“Across Canada, habitat degradation, invasive alien species, climate change, pollution, and overexploitation of resources have pushed more than 500 species to the brink of extinction. Everything from sea otters to leatherback turtles, from whooping cranes to wood bison are at risk” [wwf.ca]. These are the words of WWF Canada, an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 and dedicated to protecting the environment.
In Canada, endangered or extinct animals are divided into four categories:
In this new article in PlanetAnimal, we will tell you all about endangered animals in Canada and the main factors responsible for this sad finding.
How are endangered species designated in Canada?
In 2002, the Government of Canada passed its first Act respecting the protection of wildlife species that are endangered or threatened, an Act they called the Species at Risk Act. Under this legislation, species at risk are designated by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). COSEWIC is funded by “Environment Canada” but operates at arm’s length from the government.
The Committee commissions studies on native species whose survival in Canada seems very complicated, if not impossible. Based on the results of these studies, it designates them as belonging to one or more categories:
*Extinct from the country
Today in Canada, schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act lists all of the country’s threatened species. Any species on this list benefits from a safeguard strategy established by a team of experts. There are a total of 521 animal and plant species on this list. Here are the results by category:
-Extinct from the country: about 30 species, 13 of which have disappeared from the face of the earth.
-Endangered: the Vancouver marmot, the North Atlantic right whale, and more than 200 other species.
-Threatened: 127 species are concerned, including beluga whales and several species of caribou.
-Concerned: 93 animal species are concerned.
In the remainder of this article on endangered animals in Canada, we will present a non-exhaustive list of animals concerned for each category. Here we go.
The appearance of the black-footed ferret
Of the three ferret species in the world, the black-footed ferret (Mustela grinipes) is the only ferret native to North America. Black-footed ferrets are super cute: cat-like whiskers that surround their white snout, two ears above the eyes that give the impression of wearing a bandit mask.
Their champagne-colored fur blends completely into the landscape of the tall grass-filled prairies and makes them impossible to detect when they are motionless, protecting them from predators like coyotes or foxes.
They measure between 28 and 50 cm and their tail length is 11 to 15 cm, males weigh between 950 grams and 1100 grams while females weigh between 750 and 900 grams.
Before they were considered virtually extinct, black-footed ferrets inhabited the temperate, tall-grass-covered territories of the Canadian Prairies and Great Plains ecozone. Historically, their range extended from northern Mexico to the southern prairies of Alberta, Canada, but as soon as settlers from Europe began to exterminate prairie dogs, their main source of food because they interfered with farmland, black-footed ferrets began to disappear. In the 19th century, the black-footed ferret was considered to be completely extinct, it was not until 1981 that researchers were contradicted when a farmer’s dog, returning from hunting, brought a black-footed ferret to its master’s feet. Researchers eventually located a small population of black-footed ferrets in Wyoming, USA, which they used to begin a captive breeding program to reintroduce them to the wild in North America, including Canada.
Recently, in 2009, researchers from the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada, USFWS, and other partners released 34 black-footed ferrets into Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan (a Canadian province bordering the US). Nevertheless, they are not safe and are not numerous enough, which is why they remain in the “endangered” category.
La Tourte voyageuse
The passenger pigeon or passenger dove is a species of bird that is now extinct. The passenger pigeon was found throughout North America, especially in Canada. There were billions of them.
The species was wiped out in only a few decades, mainly by farmers who considered it harmful to crops. Another species are extinct because of man…
Apparently, according to the zoologist Albert Hazen Wright in 1914, the very last passenger dove died at the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA) on September 1st of the same year.
Species Status: Special Concern
The appearance of the sea otter
Sea otters are the heaviest of all otters and the only ones that are physically adapted to permanent marine life. With their long bodies, sea otters are adapted to live at sea, from temperate (California) to cold (Alaska) seas. They are therefore among the animals found in Baja California. Its fur varies from reddish-brown to black, it is particularly thick and dense and insulates the animal while maintaining a layer of air under its hair. Their two upper canines are very powerful, significantly larger than the other teeth. Sea otters can live up to 23 years in the wild, with an average life expectancy of 15-20 years.
The sea otter was highly exploited on the Pacific coast by hunters who sold up to 1200 skins per year in the late 1700s and during the 19th century. By 1900, the sea otter was already on the verge of extinction. In 1911, an international treaty ensured its protection and by the late 1960s, the Alaskan population numbered about 30,000 individuals. A few successful introductions were made on the west coast of Vancouver Island between 1969 and 1972. The sea otter population in British Columbia today numbers in the thousands. The sea otter is no longer completely endangered, but it has been listed as threatened and of special concern since 2007.
Status: Ranked threatened to special concern
Peregrine Falcon Appearance
The peregrine falcon is a hardy, medium-sized raptor species and is reputed to be the fastest bird of prey in the world in a swoop. Its prey is almost exclusively birds, but some specimens can prey on small land animals. This bird never builds nests and lives mainly on cliffs, rarely on trees.
Several peregrine falcon populations have been decimated by organochlorine chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, which cause various problems, such as reducing the amount of calcium in eggshells. The eggshells eventually break under the weight of the incubating adult. Organochlorine products, as well as other man-made influences, have caused a decline in peregrine falcon populations across Canada. Nevertheless, since the production and sale of these products were banned in the 1970s, populations of this species have been increasing. As a result, the peregrine falcon went from “threatened” to “special concern” in 2002.
The appearance of the leatherback turtle
Among the endangered animals in Canada is the leatherback turtle. The leatherback turtle is the largest of the 7 current species of sea turtles. It is the largest turtle in general and the 4th largest reptile after three crocodilians. It does not have keratinized scales on its carapace but the skin on dermal bones. It can reach 680kg and individuals of this species are accustomed to breed on sandy beaches in tropical waters or Canadian waters during the summer.
Leatherback turtles are generally found in the Atlantic Ocean as far north as the south coast of Greenland and as far north and south of Alaska on the west coast. Leatherbacks are endangered in Canada. Most leatherbacks are killed in tropical waters where the local population collects eggs for human consumption and the adults are killed for their meat. The world population of the leatherback turtle is endangered and is in great danger. Conservation of this species requires strong protection in Canada, as well as globally through international cooperation.