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Welcome to the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area

Information provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Elgin Stewardship Council. Compiled by Future Stewards Program.

  • Location
  • Background
  • History
  • Uses
  • Hunting
  • Projects
  • Habitats
    • Grasslands
    • Wetland
    • Aquatic
  • Surplus Wildlife Relocation
  • Tundra Swans

Location of The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area

The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area (AWMA) is located approximately 4 km northeast of the town of Aylmer on Hacienda Road. The AWMA adjoins the Ontario Police College.   With the exception of the college, the AWMA is surrounded by farmland.  The 911 address is 10594 Hacienda Road.


Background of the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area (AWMA)

The Elgin Stewardship Council and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) co-manage the AWMA. In doing so they are able to provide waterfowl viewing, along with educational and hunting opportunities. They manage 153 hectares of land. Sixty hectares of this land are used for agricultural production, while 10 hectares (25 acres) is wetland habitat which attracts large numbers of migratory birds every year.  The wetland area has plans to be gradually increased to 20 hectares (50 acres).
The AWMA is a wildlife sanctuary that provides opportunities for waterfowl based recreation, such as bird watching or hunting.
 The main part of the AWMA is a fenced-in sanctuary of about 40 hectares (100 acres).  This sanctuary is tucked in along the roadway where there are ponds to offer bird species a safe place to both feed and rest. There are tall grasses, shrubs and trees surrounding the small pond. This vegetation protects the area from inclement weather, making it an ideal place for ducks and geese to build their nests.

The objectives of the sanctuary include; to act as an example of how to improve wildlife habitat.
 to show how wildlife and agriculture can live together in harmony.

Aireal view of AWMA 

History of the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area (AWMA)

  • Royal Canadian Air Force No.14 Service Flying School opens in Aylmer for the training of World War II Commonwealth pilot
  • The site in Aylmer becomes a flight engineers’ school.
  • The RCAF school is closed.
  • Four hundred and fifty-five acres of the former RCAF training base were turned over to the Ontario Realty Corporation who in turn leased the land by permit to Department of Lands and Forests. The Ministry of Natural Resources is responsible for the property.
  • The wildlife management’s focus was shifted toward habitat conservation for waterfowl migrating through the area. As a result, dykes and water control structures were put into place to create an open lake-type wetland.
  • The Canada Goose breeding program begins. Since 1971 the goals of the AWMA have been to keep manageable numbers of waterfowl. This is done to provide high quality recreation.
  • 1972: This site acquired a class 2 provincially significant rating under the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System.
  • 25 Hectares are transferred to the Ontario Police College.
  • 1997: The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources entered into partnership with the Elgin Stewardship Council (ESC) to co-manage the AWMA. The ESC is part of the MNR’s Ontario Stewardship Program.

AWMA building 


The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area provides visitors with many opportunities.  There are picnic tables for picnicking, trails for hiking, ample photographic moments, and a variety of angles for waterfowl viewing.
There are four viewing stands next to the sanctuary, three close to the front entrance and one at the back of the property.   The front two viewing stands are enclosed with glass observation decks that provide an excellent overlook of the sanctuary.  One is these is wheelchair accessible.  There is also a small, open viewing stand to the left of the higher, larger viewing stand.  To the back of the property there is a new viewing stand on stilts.  It is known as the “Duck Stop”. 

The MNR and Ducks Unlimited have retained and enhanced wetlands at AWMA to improve habitat for wildlife. This has been achieved through prolonged flooding. This flooding has resulted in a lake-type wetland being created. The flooding has killed back much of the aquatic vegetation, leaving a large open water area fringed with moist soil shrubs and vegetation. The creation of a wetland has led to more waterfowl species, including shorebirds, upland game birds, raptors, songbirds and small mammals using the area.

The AWMA also provides hunting opportunities at certain times during the year. 


Controlled hunting for waterfowl is permitted during the regular waterfowl season, which takes place in the mornings of Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. The Early Season begins in September on the first Monday following Labour Day. Late Season is in January.

There are three hunting blinds throughout the area. The blinds are regulated by providing a single parking space for each blind. Hunting is free, and the blinds are available on a  “first come first serve” basis.


Since 1997, when the Elgin County Stewardship Council assumed management responsibility, a number of projects have been initiated. Some of these include:

The expansion of the wetland habitat by 25-30 acres
· The restoration of approximately 15 acres of tallgrass prairie
· Vegetation management in order to enhance wildlife habitat
· Improved access points within hunting blinds
· Expanded interpretive signs and educational programs
· The development of an operations manual
· The introduction of conservation farming (including no-till on agricultural land)

These projects have benefited the AWMA in a number of ways.
They have:

  • helped to reduce flooding downstream with increased water capacity
  • increased wetland and prairie habitats which help to reduce soil erosion
  • provided biodiversity for native flora and fauna
  • enabled the wetlands to act as a natural filter for pollutants, including nutrient runoff from nearby farms
  • created an interpretive trail which provides educational and demonstrative opportunities for local schools and the public

The AWMA is an ecotourism opportunity that can lead to economic benefits for the local community.






          Grasslands are open areas where few or no trees grow.  A native North American grassland is often called a prairie.  A prairie is a long-lived grassland that is dominated by native grasses.  Many of our pasture lands and roads are dominated by European (non-native) grass species. These areas would more appropriately be called “meadows”.
          A meadow is an open, treeless area covered by grasses and is usually the result of a disturbance e.g. farming practices.  Meadows are generally seen as the first stage of forest regeneration.
           Grass species make up between 50-75% of all the plants found in tallgrass prairie.  The most common grasses found within a Tallgrass Prairie include: Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass and Switchgrass.   Other flowering plant species that can be found within this habitat include Wild Lupine, Gray-headed Coneflower, Wild Bergamot, Butterfly Milkweed, Blazing Stars, Goldenrods, Asters and Sunflowers.
          Before European settlement tallgrass prairie was abundant in the extreme Southwestern Ontario regions.  Now prairies are considered an endangered species by many.  Less than 1/10 of 1% of the original tallgrass prairies still exist in Ontario today.  The prairies were converted into agricultural fields and pastures.  However, restoration projects are underway in Southern Ontario to help save the prairie.  Unfortunately, along with the loss of habitat comes the loss of species.  Of the plant species considered rare in Ontario, approximately 20% are associated with prairie ecosystems.


The grassland at AWMA has been planted mainly to provide food for waterfowl.  You can find a large grazing pasture for the Canada Geese at both the front and back ponds.



  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Killdeer
  • Field Sparrow
  • Rock Dove      
  • Barn Owl *at risk
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Barn Swallow
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Song Sparrow
  •  Short-eared Owl *at risk    
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Goldfinch
  • Pheasant
  • Northern Harrier
  • American Kestrel
  •  Loggerhead Shrike  *at risk
  • Mockingbird
  • Wild Turkey
  • Bobolink
  • Horned Lark
  • Snow Bunting
  • Northern Bobwhite *at risk    


  • Deer Mouse
  • Field Mouse
  • Short-tailed Shrew
  • Common Shrew
  • Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
  • Red Fox
  • Smoky Shrew
  • Meadow Vole
  • White-tailed Deer
  • Skunk  
  •  Coyote     
  • Groundhog
  • Star-nosed Mole
  •  American Badger *at risk     


  • Dragonflies
  • Crickets
  • Preying Mantis
  • Various Species of Flies
  •  Various Species of  Spiders (not insects)    
  • Damselflies
  • Grasshoppers
  • Ants
  • Bees and Wasps
  • Ladybird Beetles         



  • Monarch Butterfly
  • Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
  • Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly      
  • Red Admiral     
  • American Painted Lady Butterfly
  • Cabbage White Butterfly
  •  Summer Azure    
  •  Clouded Sulpher     
  •  Orange Sulpher      


  • Eastern Garter Snake
  • Eastern Milk Snake
  • Eastern Hognose Snake
  • Fox Snake *at risk
  • Smooth Green Snake
  • Eastern Ribbon Snake


  • Tall Fescue
  • Big Bluestem
  • Little Bluestem
  • Indian Grass
  • Red Fescue
  • Canada Wild Rye
  • Switch Grass
  • Wool Grass
  • Quack/Twitch Grass  
  • Canada Tick- Trefoil
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • New England Aster
  • Virginia Mountain Mint
  • Blazingstar
  • New Jersey Tea
  • Tall Sunflower
  • Canada Thistle
  • Goldenrod
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Gray-headed Coneflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Prairie Dock
  • Smooth Beardtongue
  • Common Dandelion
  • Joe-Pye-Weed
  • Wild Carrot
  • Common Milkweed
  • Swamp
  • Milkweed
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Common Plantain
  • Meadowrue
  • Common Burdock














awma photo of flower

awma photo geese 


A wetland is an area that has standing water at or near the surface for most of the year and support hydrophilic (water loving) plants.  Wetlands may be located along shorelines and riverbanks or can often be found in isolated depressions or hollows.  Wetlands are very important within nature for the following reasons:

  • Wetlands provide habitat (food, water, shelter and space) for mammals, reptiles, amphibians and many birds.
  • Wetlands act like a giant sponge, holding water that can reduce flooding.
  • Wetlands release water slowly, supplying water to other communities.
  • Wetlands help to control erosion.
  • Wetlands act like water filters.
There are four types of wetlands found in Ontario; marshes, swamps, bogs and fens.

These are found along the edges of rivers, streams, lakes or in isolation.  They support many plants that are rooted in the soil and grow out of the water called emergent plantsCattails and
Arrowheads are two examples of emergent plants.  Marshes receive their water from the body of water next to them, from groundwater, and/or from precipitation on the watershed.  As a result of this the water levels can vary from a few centimeters up to two meters.

Swamps can be either isolated or found along rivers, streams and lakes. Swamps are basically flooded forest/shrub areas.  They are covered with water for at least part of the year, many of which can dry up during  periods of drought.
Some of the trees that can be seen in a swamp include Eastern White Cedar, Balsam Poplar, Red Maple, Silver Maple, Black Ash, Tamarack and Spruce.  A variety of shrubs are located here: Alder, Willow, Button Bush, Winterberry and Dogwood.  The ground is carpeted with ferns and wildflowers including Marsh Marigold, Skunk Cabbage and different varieties of Orchids.

Bogs are commonly found in the northern parts of the province.  They are located in deep, bowl-like depressions and are filled with layers of peat (slowly decaying  plant  material).  Over time water becomes covered with floating and decaying vegetation.  The dominant vegetation here is sphagnum moss.  Some tree species found here are Black Spruce, Tamarack and White Cedar.  Plants include Leatherleaf, Labrador Tea, Bog Rosemary, Blueberries, Cranberries, Three-leaved-Solomon’s Seal, Sundew and Pitcher Plants.

These are areas that are usually located in low-lying areas of Northern Ontario.  Within Fens water slowly flows in and out of the peat layers.  However, fens may dry up in the warmer months. They provide some of Ontario’s most unique wildflower and insect habitats including many species at risk.
 Fens are dominated by brown algae, grasses, rushes, and sedges.  Other plant life consists of: Horsetails, Brown Moss, Tamarack, Black Spruce and Birch.    Some of the wildlife often found within a fen include shrews, mice, voles, lemmings, coyote, muskrat, raccoon, beaver and weasels


Try to find these interesting species. Look along the drainage ditch, as well as in low-lying areas but don’t get your feet wet!


  • Tundra Swan
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard Duck
  • American Black Duck
  • Wood Duck
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Gadwell
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Greater &Lesser Scaup
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Pied-bill Grebe
  • Horned Grebe
  • American Bittern
  • Northern Harrier
  • Least Bittern
  • Snow Goose 


  • Green Heron
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Common Moorhen
  • American Coot
  • Greater &Lesser Yellow Legs
  • Wilson Phalarope
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Pectoral Sandpiper
  • Dowitchers
  • Common Snipe
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Killdeer
  • Virginia Rail
  • Yellow Rail
  • Sora Rail
  •  Marsh Wren
  • Sedge Wren
  • Marsh Hawk


  • Beaver
  • Mink
  • Red Fox
  • Weasel
  • Coyote
  • Raccoon
  • Various Mole Species
  • Various Vole Species
  • Various Shrew Species
  • Skunk
  • Grey Squirrel
  • Opossum
  • White-tailed Deer
  • Muskrat


  • American Toad
  • Green Frog
  • Spring Peeper
  • Wood Frog
  • Bull Frog
  • Pickerel Frog  
  • Mudpuppy
  • Red Spotted Newt
  • Blue Spotted Salamander
  • Red-backed Salamander
  • Four-Toed Salamander
  • Snapping Turtle
  • Map Turtle
  • Painted Turtle
  • Blandings Turtle
  • Spotted Turtle
  • Five-lined Skink
  • Eastern Garter Snake
  • Eastern Milk Snake
  • Ribbon Snake
  • Eastern Hognose Snake
  • Smooth Green Snake
  • Black Rat Snake
  • Brown Snake



  • Dragonflies
  • Damselflies
  • Mayfly Nymph 
  • Mosquito
  • Various Species of Flies    


  • Various Species of Bees and Wasps  


  • Cattail
  • Bulrush
  • Various Sedge Species
  • Various Grass Species
  • Pond Weed
  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Jewelweed   
  • Waterfoil
  • Pickerel Weed
  • Arrowhead
  • Blue Flag
  • Smartweed
  • Marsh Marigold
  • Dense Blazingstar
  • Skunk Cabbage
  • Choke Cherry
  • Crab Apple
  • Hawthorns
  • Autumn Olive
  • Red-Osier Dogwood
  • Cottonwood     
  • White Ash
  • Sandbar Willow


purple loosestrife 

Purple loosestrife is a non-native invasive species that is often found in wetlands.  It can take up valuable space, water and nutrients of native species.



Aquatic habitats are lands that experience some form of water saturation at any point in the year.  These wet areas tend to reduce flooding in the nearby areas as well as act as a natural filtration system.  The wildlife like to use these areas because the aquatic ecosystems are filled with food, hiding places from predators, shelter and an abundance of water.  The vegetation in wet areas can often include cattails, some tree and shrub species, reeds and grasses.
          Animals such as turtles can be seen basking on logs, frogs can be heard communicating with each other, toads can be seen hopping away, salamanders hiding, birds flying overhead, beaver busily building, muskrats swimming by, and much more!



AWMA photo of Geese 




Here are some aquatic habitat species that you might find:



  • Tundra Swan
  • Common Loon
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard Duck
  • Hooded Merganser
  • American Pipit
  • Cliff Swallow


  • Double –crested Cormorant
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Northern Pintail
  • Great Blue Hero
  • American Black Duck
  • Bank Swallow
  • Wood Duck
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Green Heron
  • Killdeer
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Herring Gull
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Ruddy Duck


  • Common Carp
  • Catfish
  • Walleye
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Shiners  


  • Minnow
  • Sunfish
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout
  • Johnny Darter
  • Crappy
  • Chub
  • Bass
  • Pike
  • Rock Bass
  • Perch 


  • Pickerel Frog
  • American Toad
  • Spring Peeper
  • Bull Frog
  • Green Frog
  • Gray Treefrog
  • Snapping Turtle
  • Painted Turtle
  • Map Turtle
  • Blandings Turtle
  • Mudpuppy
  •  Northern Water Snake    



  • Dragonflies
  • Damselflies
  • Mayfly Nymph  


  • Water Strider
  • Mosquito
  • Water Beetle
  • Water Spider
  • Water Boatman 


  • Yellow Water Lily
  • Common Duckweed
  • Water Milfoil
  • Cattails
  • Water Plantain
  • Algae


  • Blue Flag
  • Bulrush
  • Bladderwort
  • Arrowhead
  • Reeds
  • Bugleweed
  • Black Ash
  • Blue Beech
  • Various species of Willows
  • Silver Maple
  • Bur Oak
  • Large-toothed Aspen
  • Red Maple
  • Sycamore


*Many mammals use the aquatic habitat for water, food and shelter.  Beaver, muskrats, mink, opossums, and raccoons are some of the mammals you might see in or near an aquatic area.  Very often you will be able to find their tracks.


          Each spring the City of Mississauga is the destination of about 2000 migrant young Canada Geese. They make their home in Mississauga for about 6 weeks while they molt (shed old flight feathers and grow new ones), then they return home to the northern United States (Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York) and some parts of southern Ontario.
During molting the geese are not able to fly, which makes them easy prey for carnivores. Urban areas are great habitats for Canada Geese because predators are limited and there is an abundance of food.
Possible problems the City of Mississauga may experience as a result of the overpopulated geese are:

  •  There is already a large Canada Goose population that

                     increases every year.   

  • The geese foul parkland areas.
  • Geese overgraze, causing barren eroded public lands.
  • The geese affect water quality.
  • Geese interfere with air and road traffic.
  • Canada Geese compete with other wildlife for food.
  • The Canada Geese behave aggressively towards          

These problems become worse when migrant geese stop in. The city does not want to eliminate the geese, so they are trying to find a way that people and geese can co-exist. The city is committed to working with animal rights groups and individuals to find a solution to Canada Geese overpopulation.
The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area is maintained to attract waterfowl and is an ideal relocation site. The MNR trapped, transferred and relocated 500 Canada Geese from The City of Mississauga in 1999. In the spring of 2000 that number increased to approximately 2000.  The AWMA has been approved to take up to 4000 geese.  The Ontario Stewardship Rangers were responsible for monitoring the relocated geese throughout the months of July and August.
There have been no deaths or major injuries to the geese during their ride from Mississauga to Aylmer Wildlife Area.  Upon arrival the birds walk off a transport truck into a tented area containing items to assist in settling them down from their trip.   During banding the geese can be seen drinking from plastic kiddie pools, and socializing in the large covered pens.










The geese arrive at AWMA








Once they are released from the pens, they are herded in groups of 25-50 birds to the front pond ...


                                                                                to settle in happily!       






Tundra Swans can be found breeding in the high Arctic region from Late Spring to the Early Summer. They are found from Alaska to Baffin Island. They can be identified by their black beaks and the ‘whistling’ sound they make when they are startled or in flight.

Approximately 100,000 Tundra Swans migrate from their wintering grounds in the United States (Chesapeake Bay Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina), traveling northward across the North American continent. It is approximately a 6500 km journey, which   takes up to 3 months to complete.  The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area is an important stopover for approximately 10-25 % of the eastern migration of the birds. 

The Tundra Swan can be found in aquatic and wetland habitats. These habitats provide the swans with feeding and nesting grounds. The swans traditionally ate submerged aquatic vegetation during their winter stay, but due to habitat loss, they have changed their diet to corn where it is available. The disappearing wetlands along the North shore of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair have contributed to the Tundra Swans moving inland throughout Southwestern Ontario.

The AWMA has a Swan Viewing Interpretive Program available to the public. During the Spring and Fall migrations the Tundra Swan, as well as other waterfowl, use the habitat provided by the AWMA .  This is an excellent staging ground (area to feed and rest) for the Tundra Swans because the ponds are within the sanctuary enclosure, and corn is readily available.  A swan feeding program is offered by the Elgin Stewardship Council and the Rotary Club of Aylmer.  The birds eat 6-7 tons of corn during their stay at the Wildlife Area. 








The first swans, usually adult birds with their young from the previous year, arrive in late February.  The numbers tend to increase throughout March, climbing significantly in the last week when other unmated juveniles and older birds arrive. At the beginning of April the numbers of Tundra Swans decline sharply.  Night flights, which are common, are sometimes made at altitudes over 10,000 feet!

It is best to view the swans when they are most active, vocal and in low flight times. This is when they are feeding, which generally occurs during early morning and late afternoon. On cold days the swans can be viewed huddled together on the ice or frozen ground with their bodies facing the wind and their bills and feet tucked in.
On warm, windy March days when the ponds are free from ice, the Tundra Swans like to “play” - flying low, diving, and chasing one another.

People have come from as far away as Japan, Greece, and Mexico to view the swans. It is well known that nowhere else in North America can you get a better viewing opportunity of these birds in the wild.







West Elgin Nature Club
P.O.Box 7
West Lorne ON
N0L 2P0