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Ontario Fish & Wildlife News - April 2018

Ontario Fish and Wildlife News – April 2018  
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Anglers and hunters,

Welcome to the FIRST edition of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry's (MNRF) Ontario Fish and Wildlife News. This is your quarterly peek at how your licence dollars support Ontario's fish and wildlife resources. You are receiving this newsletter because you are a current or recent Outdoors Card holder.

Check out the topics in this edition:
Lynx    Licensing service    Fish ON-line    Moose    Muskellunge  

Did you know?

When you buy a fishing or hunting licence in Ontario, 100% of your fees go directly into the Fish and Wildlife Special Purpose Account. It costs over $100 million annually to pay for our fish and wildlife programs and services, of which the Fish and Wildlife Special Purpose Account pays for about two-thirds. Programs supported by the Fish and Wildlife Special Purpose Account include fish culture and stocking, wildlife population studies, research and enforcement.

We hope you enjoy this newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date between newsletters.

Ontario's lynx and bobcat mystery

comparison of lynx and bobcat
The Canada lynx is a classic Canadian species.This snow-and cold-loving carnivore has super-sharp vision, allowing it to spot mice 75 metres away, and an acute sense of hearing, which is sharpened by those cool ear tufts. It also has extra-large feet with toes that can be fanned out like snowshoes, allowing them to spring through the snow with ease. Snowshoe hare is the favourite meal for lynx, and historically their populations have gone up and down along with that of the hare.

Now, something else besides hare populations is affecting lynx. MNRF scientists and partners have discovered that the range of lynx in Ontario has been shrinking. In fact, since the 1970s, the southern edge of this species’ range has moved about 175 km north! At the same time, the climate has been warming and snow depth has been reduced, but scientists don’t yet have enough evidence to put all the blame on climate change.

Another possible culprit is not-so-friendly competition from bobcat, a lynx cousin. While the southern part of lynx range has been shrinking, the range of bobcat has been expanding up from the Great Lakes states into Ontario. Scientists have also found that lynx and bobcat can interbreed, although that’s pretty rare. In the future, if such inbreeding continues, it could result in loss of genetic diversity especially in lynx, the more vulnerable of the two cats.

What we are doing

To help improve our understanding of what’s happening between lynx and bobcat in Ontario and why, MNRF scientist Jeff Bowman, and partners from Trent University and the University of Toronto, are studying two possible scenarios:
  1. Canada lynx is pulling back from the southern edge of its range due to climate change (avoiding areas with reduced snow depth), leaving an opening that the bobcat is only too happy to take advantage of.
  2. Bobcat is taking advantage of milder winters to move farther north, and lynx is pulling back in response to having a savvy competitor.
So where are scientists testing these scenarios? They are focusing mostly along the north shore of Lake Huron between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, which is one area where lynx and bobcat ranges currently overlap.

We will report back on findings of these studies as they become available. This research is made possibly partly through funding from Ontario's Fish and Wildlife Special Purpose Account, and will help those who make management decisions about lynx and bobcat.

Renewing Ontario's licensing service

licensing service headline graphic

Fish or hunt in Ontario? Changes are coming this fall for Ontario anglers and hunters. Here are some highlights.

Updating our fish and wildlife licensing service

This November we're making updates to our licensing service. Our goal is to make it easier for you to buy fishing and hunting licences. A couple of exciting features in the new service include:
  • A single version of the plastic Outdoors Card. (Hunter accreditation will no longer appear on the Outdoors Card; it will be tracked in the new service.)
  • A Licence Summary that lists all your valid fishing and hunting licences.The Licence Summary can be printed from home but you also have the option to store it on a digital device such as your smartphone.

Future regulation changes

Next, we're making improvements to some fishing and hunting rules. Fishing regulation changes will come into effect in November 2018, and hunting regulations will change in January 2019. Here are some things that will be different for hunters:
  • In 2019, game seals will be replaced by "tags". You'll have the option to print your tag from home, making it easier to prepare for hunting season. Plastic see-through luggage tag holders can help protect your tags from the elements.
  • Reporting rules for hunters are also changing. All hunters who are issued a tag in 2019 will be asked to submit a report whether or not they hunted or harvested an animal. This new mandatory hunter reporting will replace the current mix of hunter/harvest reporting and voluntary hunter questionnaires.

Apprentice hunters

Also starting in 2019, all hunters between the ages of 12-14 will be considered apprentice hunters. Apprentice hunters will buy their own Outdoors Card and continue to hunt under the direct supervision of a mentor, with a shared firearm. Apprentices will have the option to buy select licences and tags not obtained through a draw.

Want more info?


Look no further: Fish ON-line

Close up of a cell phone showing Fish ON-line website

Are you looking for a fishing spot? Boat launch? How about where Ontario is stocking fish?

Fish ON-Line, is Ontario’s mapping tool for anglers that can get you all the information you need to plan your next fishing trip. Last year more than 400,000 anglers accessed Fish ON-Line! We continually improve the tool to give anglers across the province current information about what’s swimming in the lakes and rivers near them.

Fish ON-Line is also a great way to access fishing regulations information. One click on the waterbody where you’ll be fishing and it will show all the regulations that apply to those waters. Sanctuaries appear on the map for quick reference.

Fish ON-Line is one example of how the MNRF is using your fishing and hunting licence dollars through the Fish and Wildlife Special Purpose Account to provide you with an efficient and quality service. Other valuable contributions to fish and wildlife management include monitoring and assessment, enforcement, regulation and policy, licensing, fish culture and habitat management. We are working to continually improve your fishing and hunting experiences and make sure that you have the tools and information that you need for your next trip.
Thank you for your continued contribution to the Fish and Wildlife Special Purpose Account through your fishing and hunting licence dollars.

Moose aerial surveys

moose in the snow

If you're a big game hunter you probably have your eye on the calendar. In April the moose draw opens and by August you'll know the results. But did you know that it is the work MNRF biologists do over the winter that tells us where moose numbers are strong and where they need help? Aerial surveys are one tool we use to better understand Ontario’s moose populations.

Here are five things to know about moose aerial surveys:
  • These surveys help us track trends by estimating the number, age and sex of moose.
  • Surveys are flown in mid-winter, when moose are most easily seen.
  • Most surveys are done from helicopters.
  • We have done these surveys every year since 1975.
  • The last three years of data show that the province has about 92,000 moose.
Ontario’s moose population is generally healthy, but has decreased in some areas over the last 15 years. Changing climate, habitat, hunting, predators and parasites are some of the reasons for this decline. The results of this winter's surveys will tell us more.

Tag – you're it!

surgery to implant a tracking tag in a muskie

With spring now in their sights, many anglers are counting down the days until the opening of the fishing season for their favourite species. Muskellunge (or muskie) season dates are set to allow fish to wrap up their spawning period before being targeted by anglers. Avid muskie anglers have to wait only until the first Saturday in June in most of the southern part of Ontario, and the third Saturday further north.

Muskies are the undisputed top predator in Ontario lakes and rivers. In fact, Ontario is a premier fishing destination for muskie hunters.

One prime spot for a record-breaking catch is Lake St. Clair along the Ontario-Michigan border. But there are so many unknowns. What habitats do these muskies use? Where do they move? How long do they live?

Tag team research

In 2016, we forged a partnership with Michigan, Ohio, the US Geological Survey and Muskies Canada to answer some of these questions.

In May 2016, 20 muskies were tagged in the Detroit River. In October 2017, we tagged 19 near the mouth of Ontario’s Thames River. Another 20 were tagged in Lake St. Clair in 2017.

The tags should track the movements and habitat use of these fish for the next 7 years. We’re already receiving interesting data. For example, one athletic Detroit River muskie swam the entire length of Lake Erie in 2016!

This is just one of the many valuable programs that support effective fish and wildlife management. All are made possible with funding provided by your fishing and hunting licence dollars.
smartphone calendar

Save the date!

  • March 1, 2018: Antlerless deer draw opened and will accept applications until July 3
  • April 18, 2018: Moose draw opens and will accept applications until May 31
  • June 30-July 8, 2018Licence-Free Family Fishing Week
View the current Ontario Hunting Regulations Summary

View the current Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary

Visit the automated licensing website to:
  • Purchase Ontario hunting and fishing licences or your first fishing Outdoors Card
  • Renew an existing hunting or fishing Outdoors Card
  • Apply to big game draws
  • Check draw results
  • Submit your hunter activity/harvest report
Visit Fish ON-line to plan your next fishing trip:
  • 18,000+ waterbodies
  • Customizable fish stocking lists
  • 2,000+ fishing access points


Stay Informed

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Greg & Kevin 2018 Winter fishing
Greening July 2017 trip

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