Wildlife safety

Bruce Peninsula National Park

Viewing wildlife is an exciting visitor experience, but it’s important to remember that these animals are wild. Wildlife encounters can be dangerous for both the visitor and the animal. By following a few simple guidelines, you’ll be helping to protect yourself and the animals in our park.

Don’t feed wildlife

It is unsafe and illegal to feed, entice or disturb any animal in a national park. Feeding puts both you and the animal at risk. In addition:

  • Do not litter or discard food scraps. Animals that have been fed, directly or indirectly are more likely to approach and potentially harm people.
  • Properly store food, garbage, and food related items in your vehicle. Keep food smells to a minimum.

Keep a “Bare” campsite

When camping at Bruce Peninsula National Park you are agreeing to keep all food and food related items in your vehicle at night or if you leave your campsite unattended. The following items attract wildlife to your site.

  • Coolers - full or empty
  • Food – open or closed
  • Garbage or food packaging of any kind
  • Dishes and pots
  • Pet Food or pet food bowls
  • Bottles and cans
  • ANY item associated with food preparation
  • Any scented product, such as shampoo, toothpaste, candles, lemongrass, dish soap, sunscreen, lip balm, dish towel

If food or food related items are left unattended, park staff will remove the items from your site and leave a written notice. The notice will include instructions to get your items back. Campers who do not comply with the “Bare” Campsite program may have their camping permit cancelled.


Pets are welcome to visit the park. Pet owners are responsible for the behavior of their pets when visiting. The following rules are in place to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip for all pets, visitors and wildlife.

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times – maximum length 3 m/9 ft.
  • Pets are not to be left unattended in vehicles or at campsites.
  • Pet waste must be cleaned up and put in the garbage.
  • Do not allow your pet to harass wildlife.
  • Allow other visitors to enjoy a quiet, natural experience. Remember not everyone is comfortable being approached by animals, prevent your pet from disturbing others.

Keep in mind that noxious plants such as poison ivy are dense along the trails. Pets are protected by their fur but can transfer oils from plants to humans causing an itchy rash.

Wildlife safety

Although it is exciting to see species in their natural habitat, please read the following to ensure that all interactions are safe for both visitors and all species.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Ontario’s only venomous snake, the Massasauga rattlesnake, is active on the Bruce Peninsula from early spring until late fall. The Massasauga is shy and prefers to hide or retreat from danger rather than attack. If threatened, it may shake its tail as a warning and only strike as a last resort if it cannot escape. Visitors are most likely to encounter rattlesnakes sunning themselves on rocks along the trail or in the campground.

How to identify the Massasauga:

  • 50-70 cm (20-27 inches) long – about the length of your arm.
  • Thick body with diamond shaped head.
  • Blunt tail usually ending in a rattle – rattles can fall off and may be difficult to see on a juvenile snake.
  • Buzzing sound heard when the snake rattles its tail.
  • Grey to dark brown body with saddle shaped blotches down the back and alternating blotches on the sides.

To protect yourself and snakes:

  • Wear hiking boots that cover your ankle and long loose fitting pants – especially in open rocky areas, through brush, wetlands or long grass.
  • Avoid reaching into places blindly, snakes may be hiding.
  • Use a flashlight at night.
  • Never pick up snakes – be respectful and observe from a distance.
  • Do not harass, chase or threaten snakes.
  • If you hear a rattlesnake stay calm, stop walking and determine the location of the snake and slowly move away.

If a snakebite occurs:

  • Stay calm and call 911.
  • Wash and cleanse the wound.
  • Reduce activity and sit or lay down while waiting for help to arrive.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet, ice, cut or suction the wound.
  • Do not attempt to catch or harm the snake. It is dangerous and illegal.

The most prevalent threat to the Massasauga on the Bruce Peninsula is motor vehicle traffic. Please obey posted speed limits and watch out for snakes and turtles on roads and in parking lots. Ecopassages have been installed on Cyprus Lake road and Emmett Lake road to allow wildlife to pass safely under the roadway.

Complications from Massassauga Rattlesnake bites are rare.

Black Bears

Black bears are active on the Bruce Peninsula from early spring until late fall. Normally avoiding humans, they prefer forested areas to find food, refuge and den sites. Black bears will however stray from forested areas into both rural and urban residential areas to find food. When they find a food source they will return as long as that food source is available. Black bear attacks on humans are very rare.

To prevent a conflict, please remember:

  • NEVER feed bears. Follow the “Bare Campsite” program and do not leave food or food related waste unattended anywhere in the park.
  • Comply with area closures due to bears. Signs will be posted at offices, trail heads and washrooms, stay out of the areas indicated on the map. For more information, contact park staff by visiting the Cyprus Lake Campground Office or by phone at 519-596-2233.
  • Be alert when outdoors. Take a look around frequently and do not wear headphones. Watch for signs of bear activity (tracks, fresh droppings or flipped over rocks).
  • Stay on marked trails – do not wander in the bush.
  • Make noise – talk, clap or sing to avoid surprising a bear while hiking.

If you do encounter a bear:

  • Stay calm. Don’t run away from the bear.
  • Leave the area or make a wide detour. Make sure that the bear has an escape route in case you startle it. If you cannot pass the bear safely, wait until the bear moves out of the way.
  • Do not approach the bear for any reason.

    Please visit You are in Black Bear Country for more information.

    Harmful Plants

    Giant Hogweed and Wild Parsnip

    Giant Hogweed and Wild Parsnip are invasive species that are increasingly common in southern Ontario and disturbing them can result in significant health effects. Toxins in the plant’s sap are photosensitive and can cause skin to react severely when exposed to sunlight and sap in the eyes can cause temporary blindness. If you see this plant or suspect you have seen it do not touch it and report the details to park staff.

    How to identify Giant Hogweed:

    Giant hogweed is not common in Bruce Peninsula National Park but may be found growing along roadsides, ditches and streams or in old fields and open woodlands.

    • Can reach a height of 2.5-5 metres
    • Large white, umbrella shaped flower clusters 30-90 cm across
    • Prominent purple blotches and coarse bristly hairs on the stem

    How to identify Wild Parsnip:

    Wild Parsnip is commonly seen along the roadside of Highway #6 and in open fields.

  • Grows to 1-2.5 metres
  • Yellowish-green flower clusters 10-20 cm across
  • Smooth green stem with few hairs
  • Poison Ivy plant
    Poison Ivy

    Poison Ivy

    Poison Ivy is commonly found in the park, it is found in patches growing low to the ground or as a climbing vine. Sap from any part of the plant can cause a severe, itchy and blistering rash. The severity of the rash depend the persons sensitivity and the amount of sap they are exposed. If poison ivy is burned and the smoke is inhaled or if the plant is accidentally eaten, the rash can occur internally causing extreme pain, breathing problems and organ damage. Pets will not get a rash but can transfer the sap to humans from their fur.

    How to Identify Posion Ivy:

    Poison ivy is commonly found along  trails, woods and roadsides in the park.

    • Three pointed leaflets – the middle leaflet has a longer stalk than the other two.
    • Edges can be smooth or toothed.
    • Leaves vary in size from 8-55 mm in length.
    • Leaves are reddish in the spring, green in the summer and various shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall.

    If you suspect you have come into contact with poison ivy wash the area with cold water and soap, this may decrease your chances of getting a rash and prevent it from spreading. Seek medical attention as necessary.

    Vector-Borne Diseases

    West Nile Virus

    Spread by bites from infected mosquitoes, West Nile Virus causes fever, headache, body aches and a mild rash. Few cases are reported in Ontario every year, but if you spend time outdoors around mosquitoes you are at risk. The following tips can help protect you from mosquito bites and decrease your risk of contracting West Nile Virus.

    • Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk - wear long sleeves, pants and socks if you are outside.
    • Wear light coloured clothing – mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours.
    • Use insect repellent. Those containing DEET are most effective.
    • Close screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering homes and tents.

    Lyme Disease

    Blacklegged Tick
    Blacklegged tick

    There is an increasing number of areas in Ontario where ticks carrying Lyme disease are found. These black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) attach to birds which migrate from place to place, bringing this health risk. While Lyme disease is easily treated when detected early, it can have serious and permanent health consequences if left untreated.

    Going outdoors? Be tick smart.

    For more information on Lyme disease, blacklegged ticks, and how to protect yourself from tick bites while enjoying the outdoors, please visit the following websites:

    Public Health Agency of Canada: Lyme disease

    Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care


    Rabies is a virus that infects mammals. You can become infected with rabies if an infected animal bites you or saliva from the infected animal enters your body through your eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound. Avoid contact with all wildlife.

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