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Niagara’s biodiversity was on display during the fourth annual spring BioBlitz at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus of Niagara College on Saturday.

The event featured guided hikes where native plant and animal species were identified.

New this year was an appearance by Scales Nature Park, which brought snakes and turtles to the college greenhouse; cricket flour cookie sampling, and a WWF Polar Bear Walk which raised funds and awareness for the World Wildlife Fund Canada. The cookies were made by students from the Niagara College Canadian Food and Wine Institute.

"We had a couple of additions this year. We invited Scales Nature Park out to highlight some of the reptiles that are native to Ontario, some of them can be seen in this area," said Amber Schmucker, sustainability program and outreach co-ordinator for the Niagara College Office of Sustainability.

"Something that pushed us was the turtles because the majority of the species that are native to Ontario are at risk, so we are bringing attention to that and in spring watching out for turtles. A lot of the fatalities are due to being hit cars."

Elizabeth Abrahim and Tanisha Lauper were taking in the experience.

"We came out, because we are with the Big Brothers Big Sisters," said Abrahim. "Tunisia is a nature lover so we decided to take it in."

Lauper loved the hike and was able to spot a red-backed salamander, learn about a bee species that lives in the grass, discover different types of caterpillars including one species that bites, and got to hold a grey rat snake.

Her favourite part? "Holding the snake," said Lauper.

Said Schmucker, "We have had a successful day. People have been really engaged.

We definitely more than doubled the amount of people that we had last year. Probably due to weather but we did have more registrations this year than last year. So the word got out and the people that are coming are really excited and it seems like they want to know more and in the future that are going to be involved, which is awesome."

The weather has been cooler this month than usual, so some of the creatures that normally are out are a little harder to find right now, But that didn’t stop people on the hikes from getting glimpses of some rare sights, such as a barn swallow, which is at risk. Other species that were spotted during the hike included the ring-necked duck, the red-backed salamander and the Northern Flickers bird.

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