohibits harvest of species classified as "specially protected." The MBCA prohibits harvest of non-game migratory bird species.  Assessments of population status or trends of these species occur periodically. 

If results of population monitoring detect a decline in species numbers, Ontario's Endangered Species Act provides for a designation of threatened or endangered.

What can you do to help wildlife?

Ontario Stewardship describes many programs available to landowners who want to help Ontario's wildlife, whether it's by helping implement on-the-ground habitat improvement projects, or by helping monitor population trends in migratory birds. Contact your local Stewardship coordinator for information on how you can get involved.