Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Wild Cats of Eastern Ontario: Workshops and Presentation

NOTE: the following information was provided by the organizers of the workshops and presentations. These are not MVFN events.

There is no question about it: cougars are being seen in eastern Canada and some report that cougars are attempting to recolonize former habitat. Cougars found in Ontario may be escaped or released pets, animals dispersed from western North America, or native animals.

Cougar. photo from LCSC publicity

Cougar. photo provided by event organizers

On February 18 and 19, 2017, the Lanark County Stewardship Council in partnership with Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters will host two workshops and an evening presentation with Sue Morse, a highly regarded expert in natural history. Sue is considered one of the top wildlife trackers in North America. Since 1977, she has been monitoring wildlife with an emphasis on documenting the presence and habitat requirements of cougar, bobcat, black bear and Canada lynx.

Tracking Workshops, Saturday February 18 and Sunday February 19, 9:30 AM. $30/person; space is limited to 15 participants per workshop. Each workshop begins with a slideshow presentation on Sue’s recent research on scent-marking behaviors. Afterwards the group heads out to experience first-hand how Sue applies this knowledge in the field. Founder of Keeping Track, Sue believes that tracking is a valuable tool in understanding the natural world and in conservation. “Animal tracking is helping people discover, document and conserve key wildlife habitats.”

An Evening with Wildcats, presentation and social featuring Sue Morse, Saturday February 18, 7:00 PM. Sue will present a magnificently illustrated introduction to cougar biology and ecology in a broad diversity of habitats. She’ll provide the latest on cougar sightings in the east. Her presentation will also focus on Canada lynx and bobcats. Besides Sue’s presentation, the evening will feature an auction, finger foods and cash-bar. Join us Saturday evening to meet this amazing tracker and naturalist, learn about wild cats and mingle with fellow conservationists and trackers.  An Evening with Wildcats will be held at the Perth Civitan Club in Perth, Ontario — $45 per person. This conservation fundraiser is sponsored by Lanark County Stewardship Council, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters — Zone F, and Watersheds Canada.

For more information on the events and to register/tickets, please follow this link to the Lanark County Stewardship Council page.

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Heritage Tree Workshop

Heritage Tree Workshop 

Mississippi Mills Tree Committee

7 – 9 pm, Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Almonte Old Town Hall, 14 Bridge St. Almonte ON

R.S.V.P. to Neil Carleton at   or  613-256-2018

NOTE: MVFN members and others are invited to register for this event organized by the Town of Mississippi Mills Tree Committee. This is  not an MVFN event.


The Mississippi Mills Tree Committee, chaired by Almonte resident Ron Ayling, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, is a subcommittee of the municipality’s Beautification Committee.

During 2014, the work of the Tree Committee volunteers has been focused on the development of a heritage tree program for Mississippi Mills.  This included consultations with municipal staff and provincial advisors.  In communities across Ontario, heritage trees are being identified, recognized, and protected as important components of urban and rural neighbourhoods.





This is a public “how to” workshop for our new Council and other community residents on the identification, recognition, and protection of heritage trees on municipal property in Mississippi Mills, and on private property with owner consent.

 The workshop will be presented by the Ontario Urban Forest Council (OUFC) , an incorporated not-for-profit organization that has been advocating for trees in urban areas for the past 50 years. The PowerPoints and handouts will include:

  •  how to define and identify heritage trees;
  • how to undertake the cultural-historical research needed to determine if a tree qualifies for heritage status;
  • how to (i) nominate a tree for recognition under the Ontario Heritage Tree Program (a joint commemorative program run by OUFC and Forests Ontario), or
  • how to (ii) work with a local municipal Heritage Committee to seek protection by designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. 

The OUFC  presenters will be: 

Barbara Heidenreich, Natural Heritage Coordinator, Ontario Heritage Trust (see

Edith George, OUFC Advisor (see


What are heritage trees?  Why are they of significance?  How would a heritage tree be identified, recognized, and protected under a Mississippi Mills by-law?  What criteria would be used to assess a tree for possible heritage designation?  How have other municipalities in Ontario launched heritage tree programs?  In what ways could businesses + organizations + individuals in our community get involved?

This “how to” workshop will be an opportunity for community discussion on heritage trees before a by-law is presented for consideration in the Council chamber later in 2015.  A public forum of this nature is consistent with the interests recently expressed by candidates and the electorate to engage in dialogue on issues before a decision process is put in motion for Council’s consideration.

To help us prepare for the event, please register in advance with Neil Carleton at   or  613-256-2018 

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MVFN members receive training in canoe safety & first aid

Fifteen MVFN members train in canoe safety & first aid for paddling and hiking trips

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) conduct a variety of canoe/kayak and outdoor/wilderness trips throughout the year, as part of their program focused on nature in Ontario’s Mississippi Valley.  Having some persons trained in canoe safety and first aid as participants in these trips is essential. To ensure there are people with up-to-date knowledge in canoe/safety and first aid, MVFN recently sponsored a full week-end of training for fifteen members who all became qualified help responders.

The first day of training was devoted to Canadian Red Cross Emergency First Aid CPR/AED Level A, and was held on Saturday, July 12 at the Gatehouse, Mill of Kintail.  Attendees received eight hours of training in such topics as responding to emergencies of all types, respiratory and cardiac arrest, CPR and how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator), caring for wounds, and managing situations until the arrival of Emergency responders.

Canoe over canoe rescue 2014


















MVFN members practice canoe over canoe rescue during weekend training session at Almonte beach. Photo courtesy Olga Janoska

The next day, the members took to the water at the beach in Almonte to learn how to respond to all sorts of water emergency situations. Each team took turns capsizing into the river and being rescued by another team. Skills learned included changing positions in a canoe, throwing a heaving line, assisting people in the water, canoe over canoe retrieval, and canoe towing. All received a two hour on land session to discuss situations that included risk management, environmental hazards, hypo- and hyperthermia, emergency kits and legal requirements for canoes and kayaks.

Instructor for both sessions was Karen Hurd from the RA Canoe Camping Club of Ottawa. Karen has had years of training and leadership in long-term canoe treks and wilderness adventures. Her enthusiastic and professional approach to the topics was much appreciated. MVFN is fortunate to now have a cadre of trained members to accompany all of their outdoor activities.

MVFN leader for this training was Sheldon Scrivens. Sheldon is in charge of the MVFN Canoe/Kayak programme. For scheduled MVFN events, please visit MVFN’s website for the events calendar, and also recent posts and club information. Keep up to date via email notifications and support MVFN by becoming a member of this local charitable field naturalist group (a member of the Ontario Nature Network).


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Emerald Ash Borer Preparation

mnr_e002906 emerald ash borer

Mississippi Mills Parks Ash Tree Survey Workshop

by Ken Allison, MVFN

On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, about a dozen members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists gathered at Gemmill Park in Almonte for a refresher on identifying ash trees in the winter. The club has been asked to survey for ash trees in municipal parks in Mississippi Mills to assist the municipality in planning for the expected arrival of Emerald Ash Borer beetles in our community. As it was important to do this survey as soon as possible, surveyors needed to be comfortable with identifying ash trees before they leaf out in the spring.

Brian Anderson, who is with the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority and serves as County of Lanark Forester, kindly agreed to conduct an open-air workshop for us. We started with a small ash tree that still had fruits hanging on it (see photo below).

ash workshop Allison














Brian Anderson, County Forester, explaining identification tips as the group looks at a small ash in Gemmill Park (photo Ken Allison).

We then walked into the park, identifying ashes of many ages, plus a number of other important forest species, as we went. Particular care was taken to separate ash from maples, as both have opposite branching. During the summer, the two genera are easy to identify by the leaves, but it is not so obvious when all you have are bark and buds to examine. Not all the ash trees were so obliging as to keep some of their keys to make the recognition easier. One thing we learned is that there are a lot of ash trees in Gemmill Park, as in many Lanark County forests.

Brian did a great job as a teacher and the exercise was very worthwhile. The weather cooperated after all the rain the previous day and I think all the participants enjoyed working together.

My thanks to Cliff Bennett for initiating this workshop and to Brian for taking the time to help us out. It was also great to have Calvin Murphy, Recreation Co-ordinator, and Abby Barclay, Environmental Compliance Coordinator for the Town of Mississippi Mills, join us.

For information on the potential impact of Emerald Ash Borer, visit the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources website:

OMNR: The emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, is an invasive insect species that was first found in North America in June 2002. Shortly after the Detroit, Michigan discovery, forest health monitoring staff from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and Canadian Forest Service (CFS) determined the beetle was also present in Windsor, Ontario. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was immediately notified. Surveys conducted in Canada and the U.S. found the beetle was well-established in the Detroit and Windsor areas.

Little information was known about the beetle at the time. Arriving in North America through improperly treated wooden packaging material from Asia, the insect didn’t even have a common English name. Despite substantial research and control efforts, the beetle has continued to spread to new areas. Some of this spread has been natural dispersal, but the long distance spread has been helped by people, especially through the movement of nursery stock or infested firewood from infested areas.

Emerald ash borer is now found throughout much of Essex County and part of Chatham-Kent in Ontario. In Michigan, the beetle is concentrated in the southeastern portion of the state, but has also spread to multiple locations in the Lower Peninsula and as far north as the Mackinac Bridge. Spot infestations have also been found in Ohio and Maryland. Researchers, regulators, and urban foresters are in a race to halt the spread of the insect long enough to develop effective control measures to save native ash trees, an important hardwood species in North America.

OMNR: The Threat

  • The emerald ash borer is able to attack and kill healthy trees.
  • All native ash species are at risk.
  • Ash trees of all sizes are susceptible to attack, from 5 cm DBH (diameter at breast height) to 90 cm DBH or greater. Larvae have been found in branches as small as 1.1 cm in diameter.
  • Ash trees are widespread in Canada and the United States, both in natural and urban settings, and green ash is one of the most commonly planted species in the urban forest.
  • Emerald ash borer is very difficult to detect early. When infested trees are found, it’s often 1 year or more after the attack occurred. In addition, there are several other factors affecting ash health in Ontario which may disguise its presence.
  • Estimates show the emerald ash borer has killed several hundred thousand ash trees in Essex County, Ontario, and 8 to 10 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan. Tree loss includes ornamental, rural and woodlot trees.
  • If not effectively controlled, the emerald ash borer is expected to spread across the entire range of ash, causing widespread tree mortality.




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