Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area (Wsna)

Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area (Wsna)



The Wildlife Sanctuary NA covers an area of 164 ha and is located in the southeast corner of the

Symons Campus, south of Pioneer Road and east of University Road (Figure WSNA-1). The WSNAis the largest and most extensively visited nature area on the Symons Campus, being used forteaching and outdoor recreation by the University community and the public. It is estimated thatthere are between 10,000 to 20,000 person visits per year. The WSNA is used for walking, jogging,cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and nature walks. In addition, it is used for undergraduateteaching and some local school classes visit for recreation and nature interpretation.

Topography and Soils:

The WSNA is situated in rolling terrain typical of the Peterborough Drumlin Field. The topography

consists of four NE to SW parallel wetlands, separated by indistinct drumlins, the highest of

which rises some 17 m above the wetlands. Glacial erratics occur in some parts of the WSNA.

Soils of the uplands and a few small lowland areas belong to the Otonabee Series which have a

medium texture, are moderately stony and good to excessively drained. Lowland soils are primarily

classified as Foxboro Series, having a coarse texture, are stone free and have poor to very

poor drainage.


The WSNA has three relatively large, separate wetlands. The northern-most wetland receives

intermittent inflow from several drainage sources north of Pioneer Road, including the

Archaeological Centre Wetland, the Otonabee College Wetland, and a stream which flows

through agricultural fields. Intermittent inflow also comes from a wetland adjacent to the Canal

NA to the southwest. Outflow is via an intermittent stream draining west through the Canal NA

and then into the TrentCanal.

A central, seasonally flooded wetland is situated in a broad, flat lowland dominated by silver

maple. Seasonal inflow into the eastern part of the WSNA comes through culverts under County

Road 6 that drain the upper reaches of this wetland. There are several small semi-permanent

pools in the wetlands. Flow through these wetlands occurs after heavy precipitation.

The topography and hydrology of the southern-most seasonally flooded wetland is similar to

that of the central wetland, except the inflow is not as substantial. Water drains from this wetland

and the central wetland into a large wetland on neighbouring land to the southwest. These wetlands

are the headwaters for CurtisCreek.


Vegetation types in the WSNA are shown in Figure WSNA-2. Upland fields are undergoing secondarysuccession with old-field communities composed of grasses, perennial herbs, and a light tomoderate cover of shrubs and young trees. The lower areas of some fields, and areas adjacentto fence-rows often have a moderate to dense border of tree seedlings, such as White cedar anddeciduous tree saplings, such as Trembling aspen. Young trees are establishing so quickly that

they may soon dominate the upland vegetation, eliminating open field habitats and thus reducingbiodiversity. White cedar is the dominant species; it forms dense stands of tens of thousandsof young trees per hectare. White ash andAmerican elm are also common, but occur at much lower densities than cedar.

The seasonally flooded wetland vegetation consists primarily of deciduous trees or a mixture

of deciduous trees and herbaceous species. The dominant tree species are silver maple, red ash,

white cedar, and trembling aspen, while small patches of open wetland support a mix of graminoids

and forbs. The seasonally flooded areas were undoubtedly grazed by stock animals and

trees felled for firewood.


The large size of the WSNA and its diversity of geomorphological features and habitats are

favourable for wildlife. White-tailed deer are particularly abundant on the eastern side, having

been observed frequently in this area for many years. Deer tracks, bedding sites and scats

are common. Cool, shaded thickets and deciduous wetlands provide daytime shade for deer

from the summer heat. Uplands provide good sources of food such as forbs, grasses and volunteer

alfalfa. Stands of white cedar provide winter cover and browse. This area is fairly isolated,

does not have established walking trails and so is relatively undisturbed by unleashed running

dogs. Raccoons, grey squirrels, red fox, and eastern cottontails may be seen in the WSNA.

Some evidence of beaver and muskrat has been noted in the wetland north of the parking lot

on University Road. Weasel tracks have been observed in snow in the northeast quarter of the

WSNA. Black bears may be occasional visitors.

Shallow pools in the wetlands support a variety of aquatic life. For example, pools in the central

deciduous swamp contain schools of small fish, wood frogs, frog tadpoles, diving beetles,

and many other aquatic insects. Several of the other wetlands provide reproductive habitat for


Among the many bird species to be seen in the WSNA, are the great horned owl, red-tailed

hawk, American woodcock, and common snipe. A cooper’s hawk and fledged young were

observed in the central deciduous swamp in late July, 1996. Other forest-dwelling birds noted in

the same area included a warbling vireo with young, the red-eyed vireo, and great-crested flycatcher.

Ruffed grouse are fairly common along the upland edges of the wetlands, and migratory

flocks of hermit thrush and warblers have been seen. Open areas in fields provide habitat for a

host of different bird species, including upland sandpiper, bobolink, American goldfinch, field

sparrow, savannah sparrow, Baltimore oriole, northern cardinal, northern flicker and rose-breasted


Historical Features:

A number of cultural features occur in this Nature Areas that are related to past agricultural

activities. These include:

- abandoned agricultural fields in various stages of succession

- abandoned agricultural cedar rail fences, rock fences, posts, tracks, wood piles, dumps,

field drains and rock piles in fields and along fence rows.

- abandoned agricultural building site

- abandoned wells

- invasive species from abandoned garden (e.g. lilacs, periwinkle)

- current agricultural fields (forage and hay crops)

- evidence of logging for firewood and lumber

- conifer plantation

Significant Features:

A significant feature of this nature area is the mature silver maple trees growing in the seasonally

flooded central wetland. Of importance, too is the fact that the wetlands are the headwaters of

CurtisCreek. The WSNA, particularly the eastern half and other areas where trails have not been

made, provides significant habitat for white-tailed deer. In addition, the mature canopy of the

wetlands and the many secluded areas provide nesting habitat for birds such as the uncommon

Cooper’s Hawk.

Another significant feature is the variety of habitats created by secondary succession in the abandoned

upland fields during the past 30 years. A deciduous woodlot near the centre of the nature

area contains lady slipper orchids and wild leeks, uncommon plants in this municipality.

Land Use:

Teaching and Research

Because of the closeness of the WSNA to the Environmental Sciences building and the diversity

of habitats and landforms, this nature area is used as an outdoor classroom for undergraduate

teaching in Biology, Geography, Environmental Sciences. The Department of Native Studies, in

recent years, erected a sweat-lodge in the WSNA. Faculty, graduate, honours and undergraduate

students and classes use the WSNA for research in a variety of disciplines, including hydrology,

soil studies, vegetation succession, forest ecology, small mammal and recreation studies.


The WSNA has excellent recreational potential as a result of its size, habitat diversity and excellent

viewscapes. There is a system of interconnected, formal trails (Figure WSNA-4), with a combinedlength of approximately 12 km through the western half of the nature area. The trail system, withseveral looped trails, can be accessed from a trailhead at the edge of the parking lot off UniversityRoad and from the central campus area by the path running by the Archaeology Centre ontoPioneer Road and then by using the trail through the ball and over a bridge, constructed inAugust 1999 by British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and local conservation volunteers. Thisbridge crosses a seasonally flooded wetland to allow for year-round access to the trail systemwithout having to use University Road. The two longest trails, 2.5 km and 3 km, respectively,pass mainly through open or semi-open upland fields, although several wetlands are spanned bybridges or boardwalks. The shortest (red trail) is located mainly in a lowland bordering the edge

of a wetland.

The WSNA is also used by non-Trent groups and organizations such local schools for nature

studies and recreational activities such as orienteering and cross-country skiing. FlemingCollege

uses the area for non-credit courses. The Peterborough Field Naturalists organize nature walks

for members and the general public


About one-quarter of the eastern half of the WSNA is actively farmed. The primary crops are hay

and corn and there is some pasture

Adjacent Land Use:

Some of the lands to the south and east of the WSNA are used for cultivation and pasturing

while other lands are old fields and a deciduous swamp. Trent owns the lands on the north side

of Pioneer Road, which include leased cultivated land, abandoned fields and two wetland nature

areas, the Archaeology Wetland NA and the Otonabee College Wetland NA. On the west side of

University Road is the Canal NA.

Ecological Integrity:

There is concern that:

• habitat and biodioversity in the WSNA are in decline. The variety of habitats in the WSNA

and associated biota are under threat by overabundance of Eastern white cedar and the alien

species, European buckthorn. Open-field habitat and associated species are disappearing at

a rapid rate, and in some fields are being replaced by monocultures of impenetrable White

cedar stands. White cedar saplings and young trees, for example, have formed such dense

stands in some of the upland fields (e.g. Fields 152, 154, and 114) that the establishment of

deciduous trees is being inhibited. It is possible that cedars will dominate these areas for

many decades. From a recreational use and wildlife habitat standpoint, deciduous or mixed

woodlands are a more desirable cover than impenetrable cedar forest. If white cedar stands

are not too dense they can provide cover for white-tailed deer.

European buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, is very common in the WSNA along fence-rows, at

the edges of woodlots and in areas of woodlots where there are gaps in the tree canopy. This

species can shade out native species. Buckthorn is a prolific producer of fruits which are

eaten by birds so that seeds are widely dispersed in bird droppings.

•there is a local problem in some parts of the WSCNA that are being invaded by some other

native and alien shrub and tree species. Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) an invasive alien shrub, and

black locust (a native tree species) are spreading in Fields neara former farmhouse and garden site. Unless controlled these species will continue to spread,displacing native species. Black locust is also advancing on the upland south of the parking area in Field 123. While these invasive species are fairly intolerant of shade andmay eventually be displaced, their displacement will take many decades.

• tree felling for firewood has occurred.

• the release into the WSNA in the area of the parking lot of native species of animals and pets

trapped in the city is of concern, and should be banned as this may disrupt indigenous animal


Figure WSNA-1: Contour Map of the Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Symons Campus, TrentUniversity,

Peterborough, Ontario.

Figure WSNA-2: Vegetation Types in the Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Symons Campus, TrentUniversity,Peterborough, Ontario.

Figure WSNA-3: Vegetation Communities in the Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Symons Campus, TrentUniversity, Peterborough, Ontario.

Figure WSNA-4: Nature Trails in the Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Symons Campus, TrentUniversity,Peterborough, Ontario.