Îles de Contrecoeur National Wildlife Area
The Îles de Contrecoeur National Wildlife Area (NWA) located near Montreal, is made up of 22 small and low-lying islands surrounded by marshes and seagrasses favorable for nesting waterfowl.
The 299 hectare Îles de Contrecoeur National Wildlife Area consists of islands extending on 10-km along the St. Lawrence River, 35 km northeast of Montréal. Established in 1981, the NWA conserves a remarkable network of emergent and submerged seagrass beds and islands. They have high nesting potential for waterfowl in the Montréal region.
The NWA has a landscape of grassy plains. It is dotted by low-lying alluvial islands, many of which are submerged during the spring freshet. The NWA is exposed to seasonal variations in water levels in the St. Lawrence River. The islands are covered mainly by tall grasses and, in some cases, a few trees such as willow, silver maple and red ash. Reed canarygrass, which is popular among waterfowl for nesting, covers entire islands in some places.
Strips of marshland populated with cattail, arrowhead and submerged water-milfoil beds surround the islands, connecting them together and providing food for thousands of ducklings, adult ducks and other waterfowl during breeding and migration. The NWA is home to 78 bird species, 12 mammal species, and more than 205 plant species. People have observed a number of species at risk in the NWA, including the short-eared owl, on occasion.
These islands are the largest nesting site in Quebec for the gadwall and nearly a dozen other dabbling duck species. This includes northern pintail, American wigeon, and mallard. Other bird species observed in the NWA include:
- American bittern
- Virginia rail
- marsh wren
- Wilson's phalarope
- red-winged blackbird
- swamp sparrow
- yellow warbler
The archipelago additionally supports a colony of approximately 13,000 pairs of ring-billed gulls.
With respect to mammals, the muskrat is a common sight in the Contrecoeur islands. People have also observed striped skunks, raccoons and red foxes, along with shrews, voles and bats.
The NWA is exposed to a number of threats and management challenges, including disturbance due to unauthorized activities on the islands, the presence of invasive alien species like common reed and purple loosestrife, the discharge of heavy metals into the St. Lawrence, and accidental spills.
Find more information on Îles de Contrecoeur NWA in the summary table below.
Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all other activities are prohibited in all NWAs. However, some activities may be authorized through Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWA Management and Activities section. You can also consult the Îles de Contrecoeur NWA Management Plan.
Any authorized activities are listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations; signage is also posted at access points.
Authorized activities listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations for Îles de Contrecoeur NWA, include:
- Non-commercial wildlife viewing from a boat
- Non-commercial motorized boating in designated areas at a maximum speed of 10 km/h
- Non-commercial non-motorized boating
- Sport hunting of migratory birds — including with dogs off-leash — without a commercial guide, from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset in designated areas, if the hunting is carried out
- in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of Quebec for sport hunting in that province; and
- without the use of toxic shot
- Sport fishing, except with a commercial guide, in designated areas in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of Quebec for sport fishing in that province, except during the period beginning on March 31 in any year and ending on July 15 in the same year
In addition, permits may be issued for research activities. This is in keeping with the priorities set out in the management plan for the wildlife area. Permits may also be issued for other conservation activities such as surveys, or the enhancement or restoration of habitat. Priority will be given to collaborative activities with local agencies and organizations to promote the protection and the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat.
More information on access and permitting for Îles de Contrecoeur NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.
Notice from Environment and Climate Change Canada
Environment and Climate Change Canada would like to inform the public that the Îles de Contrecoeur National Wildlife Area, which includes a 10 km long string of islands between the cities of Contrecoeur and Lavaltrie, on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, is a protected area. The National Wildlife Area was created in 1981 to protect wildlife and their habitats, particularly those of migratory birds and species at risk in this area.
To protect the area, the Department would also like to inform the public that it must comply with the rules under the Canada Wildlife Act and its regulations. Anyone who fails to follow these rules or to comply with applicable legislation may be subject to fines and prosecution.
Public access to the islands of this National Wildlife Area is prohibited. However, fall migratory bird hunting and sport fishing are permitted around the islands only, from watercraft, in accordance with the regulations in effect (see notes below).
Unless a permit has been issued by the Minister, it is prohibited for anyone in the National Wildlife Area to
- hunt, except for migratory birds2
- destroy or remove a plant3
- allow any domestic animal to run at large4
- swim, camp or light a fire
- undertake an unauthorized activity
- use any means of transportation5
- remove, damage or destroy any poster, sign or other structure
- dump or deposit any waste material.
1 Except for sport fishing after July 15, from watercraft and around the islands only (aquatic zone). Watercraft must be operated at a low speed (maximum 10 km/h).
2 From watercraft only, in the aquatic grass beds located on the periphery of the National Wildlife Area’s islands (aquatic zone) in accordance with the periods, conditions, locations and hunting gear authorized under the regulations.
3 Including any mowing or cutting of vegetation for migratory bird hunting.
4 Off-leash dogs are permitted for hunting only.
5 With the exception of watercraft for fishing and hunting (see notes 1 and 2 above).
These prohibitions constitute an abridged version of the applicable regulations. For more information, refer to the Canada Wildlife Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and their associated regulations, by visiting the following website: Justice Laws.
For more information or to report a violation, contact the Department’s Public Inquiries Centre at 1-800-668-6767 or at email@example.com.
This notice shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any Aboriginal treaty or other rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Map of the area
Map showing the section of the St. Lawrence River situated between Contrecoeur and Lavaltrie. The boundaries of Îles de Contrecoeur NWA are indicated. The NWA covers several islands in the St. Lawrence River as well as portions of the water surrounding the islands. The scale on the map is in kilometers (km). Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small inset national map shows the NWA in Canada.
This map is for illustrative purposes only. It should not be used to define legal boundaries.
|Protected area designation||NWA|
|Latitude/Longitude||45°22' North / 73°15' West|
|Reason for creation of protected area||The reason for the NWA is the protection of a remarkable network of emergent and submerged seagrass beds and islands with high nesting potential for waterfowl in the Montreal region.|
|Date created (Gazetted)||1978 - Legal description|
|International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category||Ia - Strict Nature Reserve|
|Keystone or flagship species|
|Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)||Some species at risk in Canada frequent the site on occasion. This includes the short-eared owl and the barn swallow.|
|Main habitat type||Wetlands: emergent grasses and shallow marshes.|
|Faunistic and floristic importance||The NWA is an important site for migratory birds, particularly waterfowl, in the Montreal region.|
|Invasive species||Flowering rush, common reed, and purple loosestrife. Zebra mussels and quagga mussels live in the surrounding waters.|
|Main threats and management challenges||
|Management Agency||Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)|
|Public access and usage||Authorized activities listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations for Îles de Contrecoeur NWA, include:
Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page, any notice posted at the NWA site and the law, the law prevails, as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.
Environment and Climate Change Canada - Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
801-1550, avenue d'Estimauville
Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Documents and related links
- Îles de Contrecoeur National Wildlife Area management plan
- Îles de Contrecoeur National Wildlife Area pamphlet
- Îles de Contrecoeur NWA on Google Maps (Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name).
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