Colour photo of the Deerberry shrub. Photo credit: Rob Tervo.

Photo: Rob Tervo

The Deerberry is a short, upright shrub, closely related to both blueberries and cranberries. In Ontario, Deerberry occurs in only the Niagara Region and the Thousand Islands region. One of the most serious problems facing Deerberry is low reproductive success. Other threats include a lack of available habitat due to succession, fire suppression, trampling and erosion.

Protecting and recovering species at risk in Ontario

Species at risk recovery is a key part of protecting Ontario’s biodiversity. Biodiversity – the variety of living organisms on Earth – provides us with clean air and water, food, fibre, medicine and other resources that we need to survive.

The Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) is the Government of Ontario’s legislative commitment to protecting and recovering species at risk and their habitats. As soon as a species is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under the ESA, it is automatically protected from harm or harassment. Also, immediately upon listing, the habitats of endangered and threatened species are protected from damage or destruction.

Under the ESA, the Ministry of Natural Resources (the Ministry) must ensure that a recovery strategy is prepared for each species that is listed as endangered or threatened. A recovery strategy provides science-based advice to government on what is required to achieve recovery of a species.

Government response statements

Within nine months after a recovery strategy is prepared, the ESA requires the Ministry to publish a statement summarizing the government’s intended actions and priorities in response to the recovery strategy. The recovery strategy for Deerberry was completed on February 18, 2010.

The response statement is the government’s policy response to the scientific advice provided in the recovery strategy. In addition to the strategy, the response statement is based on input from stakeholders, other jurisdictions, Aboriginal communities and members of the public. It reflects the best available traditional, local and scientific knowledge at this time and may be adapted if new information becomes available. In implementing the actions in the response statement, the ESA allows the Ministry to determine what is feasible, taking into account social and economic factors.

Moving forward to protect and recover Deerberry

Deerberry is protected as a threatened species under the ESA. Its habitat will be protected from damage or destruction under the Act by June 30, 2013.

The government’s goal for the recovery of Deerberry is to ensure it persists in its natural habitat at known sites in both regions with increases in population sizes until they are self-sustaining.

Protecting and recovering species at risk is a shared responsibility. No single agency or organization has the knowledge, authority, or financial resources to protect and recover all of Ontario’s species at risk. Successful recovery requires inter-governmental co-operation and the involvement of many individuals, organizations and communities.

In developing the government response statement, the Ministry considered what actions are feasible for the government to lead directly, and what actions are feasible for the government to support its conservation partners to undertake.

Government-led actions

To help protect and recover the Deerberry, the government will directly undertake the following actions:

  • Educate other agencies and planning authorities on the requirement to consider the protection of the Deerberry in planning activities and environmental assessment processes.
  • Encourage the submission of Deerberry data to the Ministry of Natural Resources' central repository at the Natural Heritage Information Centre.
  • Undertake communications and outreach to increase public awareness of species at risk in Ontario.
  • Protect Deerberry through the ESA. Apply habitat protection provisions of the Act by June 30, 2013.
  • Support conservation, agency, municipal and industry partners to undertake activities to protect and recover Deerberry. Support will be provided through funding, agreements, permits (including conditions) and advisory services.
  • Establish and communicate annual priority actions for government support in order to encourage collaboration and reduce duplication of efforts.

Government-supported actions

The current populations of this species occur on land that is managed by conservation partners. Therefore, the government will continue to work collaboratively with these partners to protect Deerberry.

The government endorses the following actions as being necessary for the protection and recovery of the Deerberry. Actions which are noted as "high" will be given priority consideration for funding or for authorizations under the ESA. The government will focus its support on these high priority actions over the next five years.

Focus area: Protection

Objective: Ensure the persistence of Deerberry in its current habitat at all natural and viable reintroduction sites with population sizes remaining stable or increasing.


  1. (High) Support the continued protection of existing sites.
  2. (High) Continue to work with private landowners on stewardship of non-park populations.
  3. Collaborate with organizers of landscape initiatives to identify and protect habitats for species dispersal.

Focus area: Threat management

Objective: Identify measures necessary to mitigate threats to the species and its habitat and implement mitigation measures, as appropriate.


  1. Erect barriers and signage and re-route trails where possible to keep park visitors away from Deerberry locations.
  2. Investigate techniques used successfully in the past to reduce erosion and implement actions to mitigate this threat where possible.
  3. Create (or update) and implement site-specific management plans within the two regions the species is found.

Focus area: Species augmentation

Objective: Augment existing populations and restore historical populations into suitable habitat where they can occur within protected areas.


  1. Review and update criteria developed for augmenting and restoring populations in St. Lawrence Islands National Park and establish similar criteria for use with the Niagara populations.
  2. Using experience gained from past and ongoing introductions in St. Lawrence Islands National Park, enhance or augment existing populations and begin efforts in Niagara Region.

Focus area: Monitoring and research

Objective: Complete research and monitoring needed to document and assess habitat requirements, genetic diversity, life history and population trends.


  1. Improve and implement the existing monitoring protocol for the St. Lawrence Islands population and implement the same protocol at the Niagara site.
  2. Continue research on the species' habitat requirements, the conditions required for successful seedling establishment, and the effects of fire on the propagation of the species and maintenance of habitat.
  3. Investigate the genetic variability of Deerberry populations at a landscape and site level.

Implementing actions

Financial support for the implementation of actions may be available through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program, or Community Fisheries and Wildlife Involvement Program. Conservation partners are encouraged to discuss project proposals related to the actions in this response statement with the Ministry of Natural Resources. The Ministry can also advise whether any authorizations under the ESA or other legislation may be required for undertaking the project.

Implementation of the actions may be subject to changing priorities across the multitude of species at risk, available resources and the capacity of partners to undertake recovery activities. Where appropriate, the implementation of actions for multiple species will be co-ordinated across government response statements.

Reviewing progress

The ESA requires the Ministry to conduct a review of progress towards protecting and recovering a species not later than five years from the publication of this response statement. The review will help identify whether adjustments are needed to achieve the protection and recovery of the Deerberry.


We would like to thank everyone who participated in the development of the "Recovery Strategy for the Deerberry in Ontario" for their dedication to protecting and recovering species at risk.