The Otty Lake watershed is rich in plant and animal life.
To see complete lists of species observed around Otty Lake, consult the appendices of the 2007 State of the Lake report.
A few other species have been noted since the above lists were produced:
Bushes and Shrubs - Maple Leaf Viburnum Viburnum Acerifolium
Deciduous Trees - Choke Cherry Pruns Verginiana
Understory Plants - Yellow Lady's Slipper Cypripedium calceolus
Understory Plants - exotic - Bladder Campion Selene Cucabalus
In recent years, the OLA has organized Bio Blitz's as well as nature hikes, led by Roger Nuttall. Some turtle identification and wetland workshops have also taken place. Check the Events page to see if one is in the planning stages, or let us know if there is something you think would be of interest to other lakers.
A few species of general interest to residents and cottagers are noted below.
These species are considered invasive. Their descriptions are on the invasive species page:
Otty Lake is home to several families of loons, however, it appears that fewer loons are choosing Otty Lake, and those living on the lake are producing significantly fewer young. In 2017, the five mating pairs only produced one chick that survived to maturity. In 2018, of the five mating pairs, two were known to have nested, but no chicks survived. Kyla Haley is the lake's official "Loon Monitor". She would like to be advised of loon sitings, which are them compiled on a google map. See the 2018 map.
Wild turkeys have been reintroduced to Eastern Ontario, including Lanark County, since the mid-80s to be a game bird for hunting purposes. The birds have been increasing in numbers ever since. A flock of 30 wild turkey appeared in Maple Glen Estates one year and stayed throughout the winter. They come quite boldly right up to residents' front doors. A word of caution: Give these creatures their space, as they can become quite nasty if they feel threatened, and they are extremely aggressive in protecting their young. Ottawa Sun story on wild turkeys and forests. >>>
There are frequent black bear sitings in Eastern Ontario, and many around Otty Lake, with the local population being particularly active in 2017. However, we have no reports of any human-bear conflicts.
Generally, bears want to avoid humans. Most encounters are not aggressive and attacks are rare. If you have questions or feel a bear has become a nuisance on your property, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Bear Wise hotline at 1-866-514-2327.
The MNRF Bear Wise program provides information on how not to attract bears to your property, what to do if you see a bear in the wild, and what to do in the unlikely event of an conflict. The OLA organized a black bear information session in September 2017 to educate local residents on how to avoid attracting them to your (and thus your neighbour's ) property. Takeaways from the session are listed here, and Wildlife Technician Trevor Horvatin's comments were included in our October 2017 newsletter.
Additional information is available on the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry's "Bear Wise" website.
Regulations are in place to protect the habitat of the threatened grey ratsnake. This is Ontario's largest snake, but not to worry, they are non-venomous and non-aggressive. They can often be seen sunning themselves on roads around Otty Lake. The north shore and southwest shore have been identified as ratsnake habitat because of verified observations of the snakes and their hibernacula, where they hibernate for six months of the year. Activities in their habitat can continue as long as the function of these areas for the species are maintained and the species are not killed, harmed or harassed. Do not remove or alter hibernacula, and avoid disturbing any egg-laying sites you may encounter in compost piles or rotting logs. Read stories in our October 2013 newsletter and in the July 2017 newsletter. Your family may be interested in adopting a grey ratsnake through the Friends of Murphy's Point.
In the summer of July 2017, Board Member Monika Savage undertook an informal mapping survey of grey rat snakes around the lake. See the map here.
Have you noticed that the clams that were so prevalent in the lake a few decades ago aren’t so plentiful? Muskrats enjoyed this food source, one species being the Eastern elliptio shown here. But there is a “mussel crisis” in Ontario. Of the 41 native mussel species found in Ontario, 11 are endangered and one threatened. And one of the reasons is the zebra mussel. Besides out-competing the native mussels for food and oxygen and spreading disease, the zebra mussels attach themselves to freshwater clam shells and weigh them down, or block openings so that it is difficult for the clams to feed or burrow. There have been observations that muskrats in particular are now feeding on zebra mussels. Muskrats will discard the shells in discreet piles or middens. Read more about Ontario's mussel crisis in ON Nature.
Green algae is naturally occurring, and is not considered invasive, although there have been an increased amount of blooms of green algae at Otty Lake over the past five years. The distinction is that lower amounts of algae can be distributed throughout the water column and are not readily apparent. It is when the algae become more abundant that they form algal blooms, which are unappealing to human water users. Later in their life cycle, decomposing aquatic plants and algae uses up too much oxygen, degrading the aquatic ecosystem, leading to changes such as fish kills.
There are many types of algae, but the algal blooms at Otty are a green filamentous type. Two species of green algae found at Otty are Spirogyra and Mougeotia. Algae are at the bottom of the food chain, and how well they do depends on temperature, light and nutrients. They use chlorophyll to produce their food. They are useful as they take in nitrogen (from animal feces), are a food source for other animals, and when dense can provide cover for other animals. However, excess nutrients, particularly phosphorus, can make them grow very quickly. So Otty Lake dwellers are being asked to reduce the amount of phosphorus they allow to enter the lake via fertilizers, phosphates and wood ash, and create a shoreline buffer so less of this nutrient runs off into the lake. In 2014, a collaborative group received Trillium funding to study aquatic plants and algae in this area, and Otty will be one of the study lakes. See MVCA news release.
More than 200 plant and animal species are at risk in Ontario, and 26 species are at risk in Lanark County. These include a number of birds, fish, turtles, snakes, insects, lichens, lizards and plants.
Species at risk are classified into five categories, based on the degree of risk it faces: