The major factors involved in the disappearance or endangering of Canadian species have been exploitation (HUNTING, fishing, gathering of eggs or young), destruction of habitat and POLLUTION. Factors affecting the quality of the ENVIRONMENT and leading to a steady loss of habitat include decrease in FOREST cover (cutting exceeds reforestation in most provinces); lack of natural VEGETATION to control EROSION on stream banks and woodlots on many farms; AIR POLLUTION from acid and other toxic substances; and WATER POLLUTION by industry, individuals and municipalities.
The greater prairie-chicken (extirpated) originally occurred in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The species occupied large blocks of ungrazed or lightly grazed grasslands where preferred habitat included native bluestem and Indian grass, wild rye, switch grass and sand dropseed. The birds flourished amid the small-scale farming activities of the early 1900s, but when vast amounts of native prairie grassland were converted to cultivated crops and cattle grazing, the habitat was destroyed.
The greater prairie-chicken has been extirpated from all provinces except Saskatchewan, where there were 15 reports of sightings, some of which might not have been valid, between 1965 and 1977. GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Saskatchewan, established in 1981, is sufficiently large, and might permit re-establishment of this species.
The leatherback turtle (endangered) is a large (up to 680 kg), unique, mainly tropical, open-sea species. Sparse sightings have occurred in the Atlantic Ocean north to Nain, Labrador, and along the West Coast to Cordova, Alaska. Estimates place world population at 30 000-40 000, but up to 20-30% of some populations are killed annually. Although adults are occasionally tangled in fishing gear or harpooned as curiosities in Canadian waters, most mortality takes place in tropical waters, where eggs are collected for human consumption. The world population of leatherback turtles is believed to be declining and endangered.
Only adult leatherback turtles are seen in Canadian waters. They may be migrants or strays, but they feed in this country and appear to be vigorous. Thus, in some cases, protection of species occurring in Canada may require international co-operation.
The Acadian whitefish (endangered) was discovered as a distinct species only in 1967. Scarcely anything is known of the whitefish's life history. When discovered, it was already being threatened by a dam blocking its upstream spawning migration from the sea. The dam was provided with a fish ladder but it is not known if the fish are able to use fishways. Recently, ACID RAIN, originating in the US and Ontario, has decimated Atlantic SALMON in southern Nova Scotia and has probably had the same effect on Acadian whitefish.
The brindled madtom (vulnerable) is a tiny, spotted catfish reaching 87 mm at most, in Canadian waters. It inhabits rivers, streams and lakes, where it is most active at night. It once occurred in tributaries of Lake Erie, and in the Niagara and Sydenham rivers of southern Ontario. The parents share nest-building activities and guarding of young. Madtoms guard themselves with a sharp, pectoral-fin spine which could sting a would-be predator.
The species was last reported in Canada in 1976, although suitable habitats and localities known to support the species have been searched since then. Because of the madtom's size and habitats, it is difficult to be certain whether population levels are exceedingly low or whether the species has already been extirpated in Canadian waters.
The shorthead sculpin (threatened) was discovered in Canadian waters in 1957, in the lower 24 km of the tiny Flathead River drainage of BC, between elevations of 1000-1400 m. Sculpins are most abundant on gravel or stony bottoms that are not heavily sedimented and have summer temperatures up to 13°-17°C. They reach 100 mm in length, may lay up to 690 eggs, probably on undersides of rocks, and feed on insects and small fish.
A proposal to develop surface coal mines in the Flathead Basin for export of coal to Japan, and to redirect the flow of Howell Creek, a Flathead tributary, may threaten the species. Sedimentation, acidification or modification of flow and temperature regimes could be harmful.
Habitat requirements for a fish might include stream spawning grounds, nursery areas for feeding of fry in a lake, unobstructed rivers for migration to the sea, estuarine and offshore feeding grounds for young and adults and, again, an unobstructed river for the return to a spawning ground.
The spawning ground itself may require clear, oxygenated water, free of pollutants, running at the correct velocity, and gravel of a certain size, free of both organic and inorganic sediments. The gravel bed may have to be within a certain temperature range, neither too warm nor freezing, and never exposed by dropping water levels.
Stream-bank trees, often removed by common logging and farming practices, are important to stream life. Summer temperatures, runoff from snowmelt and rain, and bank soil erosion are moderated by trees, bushes and herbaceous plants. Leaf-fall into streams is an important food-energy component of the ecological network. Leaves are fed on by BACTERIA and single-celled animals, which in turn are eaten by insects and other invertebrates that serve as food for birds and fishes.
A species habitat is complex and small changes may make it unsuitable. If a single habitat requirement is unavailable, a species may not survive.
Management and Protection
Several organizations are engaged in the study and management of rare and endangered species. The CANADIAN MUSEUM OF NATURE in Ottawa has for many years evaluated the status of Canada's fauna and flora, although it has never been given special resources for this task. The CANADIAN WILDLIFE SERVICE has had a role in managing and studying Canada's migratory birds, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in managing and studying fishes and sea mammals. Provinces and territories have mandates in WILDLIFE CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT.
Canada is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates trade in rare and endangered species or their byproducts. Canada has also ratified the International Convention on Biological Diversity and thereby assumes certain obligations for conserving biological diversity and the sustainability of its components (see BIODIVERSITY).
The COMMITTEE ON THE STATUS OF ENDANGERED WILDLIFE IN CANADA (COSEWIC) is an organization of specialists from federal, provincial and territorial governments and national, private conservation organizations. It decides which plant or animal species (the future of which is in doubt in Canada) is in what category (rare, threatened, endangered, extirpated or extinct). COSEWIC provides status reports, but it is up to the appropriate management agency to correct adverse factors.
A number of other organizations are active in the protection of Canadian species and the environment, including the WORLD WILDLIFE FUND, Toronto; the CANADIAN WILDLIFE FEDERATION, Ottawa; CANADIAN NATURE FEDERATION, Ottawa; POLLUTION PROBE, Toronto; and Ocean Voice International, Ottawa.
To protect now-endangered species may require natural history preserves, public education, research, protective legislation, enforcement and other measures such as captive breeding and re-introduction. Individuals and industries are coming to realize that many wastes do not disappear when dumped into air, earth or water, but spread through the biosphere; that we shall have to consider the environmental effects of each of society's requirements (eg, energy, transportation, sewage disposal, wetlands and leisure time); and that the habitat of mankind includes nature.
Author D.E. MCALLISTER
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
World Wildlife Fund Canada
The official website of the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Check out the "Polar Bear Tracker," "Living Planet City," and other interactive features that show individuals can take part in environmental conservation efforts.
Endangered Species in Endangered Spaces
An informative website about rare and endangered plants and animals in the Thompson-Okanagan region of British Columbia. Click on the menu at the left side of the page for information about specific species. From the Royal British Columbia Musuem.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines the national status of wild Canadian species, subspecies, varieties or other designatable units that are suspected of being at risk of extinction or extirpation.
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.
This multimedia website provides tips on monitoring frog populations and identifying frog species found in each region of Canada.
Vancouver Island Marmot
Discover the natural history of the very rare and endangered Vancouver Island marmot at this nicely illustrated Marmot Recovery Foundation website.
The website for the WILD school program. Find out about participating in hands-on wildlife surveys and other fun learning activities from the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Species at Risk Public Registry
A searchable database of Canadian species at risk. Provides illustrated natural histories of each species as well as information about recovery programs, a glossary, and more. From Environment Canada.
Amphibian Specialist Group
The Amphibian Specialist Group focuses on conservation of amphibians and their habitats around the world. Hop over to the link for “Froglog,” a bi-monthly newsletter which offers current information about the decline of amphibian species. Part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
This website offers access to the “Red List,” a detailed, searchable database of flora and fauna facing extinction. Categories range from critically endangered to vulnerable. Note: select “Canada” for an extensive list of Canadian species at risk of extinction. From the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the world’s largest conservation network.
Ontario: Species at Risk
A list of official status designations assigned to native Ontario species by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Categories include: Extinct, Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened, Special Concern, Not at Risk, and Data Deficient.
Bird Studies Canada
The website for “Bird Studies Canada,” an organization dedicated to preserving wild birds and their habitats. Search this site for the latest information on bird sightings and populations, checklists and maps, species at risk, and more.
Endangered Species and Ecosystems
This site is a gateway to information about endangered species and ecological communities (ecosystems) in British Columbia.
Convention on Biological Diversity
An extensive resource about international policies and initiatives related to environmental conservation and biodiversity. Click on "International Year of Biodiversity" for news about special events on biodiversity.
Last of the Curlews
About the genesis of Fredrick Bodsworth's book "Last of the Curlews." From the website for the US Geological Survey.
A natural history of the now virtually extinct species, the Eskimo Curlew, from the Royal Ontario Museum.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...