Mohawk Island National Wildlife Area


Mohawk Island National Wildlife Area (NWA) is a small, 1.3 hectare (ha), sparsely vegetated limestone outcrop located in eastern Lake Erie. It lies approximately 20 kilometers (km) to the southwest of Port Colborne, Ontario, near the mouth of the Grand River. The island consists mainly of open limestone barrens with an elevated gravel bar along the eastern shoreline; it is greatly affected by the strong wind events that frequently overwash the entire island. The sparse vegetation is limited to thin soils found in small depressions and rock crevices. Mohawk Island was once named Gull Island because of the large numbers of gulls and terns that rested on the Island.

The NWA was established in 1978 to protect colonial nesting waterbirds. It is an important nesting site for several species of waterbirds, primarily Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Common Terns, and Double-crested Cormorants. The natural features of the island provide excellent loafing habitat as well as refuge from predators, offering easy access to food supply, and having minimal human disturbance for the young nestlings. Populations of the colonial waterbirds at Mohawk Island NWA have been monitored since the 1970s, and are part of long-term toxicity monitoring studies undertaken by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Mohawk Island National Wildlife Area - Terns

The island also provides a stopover site for many species of migratory birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds during spring and fall migration. Waterfowl often seen in the area include species such as Mallard, Canada Goose, Common Goldeneye, and Scaup. Shorebirds such as sandpipers are also often present as they pass through and use the island for loafing and as a stopover site when crossing Lake Erie along the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways.

Although the surrounding area supports a wealth of bird species, there are very few other types of animals present on the island. The sparse terrestrial vegetation offers little cover or food for vertebrate residents. Eastern Garter Snakes live among the foundations of the lighthouse on the island; this is the only other wildlife species reported as surviving on the island. To date, no species at risk have been recorded on Mohawk Island NWA.

More information on Mohawk Island NWA is provided in the summary table below.



NWAs are protected and managed according to the Wildlife Area Regulations under the Canada Wildlife Act. The primary purpose of NWAs is the protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose, and according to the legislation, Environment and Climate Change Canada can prohibit all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. Nonetheless, Environment and Climate Change Canada has the ability to authorize some activities, whether through public notice or the issuance of permits, as long as these are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Access to the Mohawk Island NWA is seasonally restricted. Public access is prohibited from April 1 to August 31 every year to protect migratory birds during nesting. Some activities may be permitted in accordance with the conservation objectives of the NWA management plan. Public notices listing the authorized activities are posted at access points. Public access for day use is allowed only between September 1 and March 31 (outside the breeding season) for activities such as bird-watching, viewing the lighthouse, recreational fishing (no lead sinkers) and swimming. Overnight camping, open fires and hunting are prohibited at all times. Mohawk Island NWA is a well-known local landmark and the waters around the island are popular for recreational boating and fishing in the summer months. Fishing must be done in accordance with the Ontario fishing regulations, which require possession of a recreational fishing license issued by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Permits are required to conduct research, surveys and monitoring, and must be obtained from the Canadian Wildlife Service.

More information on access and permitting for Mohawk Island NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Mohawk Island NWA, lighthouse.

Map of the area

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Mohawk Island NWA can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Long description

Map of the area near Rock Point, Ontario, which extends into Lake Erie. The boundaries of the Mohawk Island NWA are indicated. The protected area is locate to the south of Mohawk Bay and to the south-east of Rock point. The scale on the map is in kms. Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small inset national map situates the NWA in Canada.

Summary table

This table provides summary information for the Mohawk Island NWA
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/territory Ontario
Latitude/longitude Latitude 42°50'05"N
Longitude -79°31'22"W
Size 1.3 ha (dependent on Lake Erie water levels)
Reason for creation of protected area Island habitat is a significant geographic feature in eastern Lake Erie and an important nesting and loafing site for significant numbers and several species of colonial fish-eating waterbirds. Loafing and stopover area for waterfowl and shorebirds during spring and fall migration along the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways.
Date created (Gazetted) 1978
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category 1a: Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) Bird Conservation Area 13; within Mixedwood Plains Ecozone, Lake Erie Lowland Ecoregion.
Keystone or flagship species Colonial waterbirds including Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Common Tern and Caspian Tern.
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None recorded
Main habitat type Lake Erie Lowland
Non-native and invasive species Zebra Mussels, Quagga Mussels, Purple Loosestrife, Mute Swans.
Additional links

Birds: Mallard, Canada Goose, Common Goldeneye, Shorebirds, Sandpiper.

Amphibians & Reptiles: Garter Snake.

Main threats and challenges Increasing boat traffic near the island leading to increased wave action, unauthorized public access, and disturbance to nesting birds.
Management agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage

Public access is prohibited between April 1 and August 31 except by CWA permit for research and to monitor and maintain infrastructure.

Public access to NWA for day use allowed only between September 1 and March 31. Activities allowed at the island during this period include bird watching, viewing the lighthouse, recreational fishing (no lead sinkers) and swimming. Overnight camping and open fires are prohibited at all times.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Ontario Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto Ontario
M3H 5T4
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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