Canada is known for its diverse landscapes, ranging from mountains and rolling plains to rivers, lakes and arctic tundras. It is therefore not surprising that a wide variety of animals call this region home. But human activities such as land conversion and rapidly changing climate are endangering many of these animals. As of 2021, over 550 animal species are currently threatened in Canada, with over 20 species already extinct. Both Canada Wildlife Actwhich allows the creation, management and protection of wildlife areas, and the Endangered Species Act, which aims to prevent the extinction of native Canadian species and to ensure the recovery of endangered or threatened species, actively works to protect the animal species of the Great White North. These are just a few of the most endangered species in Canada.
Endangered species in Canada
An animal found only in Canada, more specifically in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the Peary caribou resembles a reindeer where both females and males can grow antlers. This endangered species in Canada is threatened by global warming because many of its predators, including wolves, cougars and coyotes, are able to travel and live farther north in its range. Climate change also has an impact on its population; changes in when arctic ice melts and freezes affect their migration patterns and make it harder to find food (as well as increasing food competition with other animals). At the same time, consecutive harsh winters are also causing entire herds to starve. Other threats to the species include human settlements and industrialization, where urban development impedes the animals’ search for food. According to the latest estimates, there are about 13,200 mature individuals left in the wild.
One of the smallest owl species – measuring just 7.5 to 10 inches tall, the burrowing owl is found primarily in the prairies of Canada. As the species depends on dry, open areas with low vegetation where prey such as squirrels, prairie dogs and other small mammals congregate, habitat loss and fragmentation due to land development have caused its population to decline over the past 30 years. Much of its historic range has been converted for agricultural production, where farmers often use pesticides to protect their crops. The burrowing owl is known to invest it indirectly when feeding on animals, which contributes to its mortality rate. Today there is fewer than 1,000 pairs remaining in the country.
Named after its characteristic leathery shell, the leatherback turtle is a migratory marine animal that makes its way through the North Atlantic Ocean. About 1,000 turtles travel to the marine waters of Atlantic Canada each year in the summer to feed on jellyfish. However, globally, it is believed that this species has reduced by more than 70% due to fishing bycatch, coastal and offshore development, marine pollution, poaching of their eggs, changes to their nesting beaches, as well as climate change. However, one of the biggest culprits for its dramatic population decline is entanglement with fixed and abandoned fishing gear, where turtles are either suffocated or prevented from swimming, causing them to drown or die from hunger. Although it is considered an endangered species in Canada, its conservation requires international cooperation due to its migratory nature.
Vancouver Island Marmot
As its name suggests, this animal is endemic to Vancouver Island and is found primarily in on rocky slopes with loose soils and lots of sedimentation from rainwater., as well as subalpine meadows. The Vancouver Island marmot is a type of ground squirrel that has lost much of its habitat due to human activities and development. Listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and endangered in Canada, the species has seen its population drop to as few as 30 individuals in 2007. However, thanks to conservation efforts, this number has risen back to 250-300 in 2015. But genetic variation within the species continues to decline – leading to interbreeding, making it more susceptible to disease or variation. important environmental species – as well as large numbers of prey such as wolves, cougars and golden eagles, making full recovery of the species difficult.
This small bear-like animal is able to travel long distances, but its historic range has rapidly shrunk since European settlement in Canada, where land conservation and urban development have drastically reduced its natural habitat. The eastern wolverine population has also been threatened by hunting practices; the animal is poached for its frost-resistant fur – ideal for lining parkas – while humans also hunt wolverines’ main food source, caribou. Wolverines occur primarily in alpine and arctic tundras from British Columbia to Ontario, but no verified sightings in these provinces since an individual was last trapped in the late 1970s The most recent data from 2013 estimates its population at between 458 and 645 individuals.
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The beluga is distinguished above all by its prominent bulbous forehead, called “melon”, and its unique white color. They live mainly in areas of Arctic sea ice, where about two-thirds of the world’s population (from about 136,000 whales) summer in Canadian waters. The marine mammal is culturally significant to Inuit and Inuvialuit communities in the Canadian Arctic; its skin and outer layers of fat are an important food source. Considered an indicator species, the beluga is very sensitive to environmental changes. Whales depend on sea ice for protection from killer whales in purgatory; the animal has become more vulnerable as global warming causes rapid reduction and change in ice cover. Arctic oil and gas exploration, commercial fishing and shipping operations, and marine pollution all threaten the survival of the species, especially as noise pollution affects the whale’s ability to communicate, detect predators, find food and take care of their young.
Also known as the King of Fish, Atlantic salmon live in both fresh and salt water. In addition to being a popular food source, salmon is also important to forty First Nations and many Aboriginal communities and is used for social and ceremonial purposes. Developments such as dams and culverts block or impede the migratory movements of the species from spawning to rearing, while habitat degradation and foreign fishing further contribute to its population decline. This is clearly evident as populations fell to 0.4 million in 1995 from 0.8 to 1.7 million between 1971 and 1985. As a result, the species has been the subject of conservation efforts in several countries , which appear to have had some success since the 2000s. Although listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN, it is still considered an endangered species in Canada.
Unfortunately, the Rusty-patched Bumblebee has not been seen in Canada since 2009, which is why the species is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and Endangered in Canada. It is so named for its rust-colored spot found on the abdomen of worker bees and male bees. This bumblebee subspecies tends to feed on food plants including milkweed, sunflower, clover, and fruit flowers. Unlike most other species threatened by habitat loss, scientists have not been able to find out the cause behind the dramatic decline in the Rusty-patched Bumblebee population, although the use of pesticides and increased competition with other species such as the European honey bee, may have played a role.
This adorable marine mammal was pushed to the brink of extinction due to the fur trade that began in the 1700s. By 1929, they had essentially left British Columbia. But thanks to considerable conservation efforts in Canada, as well as rigorous protective measures, the sea otter population has soared to more than 6,500 people today. They are now found along the west coast of Vancouver Island and part of the central coast of British Columbia. However, globally, sea otters are still considered threatened by the IUCN. In Canada, new threats could hamper its success; bycatch, entanglement in active and abandoned fishing gear, marine pollution, and oil spills all pose a threat to the species. The latter is detrimental to its survival because sea otters become very susceptible to hypothermia if their fur comes into contact with oil.
Also known as unicorns of the sea for their unique long spiral horn protruding from its forehead, the narwhal is most commonly found in Canadian waters – two of three of its recognized populations are in Canada while the third occurs in eastern Greenland. Like most marine mammals in the region, the species is threatened due to marine pollution, commercial fishing and climate change. But the narwhal’s preference for deep water makes it less vulnerable to these factors than other animals. The greatest threat to the species is actually hunting, where its skin and ivory continue to be valuable in the market and have social and cultural significance for some communities. Despite rare sightings of the animal, scientists estimate that there are approximately 170,000 individuals in the wild.