More than 500 Canadian species now considered to be at risk of Extinction by COSEWIC


Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) met in the
Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan from April 23 to 28, 2006. The committee
considered 64 scientific reports that assessed the risk of biological
extinction for a wide variety of organisms, ranging from lichens to whales.
Species in danger of extinction are assigned status as Endangered, Threatened,
or Special Concern, according to the degree of risk and nature of the threats.

First, the good news….
The risks to some Canadian species have lessened. Three species,
including the Red-shouldered Hawk, a species that has recovered since its
previous assessment as Special Concern, were reassessed as Not at Risk. The
Aweme Borer, a moth that had not been seen in Canada for 70 years, was
reported as rediscovered in Canada on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.
Species at Risk…
Threats to sand dune and open grassland ecosystems of western Canada
include dune stabilization, introduction of exotic species, and habitat
destruction. These affect a wide diversity of animals, including Ord’s
Kangaroo Rat, the Burrowing Owl, and a moth, the Gold-edged Gem, all assessed
as Endangered, as well as a plant, the Smooth Goosefoot, assessed as
Three species of moths, all dependent on a Threatened species of Yucca
plant that is native to a restricted area of extreme southern Alberta, have
been assessed as Endangered, two of them at this meeting.
Many of the world’s large open-ocean sharks have declined due to
overharvesting. In the Canadian Atlantic, the White Shark was assessed as
Endangered, the Shortfin Mako as Threatened, and the Blue Shark as Special
Two Arctic species were assessed. The snow-white Ivory Gull, whose
numbers have declined drastically in Canada, was assessed as Endangered. The
Atlantic Walrus, now at very low numbers in some areas and in need of improved
management, was assessed as Special Concern.
The American Eel is a fish that breeds in the Sargasso Sea and whose
young then move into rivers and streams along the Atlantic coast of North
America. It has declined in numbers in Lake Ontario, the upper St. Lawrence
River, and some other rivers and streams in Atlantic Canada.
The Golden-winged Warbler, which has declined throughout North America as
a result of habitat loss and competition with a related species, was assessed
as Threatened.
COSEWIC assesses the national status of wild species, subspecies,
varieties, or other designatable units that are considered to be at risk in
Canada. To do so, COSEWIC uses scientific, Aboriginal traditional and local or
community knowledge provided by many experts from governments, academia and
other organizations. These assessments are available to the public now and
will be forwarded to Federal Minister of the Environment in August for
consideration for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
There are now 529 species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including
206 Endangered, 135 Threatened, 153 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated species
(no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition,13 are Extinct and 41 are
Data Deficient.
COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government
wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks
Canada Agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Federal
Biodiversity Information Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of
Nature), three non-government science members and the co-chairs of the species
specialist subcommittees and the Aboriginal traditional knowledge
Definition of COSEWIC terms and risk categories:
Wildlife Species: A species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or
genetically distinct population of animal, plant or other organism, other than
a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and it is either native to Canada
or has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been
present in Canada for at least 50 years.
Extinct (X): A wildlife species that no longer exists
Extirpated (XT): A wildlife species no longer existing in the wild in
Canada, but occurring elsewhere
Endangered (E): A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or
Threatened (T): A wildlife species likely to become Endangered if
limiting factors are not reversed
Special Concern (SC): A wildlife species that may become a Threatened or
an Endangered species because of a combination of biological
characteristics and identified threats
Not at Risk (NAR): A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found
to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances
Data Deficient (DD): A category that applies when the available
information is insufficient (a) to resolve a species’ eligibility for
assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the species’ risk of
For further information: COSEWIC Chair Elect, Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings,
Tel(1): (902) 494-2687, Tel (2): (902) 494-3515; Past COSEWIC Chair: Dr Marco
Festa-Bianchet, (819) 821-8000 ext: 2061; General inquiries: COSEWIC
Secretariat, (819) 953-3215,; For inquiries on White Shark,
Shortfin Mako, Blue Shark: Dr.Paul Bentzen , (902) 494-1105; For inquiries
about bird species: Richard Cannings, (250) 496-4049; Dr. Marty Leonard, (902)
494-2158; For inquiries on the American Eel : Dr. Robert Campbell, (613)
987-2552; For inquiries on the Atlantic Walrus: Dr. Andrew Trites, (604)
822-8182; For inquiries on the Aweme Borer and the Gold-edged Gem: Dr. Theresa
Fowler, (819) 953-6402; For inquiries on the Ord’s Kangaroo Rat: Dr. Mark
Brigham, (306) 585-4255; Further details on all species assessed, and the
reasons for designations, can be found on the COSEWIC website at:

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