November 2022

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Header: Research and Education

 

Predicting Lyme Disease Risk: Do Deer and Humans Play a Role?

2022 Gault Research Awards

 

Une fiole contenant trois tiques

The black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) can transmit the virus responsible for Lyme disease to humans and pets. (photo: Alex Tran)

 

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease of growing concern in Quebec as the number of cases has risen exponentially since it was first reported here in 2008. The size of tick populations depends on various factors, including the presence of mammal hosts, habitat characteristics, and the environment. In southern Quebec, warmer winters are partly responsible for the increasing abundance of black-legged ticks. The overabundance of one of its main host species, the white-tailed deer, may also contribute to this heightened risk.

 

This is what Kari Hollett, a Master’s student in Biology supervised by Dr. Virginie Millien, is interested in. Her project, one of the five selected for the 2022 Gault Research Awards, aims to better understand how tick populations are impacted by humans interacting with wildlife in nature, such as the deer in the Reserve. Her research will contribute to management strategies designed around minimizing disease risk in the Gault Nature Reserve and beyond.

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Note: Although no cases of Lyme disease have been declared at Gault Nature Reserve so far, black-legged ticks are present, and we encourage you to take measures to protect yourself when out in nature. Learn more about our 5 Anti-Tick Tactics to stay protected.

Notes From the Field

The little brown bat count

 

People are sitting in front of a stone building at night with headlamps

Photo: Daniil Katkov

 

For several years now, the attic of Gault House has served as a refuge for a colony of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), a protected species that lives and breeds there.

 

As part of the Neighbourhood Bat Watch community program run by the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science (QCBS), interns joined in for the annual bat count. The count is an important way to monitor trends in the colony and potentially help scientists learn more about their habitat. Since bats are nocturnal, the count takes place at sunset on a warm July evening. This year, interns counted 51 individual bats. Between 2016 and 2021, we recorded an average of 31 bats annually.

 

What’s the point of the count? Bats are experiencing population declines due to a significant threat: White-nose syndrome, a disease that likely originated in Europe. White-nose syndrome is a fungal infection wherein spores attach themselves to bats’ muzzles, ears, or wings. This causes itching that disturbs their sleep during hibernation, depleting their fat reserves and making it harder for them to survive until spring. Since it was first detected in 2006, the disease has led to an alarming decline in hibernating bat populations. Monitoring this bat colony with the annual survey can help us detect population changes as they occur.

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Learn more about bats: Going Batty?, by Hannah Legault, an article published in the Fall 2019 edition of The Leaflet, the Morgan Arboretum newsletter.

 

 

Header: Natural History

 

“Getting Warmer…”

 

Black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) (photo: Daniel Jauvin)

 

Champions at hide-and-seek, little black-capped chickadees are extremely talented at squirreling away vast stores of insects and seeds—and most importantly, at relocating these secret troves. Their well-developed hippocampus gives them an incredible spatial memory, and that allows them to remember where they hid their treasures up to 28 days later, a skill that comes in handy as the days grow shorter and colder! Black-capped chickadees are unable to bulk up much, so they spend most of their time feeding. Short winter days force them to pick up the pace even more. During long, cold nights, their metabolism allows them to conserve energy by dropping their body temperature five to eight degrees Celsius, while their thick plumage puffs up to trap warm air close to their body.

 

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By Johanne Ménard from the Société d’ornithologie de la Vallée du Richelieu. To learn more about the SOVDR and become a member: info@sovdr.org. (This text appeared in issue 5 of Nature Sauvage.)

Eastern White Pine – Koa

Introduction to medicinal plants with Abenaki specialist Michel Durand Nolett

 

A young eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) (photo: Alex Tran)

 

The eastern white pine is the tallest tree in Eastern Canada, reaching over 30 metres high. That’s as tall as a nine-story building! We can recognize this conifer by its long needles attached in bundles of 5. Abenaki people turn toward young pine trees with slender trunks for specific medicinal purposes.

 

Watch expert Michel Durand Nolett explain why this coniferous tree is so useful.

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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.

Fall Colours

 

Autumn leaves floating on a lake

Photo: Frédérique Truchon

 

David Wees, a lecturer at McGill University's Department of Plant Science, has shared some little-known facts about the change of seasons in an article published in the McGill University Newsroom on October 6. "People will think that it's the arrival of cold weather that triggers the colour change, but it's actually the photoperiod," says Wees. "As the days get shorter, the color change happens more quickly, so whether it's hot or cold doesn't affect the appearance of fall colors."

 

Learn more by listening to his October 29 interview on the Radio-Canada radio program, Lève-Tôt (in French).

 

 

Header: Outdoor Activities

 

November at Gault

How to prepare for fall hikes

 

Photo: Alex Tran

 

The blazing fall colours may have left us, but hiking in November is still as charming as ever. With mist on Lac Hertel, trails covered in leaves, morning frost and the first snowfalls all contribute to the magical views of this time of year. The cold season is also ideal for walking. All you need is a little preparation before your visit.

 

Trail conditions

Trail conditions can change rapidly depending on the temperature and snow cover. Trails can also be wet and muddy or even icy on steep slopes leading to the mountain’s various summits. Do not forget to bring crampons and walking sticks with you on your outings at the Reserve to ensure a safe hike. Please consult our website before your arrival to know the latest trail conditions.

 

Equipment rental
Our equipment rental service is back! Crampons, walking sticks and snowshoes can all be rented at the Welcome Centre on a first-come-first-serve basis. Rental fees are available on our website.

 

Winter opening hours

From November 6, 2022 to March 12, 2023, the trails will be opened from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. and the Welcome Centre will be opened from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

An Improved Red Trail

 

Photo: Alex Tran

 

This fall, Gault completed work on the last segments of the red trail. With the trail work we completed last year; about 2 km was improved on this trail. Improvements include better drainage and stream crossings. This important investment will ensure the durability of the trail and safety of hikers, while minimizing the impacts of the trail on the ecosystem.

 

We wish you great hikes on the red trail!

 

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Gault Nature Reserve
422, chemin des Moulins
Mont-Saint-Hilaire (Québec) J3G 4S6
Email
Phone: 450-467-4010

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