The wilds and wildlife of Foley Mountain
Award: Coolest wildlife!
Going into the wild is easy when we have Foley Mountain right in our backyard.
This conservation area in Westport is 833 acres of naturalist's heaven: located in the heart of the Frontenac Arch, the unique region is a magnet for migrating birds and animals, species at risk, common Canadian forest friends and, of course, the humans hoping to catch a glimpse of them.
Most famous of Foley's wild residents is the black ratsnake (aka grey ratsnake or Eastern ratsnake), which is threatened in Eastern Ontario. It's the province's largest snake, reaching up to two metres long, or almost seven feet (yikes!). It loves Foley Mountain for its wide variety of habitat: wetlands, deciduous forest and rocky outcrops.
But other at-risk snakes have also been spotted at Foley, including the milksnake and the eastern ribbonsnake, both considered of special concern in Ontario.
The biodiversity of Foley Mountain is impressive. Mammals like moose, bear, bobcats, fishers and snowshoe hares are all on record inside the conservation area, and at-risk birds like the loggerhead shrike, red-headed woodpecker and whip-poor-will also call it home.
Foley's outdoor educator Rebecca Whitman said Foley's position in the path of several major continental migration routes makes it a birder's paradise in the spring and fall, as warblers, finches, ducks and owls follow the warm weather across North America.
The region's unique geology – part of a UNESCO biosphere reserve – also provides many different types of habitats, which encourages biodiversity. The conservation area features a mix of beaver ponds, lakeshore, grassy areas surrounding big flat rocks, rugged cliffs, hilltop forests with towering white pines, and mixed forests closer to the lake with maples, oaks, and ash.
Sometimes you can catch many of these habitats just by travelling on one trail loop.
For any wildlife enthusiast, Foley Mountain is clearly not to be missed. Ten kilometres of year-round trails, a sweeping view from Spy Rock, a quiet and secluded beach and an interpretive centre to help you piece it all together makes this a spot you'll want to visit again and again.
For all the details and directions, visit https://www.rvca.ca/conservation-areas/fee-required/foley-mountain-ca.
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This is actually a northern watersnake. You can tell by the keeled scales and orange banding.