Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
Waterways, heavily wooded islands and a lush mainland make up the eastern forest.

Small but dense

A large portion of this ecozone is in the United States, however the portion that crosses the border makes the eastern forest one of the smallest ecozones in Canada in this exhibit. Despite this small geographic size, it possesses the densest human population of all the Canadian ecozones.

What makes up the eastern forest ecozone

Most of the eastern forest ecozone designated for this virtual exhibit is the eastern third of the U.S. However, as we are focusing solely on the Canadian portions, they include all of Prince Edward Island, the lower western coastal area of Nova Scotia found along the Bay of Fundy, most of New Brunswick, and along the corridor that runs from Québec to Montréal and progressively southwest to Windsor, Ont.

Both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are found in this ecozone, as is one of the country’s breadbaskets, the area near Windsor possessing Canada’s most fertile soil. The geography is a mix of plains and rolling hills with the St. Lawrence Seaway and its banks all included.

The climate ranges from cool winters to warm summers, as well as lying in one of North America’s major storm tracks.

Why conservation matters for the organisms that call the eastern forest home

Trees that have survived the huge impact of urbanization and agriculture include both coniferous and deciduous varieties such as the white pine eastern hemlock for cone bearers and the red maple and the chestnut oak for broadleaf trees.

There are many different reptiles and amphibians here, such as the bullfrog, the green frog, the eastern newt, the northern water snake and the five-lined skink. Aquatic species include lake sturgeon and the longnose gar. Other wildlife includes organisms that have invaded after entering the shipping canals through various means — usually on a freighter sailing in the St. Lawrence River. The sea lamprey is a notorious example of these invaders. 

The bird population is varied with the red-shouldered hawk, the northern saw-whet owl, the mourning dove, the downy woodpecker and the killdeer. Larger animals include the moose, the white-tailed deer and the muskrat. And some of the smallest organisms, the insects, include the walking stick, the European earwig, both the German and American cockroach and the boreal spittlebug.

Species from our exhibit found here include the ubiquitous coyote, the beluga, the eastern bluebird, the common loon, the monarch butterfly and the Blanding’s turtle. As well, the invasive zebra mussel – with no natural predators – has wreaked havoc on the Great Lakes.

This ecozone features a large, dense human population with a significant environmental footprint. Cottage country has encroached on many natural habitats and the waterways have given easy access to invasive species. Polluted waters cause beluga whales to wash up on the shores of the St. Lawrence with never before seen levels of toxins in their carcasses and the Blanding’s turtle suffers from habitat loss vital to its very slow reproductive process. This ecozone’s human and animal inhabitants butt up against one another, with no room to expand. Respect and understanding are some of the only options for their mutual success.