Wildlife and plants

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Species at risk

Did you know that nearly 80 species at risk may call Ottawa home? These plants and animals are considered by the provincial and/or federal government to be endangered, threatened or of special concern. Although some have not been seen here in many years, others are still widespread. Examples include the butternut (a tree endangered by a lethal fungal disease), the bobolink (a threatened grassland bird), and the snapping turtle (a species of special concern). Most species at risk live in fields, woods or wetlands, but others like the peregrine falcon and chimney swift can be found living on buildings downtown!

Endangered and threatened species and their habitat are protected under the provincial Endangered Species Act, 2007 and, in some cases, the federal Species at Risk Act. The Provincial Policy Statement and the Official Plan also restrict development or site alteration within areas of significant habitat for endangered or threatened species, and require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) [ PDF ] to demonstrate that no negative impacts will occur for development or site alteration adjacent to such habitat. 

Species of special concern, the lowest risk category, may be protected under various existing laws (e.g., Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, Fisheries Act). Areas of habitat for species of special concern may be protected under the Provincial Policy Statement and the Official Plan as significant wildlife habitat. Development and site alteration are not permitted within or adjacent to significant wildlife habitat unless an EIS demonstrates there will be no negative impact. 

You can help protect species at risk by learning more about them, and reporting any sightings to the provincial Natural Heritage Information Centre website: Report rare species (animals and plants) | ontario.ca. Landowners who engage in stewardship of species at risk on their properties may qualify for provincial tax incentive programs or funding for projects that benefit the species.

Protocol for Wildlife Protection during Construction

The Protocol for Wildlife Protection during Construction was approved by Council in 2015, in response to the City’s Wildlife Strategy. The protocol is a compilation of best practices that serves as a guide and a common frame of reference for the City and the development industry in addressing wildlife protection during construction. The protocol also serves as a guide and frame of reference for City staff involved in planning and carrying out capital projects or other activities that may affect wildlife and wildlife habitat. The protocol itself is not intended to define new requirements for wildlife protection during construction, and does not replace or supersede applicable legislation such as the Endangered Species Act, 2007 or the Migratory Birds Convention Act. The techniques and methods to provide for wildlife protection will continue to be identified by proponents of development through studies that are required as set out in the Official Plan (e.g., Environmental Impact Studies, Tree Conservation Reports) to meet legislative requirements and with consideration to best practices as compiled within this document. Specific requirements for wildlife protection will continue to be defined by staff in consultation with proponents and their consultants, and included as conditions of approval where appropriate through subdivision, condominium and site plans.

Protocol for Wildlife Protection during Construction

Learning about nature

If you’ve ever wondered “What’s that bird / bug / plant / critter?” when you’re out exploring, you’re not alone! People used to carry around a variety of field guides to help them identify what they saw. Now, smartphone applications such as iNaturalist can suggest identifications based on your photographs, which other users can verify if you upload your sighting.  You can help contribute to our knowledge of which plants and animals live in Ottawa by reporting the things you see!  

There are many resources available online to help you learn more about the plants and animals that share our city. Here are just a few:

Ottawa’s Wildlife – lists of local mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, fishes, dragonflies and damselflies, and butterflies

Canadian Wildlife Federation Encyclopedias 

All About Birds (Cornell University)  

Birds in Your Region – create your own local guide (Birds Canada) 

BugGuide.Net – North American insects, spiders and their kin 

Fishes of the National Capital Region 

Ontario Reptiles and Amphibians (Ontario Nature) 

Ontario Species at Risk  

Ontario Tree Atlas 

Bird-Safe Design Guidelines

The Bird-Safe Design Guidelines were approved by Planning Committee and City Council in November 2020. Additional criteria for the application of the guidelines during development review were also approved. You can review the criteria and the final approved guidelines on the City’s Guide to Preparing Studies and Plans web page.