Monday, March 18, 2013

Bringing Nature a Step Closer

In 1978, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador established the Salmonier Nature Park in an inland area less than an hour's drive from St. John's, initially as an environmental education centre. Over the years, though, its function has shifted somewhat; it's now an attraction for visitors to the area as well as a wildlife rehabilitation, research and environmental monitoring station. According to the province's Department of Environment and Conservation, Parks and Natural Areas Division, "The mission of Salmonier Nature Park is to provide exemplary learning opportunities and visitor experiences that connect people with the natural communities of Newfoundland and Labrador. These experiences must encourage a better understanding of and contribute to a sustainable future for people, wildlife and the environment on which they depend."

A boardwalk winds through the park, past enclosures that house a number of native wildlife species, some from the Island of Newfoundland and others that occur naturally only in the province's mainland portion, Labrador. The main focus of the park remains on environmental education, with school visits an important part of the park's mandate. It's an excellent place to get a closer look at some of Newfoundland and Labrador's native wildlife in a non-commercial setting, and an added attraction is the fact that the park's woodland location is home to many species of birds. Many of the animals on site come from the park's wildlife rehabilitation program; if possible, they will be returned to the wild.  If that is impossible, they become a permanent part of the park's on-site educational programming.

There is also a breeding program for the Newfoundland Pine Marten. The interpretation site, though, is only a small portion of the park, covering some 40 hectares (just under 100 acres). The entire park encompasses some 1415 hectares, or approximately 5.5 square miles, abutting on the Avalon Wilderness Reserve, and is home to 84 species of birds, 15 species of mammals and over 170 species of vascular plants. A walk along the boardwalk provides ideal viewing opportunities for many of these species, like the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus), Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis) and arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) seen here, so it's an interesting stop for those with an interest in photography or birding.

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