May 2022

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Deer Exclosures

16 Years of Monitoring White Trillium at the Gault Nature Reserve


Frédérique Truchon measures a white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) leaf inside a deer exclosure in 2019

Photo: Alex Tran


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations in the region have been increasing for several decades. The combination of milder winters and the loss of most natural predators have significantly reduced deer mortality. On the other hand, females will often give birth to two fawns per year when the conditions are right. As a result, many areas are now experiencing the highest deer densities on record, which means there is a lot of pressure on their food sources.


In 2006, Dr. Martin Lechowicz, the director of the Reserve at the time, saw this deer “baby boom” as an opportunity to implement a new long-term research project on Mont Saint-Hilaire. He was particularly interested in capturing the impact of the increasing deer population on the understory vegetation of this old-growth forest. Under Dr. Lechowicz's initiative, a student and a few Reserve employees built 32 deer exclosures. What is an exclosure, I hear you ask? It is the opposite of an enclosure: instead of keeping animals in, it keeps them out. This tool allows us to compare the vegetation protected by the exclosures to the unprotected vegetation growing in the forest. This comparison gives us a reasonable estimate of the impacts of white-tailed deer overpopulation on the health of the forest over the last 16 years.

Singing Sensations


Rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
Photo: Daniel Jauvin


The rose-breasted grosbeak returns from the south each spring to fill clearing and thicket with its melodious song. The males, with their natty black and white livery and dramatic splash of vermillion, are no wallflowers. These outgoing fellows sing morning, noon and night, taking every opportunity to showcase their vocal talents—from courting a mate to taking over parenting duties in the nest. The females, with their brown striped plumage, are not to be outdone, though they sing their songs much more discreetly.


By Johanne Ménard from the Société d’ornithologie de la Vallée du Richelieu. To learn more about the SOVDR and become a member : (This text appeared in issue 35 Nature sauvage.)


The 24 Hours of Science

May 6 and 7, 2022


Photo: Alex Tran


Come explore the Gault Nature Reserve, McGill University’s living laboratory, under the theme The environment, it's in my genes! Meet our scientists and find out how science can help us better understand our environment.


- Friday, May 6: Activities for school groups that have registered for the 24 Hours of Science event

- Saturday, May 7: Activities open to the public on the shore of Lac Hertel


Day program:

Activities will still take place in the event of rain.

White Birch - Maskwamozi

Abenaki Specialist Michel Durand Nolett on Medicinal Plants


The characteristic bark of the white birch tree (Betula papyrifera).

Photo: Alex Tran


The white birch (Betula papyrifera) is also known as the paper birch because of its white bark that peels off the trunk in sheets. The Abenaki harvested white birch bark in the spring to make containers. These containers were used to gather food and medicinal plants, but also to boil water! As long as there is still water in the container, the birch bark will not burn, explains Michel Durand Nolett.


Birch bark was also used to build canoes. Though the birches growing on the Reserve today aren’t exactly short, these trees can grow up to 25 m! Durand Nolett says that some trees were large enough that a single sheet of bark was enough to make a canoe.



This project was done in partnership with McGill University’s Indigenous Initiatives unit and the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki. We would like to remind you that, to protect the balance of our ecosystem, you should not remove any natural items from the Reserve.


NOTE: Abenaki traditional knowledge and practices in harvesting bark aim to preserve biodiversity and the health of individual trees. We do not recommend harvesting birch bark without this knowledge, as it can hurt the tree. Like peeling off a section of skin from your arm, bark harvesting can leave a scar and cause infection.

Annual Cards are Going Digital


Photo: Anne-Sophie Nadeau


In May, our plastic annual cards will be replaced by a digital card system to reduce our dependence on plastic and faster check-in at park entrances. This digital card can be saved on your phone as a PDF.


Migration process

In the next few days, all annual cardholders will receive their digital card in an automated email from The digital card will already be active can be used on your next visit to the Reserve. Your old card will work until June 30, 2022.

You did not receive your digital card?

- If you do not see the email in your inbox, please check your spam folder.

Want to keep a physical card?

- Upon receipt of the digital card, print it on paper or visit the Welcome Centre between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to get a replacement of your plastic card with the QR code.

News Brief


Photo: Alex Tran


Boardwalk closure

Our team is planning to do restoration work on the wooden boardwalk connecting the green and red trails at the end of May and in June. The boardwalk will be temporarily closed during this time. Keep an eye on our social media for updates.


School groups and other organized groups

School groups and other organized groups can start visiting the reserve again as of May 16, after the spring thaw. Please note that reservations are required. For more information on pricing and reservations, visit our website.


Early morning entry for annual cardholders

From May 1 to September 15, annual cardholders hoping to get an early start can enter the Reserve starting at 7 a.m. The washrooms in the Welcome Centre and the Cottage will also be open. Mornings at the Reserve are peaceful and quiet, and we ask that guests keep noise to a minimum in the parking lot and on the trails.

Unsung Heroes of McGill

Recognizing Marc-André Langlois, Gault Nature Reserve Employee


Photo: McGill University


The Bicentennial is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the contributions of the University's staff members past and present, who have helped support the University’s mission of excellence in research and teaching.


As part of McGill's Bicentennial celebrations, Marc-André Langlois, Property Manager at Gault Nature Reserve, is recognized for his continued support to McGill. For more than 38 years, Marc-André has ensured the integrity of the property, buildings, equipment, and associated infrastructure of the Reserve.

Blast from the Past

The Reserve's First Welcome Centre


Photo: McGill University


This charming sugar shack served as the Reserve’s very first Welcome Centre from 1972 to 1983. Did you know that in 1975, an excursion to Mont Saint-Hilaire cost $3 per vehicle? Today, the building no longer exists. It was replaced in 1983 by the Alice Johannsen Welcome Centre.


About our Blast from the Past series

As owner and guardian of the Gault Nature Reserve, we plan to celebrate the university’s bicentennial by publishing a monthly photo in InfoGault. Each photo will capture a moment from the history of this beautiful site.



Réserve naturelle Gault

422, chemin des Moulins

Mont-Saint-Hilaire (Québec) J3G 4S6


Téléphone : 450 467-4010


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