Oh Deer!:

A Long Lake Adventure

1 hr 15 min 1.2 km return Easy

Trail Info:

This is pleasant walk through a mixed forest where an old farm used to be located. It can be muddy in wet seasons.


Long Lake Trailhead
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From the Armdale Rotary in Halifax, travel along Herring Cove Road 2.5 km and turn right onto Old Sambro Road. Travel 1.5 km to the stop sign at the intersection of Old Sambro Road and Rockingstone Road. Turn to the right here. Continue for 0.4 km and turn right into the gravel driveway just after the guardrail. Park here. There is a yellow deer crossing sign on the pole just before the gravel driveway. Start on the main trail behind the driveway, which has two large boulders across it.

For a Halifax transit route, put 168 Old Sambro Road in here. The bus stops at the corner of Old Sambro Road and Rockingstone Road and you will need to walk the 0.4 km to the trailhead.

Trail Tools

The Survival Challenge!

Enter the trail past the boulders and stop after 10 m.

Can you survive as a deer? Explore the path ahead. Use all of your deer senses to find the things you need to live. Will you become someone else’s dinner? The clues for survival also lead you to the hidden plaque! Are you ready to become a deer?

  • Put finger antlers on your head, shake your “tail” and look cool.
  • Hold up each hoof and explain to others why you can run so quietly.
  • Wiggle your nose and take a deep breath to sniff for danger.
  • Cup your ears with your hands and listen for enemies.

If you feel that it is safe, sneak up the trail on your tiptoes, taking cover behind trees as you go. If you sense trouble, snort to warn others. Everyone must hide behind a tree.

Do You Know?

When a deer is frightened, it puts up its tail, showing its white underside. This acts as a warning to other deer of danger. It may also snort a loud whistle through its nose as a danger signal.

1. Find Food

Walk 90 m down the trail and turn right on a small path. After about 20 m on the path, find the opening to your right. Stop here

The little opening to your right was a farm over 60 years ago. This is a secret deer feeding ground. Make binoculars with your hands and put them up to your eyes so that you can search the area for movements to make sure it is safe to pass by it on the trail. Continue another 20 metres and go back into the forest. Stop when you see the old farm’s stone wall on your right.

Do You Know – Dart Farm

William and Mary Dart built the Dart Farm on this site in the 1840s. At one point the post office for the area was run out of the house. It was moved to the Old Sambro Road in the 1950s, where it still stands so that this land could be preserved for the Halifax water supply. In 1978, the city found another water supply and this area became Long Lake Provincial Park.

Deer like places where two habitats come together, like this field and forest. There’s twice as much food to be found. See if you can find all of the deer food listed below. Don’t pick or eat any of it yourself.

  • acorns
  • apple trees
  • fresh green leaves
  • ferns
  • mushrooms
  • berries
  • young saplings

Which one of its senses does a deer use here to find food?

Suddenly you sniff danger. Sneak back to the main trail and use your binocular eyes to search for enemies.

On your way back to the trail, just after the opening, use your deer senses to search for the remains of an old foundation on the right before you hit the main trail. Can you imagine the house? Who lived here? Where did the people get their water? Where were the gardens that deer could sneak into and munch food?

2. Don’t Get Eaten

Return to the trail, turn left and stand with your back to the boulder entrance.

It was a false alarm, but you’d better practise your listening skills. You’ll be lunch if a predator such as a coyote, bobcat or lynx sneaks up on you. Here’s how to test your skills.

  1. One person is the deer and everyone else is a coyote.
  2. The coyotes line up across the trail.
  3. The deer takes 30 giant steps, facing away from the coyotes.
  4. When the deer says “go”, the coyotes sneak up the trail.
  5. When the deer senses someone moving it turns around quickly. The coyotes must freeze.
  6. Any coyote caught moving is out.
  7. The game ends when all of the coyotes are caught, or when a coyote reaches the deer.
  8. Take turns being the deer.

(With only two people, take turns and see how close the coyote can get to the deer without being caught.)

Which one of its senses helps the deer survive here?

Deer, Moose and Caribou

White-tailed deer are not native to Nova Scotia but were first introduced here from New Brunswick and the United States in the 1890s by hunters.30 Our native large herbivores were moose and caribou. Caribou were declining at the time, possibly due to unsustainable hunting by European settlers and habitat change. Deer likely eliminated the caribou throughout Nova Scotia because they carried a parasitic worm that is fatal to caribou and moose, but not deer. The parasite has also left very few Mainland Moose in Nova Scotia, now an endangered subspecies with less than 1000 individuals, though there is a significant moose population in Cape Breton.31 In turn, the deer population, particularly along the South Shore of Nova Scotia, has skyrocketed. Deer are now able to survive the milder winters, they have few predators, hunting is not common in populated areas, and they have adapted to human development. Human intervention has shifted the creatures around us.

3. Get a Drink

From where the farm side trail hits the main trail, walk up the main trail about 40 m and stop at a two-metre long path on the right, across from the fallen tree which opens onto the edge of a small pool of water.

This is a deer watering hole. Don’t drink this water yourself. Which one of its senses does a deer use to try the water to see if it is good to drink?

Search the area carefully to make sure it is safe. Find evidence left by other creatures. Look along the edge of the water, on the path and in the trees nearby. Only go 15 steps off the main path. Put a check next to the clues you discover:

  • Chirping sound: a bird or maybe a frog – they’re no danger.
  • Tracks as below in the mud or dirt: another deer has been here.
  • Animal poop that has hair in it: a predator has been here.
  • Bark on a tree that looks frayed or marked up: a male deer has rubbed the velvet off his antlers in the early fall.
  • Movement in the water: little fish, frogs or tadpoles.
  • Tracks as below on the ground may mean your enemy is nearby. Be careful.
  • Animal poop that is very dark brown, teardrop-shaped and about the size of a peanut: another deer has been here.
  • Plant tips that have been shredded (deer munching) or cleanly cut off (rabbit munching).
  • All is clear. Sneak quietly down the trail.


Deer, coyotes, plants, insects and water creatures— each creature affects all of the others, no matter what they do. When deer leave behind droppings, they fertilize the plants, helping them grow. When coyotes eat deer, the carcasses are food for insects and other creatures. When insects fly over water, fish jump up and eat them. The fish and the trees are linked, though you wouldn’t think so at first. The trees shade the pond and keep the water cool for the fish. Each creature meets its needs while it interacts with other creatures. What is the earthwork described here?

Learn about the Earthworks

4. Find Shelter

Walk up the trail about 95 m and stop where you see a large section of flat rock right on the path.

When it is windy or rainy a deer looks for shelter. The best shelter is a covered and dry spot with soft ground. Which one of its senses does a deer use when it feels for soft ground?

  1. Take no more than 30 steps off of the trail.
  2. Find a good deer shelter. Look for trees that are close together with branches that form a cave.
  3. When everyone has a shelter, tour all of the deer homes.
  4. Take turns explaining what makes your choice so good.

Trees give deer something else besides shelter. To discover it, take a deep breath. Hold it for five seconds and breathe out. What did you breathe in? Yes, it’s oxygen in the air and it’s something the trees give to deer and all other creatures.

It’s time for some deer fun. Prance up the trail and try to tag your deer friends.

Do You Know – Mayflower

Trailing arbutus, also called mayflower, is Nova Scotia’s provincial flower. It has sweet-smelling clusters of little pale-pink flowers in the spring. Deer sometimes eat this plant. Mayflowers are disappearing in some places because people are picking and selling them in cities and towns. There are a good number on this trail.

5. Hungry Again

Walk 190 m up the trail to the opening of another grassy trail on the left.

You are hungry again. Use a different sense to find food this time. On the left, just before the new path, look for a little green plant trailing along the ground. These are mayflowers. In the spring their flowers smell sweet. The leaves are good to sniff too!

  1. Get down on your hands and knees and scratch and sniff just one leaf (don’t pick it).
  2. Now scratch and sniff the leaves of three other small plants nearby. Which sniffs smell best?
  3. Try scratching and sniffing some trees. Do the smells differ?

Netukulimk— Moose

Moose is a very important food source for the Mi’kmaq, even today. Mi’kmaq must hunt with love in their hearts and always maintain respect for the moose. They are harvested with love and care. None of the moose is wasted, parts not utilized for food, craft, tools, or clothing are either buried or left for scavengers. The meat from the moose must be shared with the community, especially with people in need.

Learn about Netukulimk

6. Quick, Hide!

Stay on the main path and walk 50 m. Stop when you can just see the brook crossing the trail up ahead.

Which one of its senses is the deer using to find good food?

Can you hear the brook up ahead? Beware, this is a place where predators lurk. Practice finding predators.

  1. One person is the deer, standing on the trail.
  2. Everyone else is a coyote, forming a circle around the deer.
  3. The deer counts to 20 with eyes closed. The coyotes hide nearby.
  4. Staying in one exact spot, the deer looks for coyotes in hiding.
  5. A coyote that is spotted sits out until the end of the game.
  6. After one minute, the deer counts to 20 with eyes closed and everyone left finds closer hiding spots.
  7. The goal is to be the coyote hidden closest to the deer without being caught.
  8. Take turns being the deer. If there are only two people, take turns and see how close the coyote can get to the deer without being seen.

Deer and coyotes use camouflage to hide. This means their colourings help them blend in with everything around them so that other creatures can’t see them.

Earth Steps

A common problem in parks and hiking areas occurs after people create their own trails without permission. These trails can often cut through sensitive areas, such as wetlands, or where there are rare plants. Here are some things you and your family can do to respect and protect our trails and forests while hiking:

  • Pack out what you pack in. Always clean up after yourself and never litter.
  • Stay on the trail in fragile areas.
  • Visit the website of the Long Lake Provincial Park Association and find out about events and activities here. They are concerned about conservation, history and the wise use of the park. 
  • Get involved with trail groups through the Nova Scotia Trails Federation and/or Hike Nova Scotia. They sponsor fun activities and events and work to protect trails.

7. The Secret to Deer Survival

Run like a deer to the edge of the brook crossing the trail.

Who blended in best in this game?

You’ve reached the end of the trail. Have you figured out what four things a deer needs to survive and what five senses a deer uses to find them? Fill in the needs and sense words below that you have discovered along the trail.

Deer Needs

Deer Senses

    Now use your deer senses to find what you think would be the most delicious plant for a deer to eat. To search for the mystery plaque, head up the path on the right side of the brook about 10 m and look on the bottom of trees nearby. There are a lot of interesting plants along the edge of the brook upstream. Take a picture of your favourite and upload it if you choose.

    The plaque symbol is:



    Please login if you would like to record your trail completion, provide feedback or upload photos to the trail gallery.

    Login if you’d like to upload a photo to share in the Adventure Gallery

    Congratulations, you’ve survived as a deer! If you want to explore this trail further, be careful and find a safe way to cross the stream if the water is not too high. Up the trail is the site of the Umlah farm, another abandoned historical site.

    The Spryfield area is rich in local history. You can find out more through the Spryfield Urban Farm Museum. Check out the history of the old Pinegrove Hotel, built nearby in 1893.

    There are also lots more trails in Long Lake Park to explore.

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    Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".