February 2022

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The Emerald Ash Borer: A Small but Formidable Foe


Martin Lacasse points to the galleries that emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) larvae leave in the trunk of affected trees

Photo: Alex Tran


Visitors of the Gault Nature Reserve sometimes wonder why so many dead or dying trees are found in the forest and why the forest floor is full of debris. This is because the forest is left unmanaged—and this is on purpose! Under normal conditions, trees in a forest do not require human intervention. After all, they did just fine for many millennia. Mont Saint-Hilaire has one of the last remnants of old-growth forest in the region. This old-growth character contributes to the exceptional value of the Reserve for teaching and research.


Unfortunately, the forest is not immune to the unintentional consequences of human activity. One such formidable foe has recently arrived: the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). This invasive species of insect threatens forests by attacking ash trees. An affected tree can take up to 10 years to die from an infestation. These trees, however, are more prone to falling in high wind conditions endangering visitors hiking the Reserve’s trails. Our team works hard to examine ash trees located along the trails throughout the year. When they find signs of an emerald ash borer infestation, they cut down the hazardous tree.

Cute as a Button


The earliest known sighting of a tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) in Quebec was in mid-November 1961 on Mont Saint-Hilaire
Photo: Daniel Jauvin


What a sweet surprise to spot a tufted titmouse sitting at your bird feeder or perched high up in a tree! This small, cheerful‑looking passerine can be identified by its impressive grey crest, grey upper body, big black eyes and dark forehead marking. Increasingly frequent sightings of the species in southwestern Quebec indicate that it is expanding its range in the northeast, likely due to global warming. Nesting in a woodpecker hole or natural cavity, the tufted titmouse feasts on a variety of insects, as well as seeds and acorns.

By Johanne Ménard from the Société d’ornithologie de la Vallée du Richelieu. To learn more about the SOVDR and become a member: sovdr.org. (This text appeared in issue 14 Nature sauvage.)


Skiing in a Winter Wonderland


Photo: McGill University


Thanks to heavy January snowfalls, the Reserve has been able to open its full network of groomed cross-country ski trails. Skiers can enjoy exploring 8 km of narrow, winding and mountainous classic trails.


Ski season is well underway, but conditions may change due to thawing. Our website has up‑to‑date information on ski trail conditions, right on the home page—when in doubt, check before leaving home.


Yellow Birch

Abenaki Specialist Michel Durand Nolett on Medicinal Plants


Photo: Alex Tran


The yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) is Quebec’s official tree. It is commonly confused with the white birch (also known as paper birch), but you can tell them apart with one simple test: pick up a twig and scratch it. If it smells minty, you’re looking at a yellow birch.


The Abenaki would use yellow birch as an energy booster during long winter treks between camps, much like modern hikers reach for energy bars, explains Michel Durand Nolett in his video.



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.

Mont Saint-Hilaire Biosphere Reserve’s

2022 Photography Contest


2021 winners (left to right): Mélanie Simard, Monica Fieger, Frédéric Dénommée


The photography contest is back! This year’s theme is “Amazing Places on the Reserve.” We want nature lovers of all stripes to capture the essence of the Reserve on film, from its scenic landscapes to its agricultural heritage—and even the surrounding urban environment. Contest is open to all.


Submission deadline: September 30, 2022.

Blast from the Past

Changes in 1958

McGill University Takes Over Management of the Gault Estate


The first weather station in the field of the Gault Estate

Photo: McGill University


In 1958, McGill University, as the new owner of the mountain, began using the Gault Estate (as the Reserve was known at the time) for research and teaching. The university appointed its very first director, Professor Patrick D. Baird from the Department of Geography, to manage the site. It was under his supervision that Mont Saint‑Hilaire’s modern era of biology, geology, ecology and geography research work began. In the 1960s, McGill set up the first weather station in the field, to serve as a base camp for climate research. Today, no trace of the station remains.


Although the Gault Estate was now dedicated to research and teaching, it remained open to the public to provide an exceptional outdoor environment for recreational activities.


About our Blast from the Past

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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