Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
Wildlife Tips for Beginners

If you’re new to Ontario parks, you may be a little nervous about the animals that call our parks home.

Many of us live in cities or suburbs, with little interaction with wildlife, so we don’t know how to react or behave. We want your park experience to be fun and safe, both for you and the wildlife that lives here.

Today let’s talk about:

  • The types of bugs you can find in Ontario parks.
  • Some simple tips to prevent negative interactions with wildlife.

Wildlife Tips

1. Give wild animals their space (and a lot of it!)
2. Don’t feed wildlife
3. Keep dogs on a leash
4. Store wildlife attractants properly – it’s the law!

What kind of wildlife could you see in our parks?

1. Snakes
2. Squirrels and chipmunks
3. raccoons
4. Skunks
5. bears
6. Wolves and coyotes

1. Give wild animals their space (and a lot of it!)

There’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of wildlife while visiting a provincial park. This is wonderful and can be very exciting!

But please: give them space and enjoy them from a distance.

The amount of space depends on the animal. The larger they are, the more space you should give them.


Approaching these animals can stress them, although you may not recognize the signs of stress when you approach and try to interact.

By running away from you, they are wasting valuable energy escaping, instead of using their energy to grow, care for their young, or fatten up for the long winter ahead.

Take care of yourself and don’t forget your binoculars so you can observe from a safe distance.

2. Don’t feed wildlife

Have you heard of the Old Man of Algonquin?

It was a fox that lived with its partner near a busy road. Unscrupulous visitors to the park would throw food at him and his family and take a photo to share with his friends.

What they didn’t see was the pain and suffering their actions of feeding wildlife caused. Because the foxes were used to being fed near the road, they were at greater risk of being hit by a vehicle. The roads are extremely dangerous for wildlife.


The Old Man of Algonquin and his mate had many descendants who died along the way. Finally, the Old Man himself was hit and suffered serious injuries along with his partner and his offspring.

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This would never have happened if the visitors had not fed these animals. Let wild animals be wild; never feed them.

3. Keep dogs on a leash

woman petting dog

The only animal that you should not Give your pet dog space. It may seem like a great opportunity to let your dogs roam free when visiting a park, but your dog is a dangerous predator to many forest dwellers, including threatened and endangered species.

Even the best trained dogs may not respond to their owner when faced with a stimulus such as a running wild animal.

Many wild animals will defend themselves if approached by a dog, putting your pet at risk.

Dogs must always remain on a leash no longer than 2 m while in a provincial park. This is for the safety of the wildlife that lives in the park, you and your beloved pet.

4. Store wildlife attractants properly – it’s the law!

What are “wildlife attractants”? These are items that smell bad and can “attract” animals, such as:

  • human food
  • bird seed
  • toiletries, such as soap or toothpaste
  • trash
  • anything else that has a smell that might attract wildlife

Many animals have powerful noses. They can smell food and other attractants from afar.

To prevent them from following their noses, keep potential wildlife attractants properly stored. Store them in the trunk of your vehicle (or inside with the windows closed), or use the animal-proof containers that some parks have available.

Ask our staff for help; We will be happy to answer questions and offer advice. And remember: you could be fined if attractants are stored incorrectly.

What kind of wildlife could you see in our parks?

Part of what makes Ontario’s parks so special is their ecological integrity and the diversity of species that make up these natural spaces. 144 of the species found in Ontario parks are designated as species at risk, including:

  • 61 species or subpopulations of species in danger of extinction
  • 44 species or subpopulations of threatened species
  • 39 species or subpopulations of species of special concern

You can protect these species and all wildlife by keeping your distance and leaving no trace when you visit. These are some of the creatures you may encounter during your visit:


Ontario is home to 17 species of snakes. They eat insects, small rodents, eggs and amphibians such as frogs and toads.

garter snake

Most snakes are completely harmless to humans. Snakes are shy and usually avoid humans at all costs.

Squirrels and chipmunks

These common rodents are found throughout Ontario.

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These little guys can become very persistent when fed intentionally. A few peanuts can turn into a chipmunk that gets into your food while your back is turned! Please don’t feed them.


Famous for their black mask and ringed tail, raccoons can be found in most provincial parks. Intelligent and adaptable raccoons can be attracted to campsites through improperly stored food sources, such as cooler contents or trash.


Keep your distance and make sure your natural area is free of attractants. If you’re lucky, you might see a raccoon fishing in a lake or stream for one of his favorite foods: crayfish!


These famous stink bugs use odor as a defense mechanism when harassed or threatened.


Anyone who has smelled their pungent odor knows to avoid these black and white stripes. Skunks are omnivores and eat a variety of plants, small animals, and insects.

Give skunks space and never try to approach them! If you get sprayed, it’s harmless, but you’ll stink for days!


Bears are the one animal that most people are afraid of encountering when they are in the woods, but did you know that bears are as afraid of people as we are of them?

Bears are generally shy and elusive. They generally avoid people.

black bear

It is rare that our visitors get a glimpse of this majestic forest creature. If you’re exploring bear country, know how to react to an encounter.

Walk in groups. Three or more people in a group will almost never see a bear, as hikers make noise and bears actively avoid them. If you encounter a bear and it makes noise (snorting, moaning, snapping its jaws), the bear is simply telling you that you are too close and that you should move away.

If you see a bear, back away slowly while keeping it in sight and wait for it to leave. If the bear doesn’t move away or come closer to you, stop, raise your arms to look big, throw objects, and yell at the bear.

black bear

If it’s in a tree, leave it alone.

Do not run, climb a tree, approach the bear, or try to feed it. Visit to learn more about these incredible mammals.

wolves and coyotes

Wolves and coyotes are almost impossible to tell apart to the untrained eye.

Wolves are more elusive than coyotes and inhabit vast wild environments. They are a rarer sighting.

Coyotes, unlike wolves, have become very skilled at surviving in urban environments.


Reacting to a wild canine is like reacting to a bear: stop, back away slowly, and wait for them to go away. If they approach you, act big, loud and aggressive. Never turn and run, and don’t look them in the eye.

Do you have more questions about wildlife in Ontario parks?

If you still feel nervous or unsure about animals in Ontario parks, send us your questions or ask park staff when you arrive.

And remember: keeping your outdoor area clean and storing all wildlife attractants out of the reach of wild critters will reduce the chance of encountering one.