• Gatineau’s Eardley Escarpment is a popular outdoor climbing area

    Gatineau’s Eardley Escarpment is a popular outdoor climbing area. (Photo: Gordon P. Dewis)

The southern side of Gatineau Park’s 270-metre-high Eardley Escarpment features what was once the most popular stretch of outdoor climbing rock in the National Capital Region. Unfortunately for climbers, however, the fact that the rock wall faces south means it hosts a unique microclimate (similar to the hot, dry conditions found in the forests of the American Midwest), which attracts more than 50 per cent of the park’s 153 at-risk species. In 2010, the National Capital Commission cut climbing areas by more than 80 per cent in an effort to protect these species from the hands, feet and gear of well-meaning climbers. Although it’s too early to tell if the former climbing sites have fully recovered, here’s a look at some of the species that park management hopes will survive and flourish.

Juniper hairstreak
Although common in the United States, this butterfly is extremely rare in Canada. The population that lives among the eastern red cedars in Gatineau Park is the only known colony in Quebec.
Golden-winged warbler
Habitat loss and competition with the closely-related blue-winged warbler (with which it often hybridizes) has made this songbird a threatened species in Canada. It prefers the wooded areas of the escarpment.
Eastern red cedar
About 80 per cent of Quebec’s eastern red cedars are found in the park on the escarpment, where they grow well on the thin soil and rocky outcrops.
Eastern milksnake
Often mistaken for a rattlesnake because of the way it vibrates its tail when threatened, the milksnake, which is non-venomous, is listed as a species of special concern in Canada.
Wild leek
The bulbs of this delicacy reproduce only every seven years, so the park monitors the patches of the vegetable extensively to prevent people from picking them.