Changes in the status of species at risk

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Identifying wildlife species at risk is the first step towards protecting these species. As of May 2016, 916 wildlife species have been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (the Committee) and given a risk designation.Footnote [1] Wildlife species previously designated as being at risk are reassessed, usually after 10 years, to determine if there is a change in status. Of the 447 wildlife species that have been assessed more than once, 65% show no change in status, 16% are in a lower risk category and 19% are in a higher risk category.

Changes vary across the extinction risk categories:

  • Of the 30 species in the Extirpated and Extinct category, one species, the Lake Ontario population of Atlantic salmon, was moved up from ExtirpatedFootnote [2] to the higher risk category of Extinct in 2010.
  • Of the 173 species in the Endangered category, 45 were moved up to that status and one species, the St. Lawrence Striped Bass, was moved down from Extirpated to Endangered after a reintroduction effort.
  • Of 97 species in the Threatened category, 33 were moved up to that status and 16 were moved down to this status.
  • Among the 111 species of Special concern, 7 had moved up and 30 moved down.
  • Twenty-five species moved down and are no longer at risk.

Changes in risk of wildlife species disappearance from Canada, 2016

2 stacked columns - See long description below


Long description

The stacked column on the left shows the proportion (and number) of wildlife species in each risk category: higher risk (86 species), no change (289 species) and lower risk (72 species). The stacked columns on the right show the number of wildlife species from each risk category by status: Extirpated and Extinct (30 species), Endangered (173 species), Threatened (97 species), Special Concern (111 species) and Not at risk (36 species).

Data for this chart
Changes in risk of wildlife species disappearance, Canada, 2016
Species status categories Higher risk
(number of species)
No change
(number of species)
Lower risk
(number of species)
Extirpated and Extinct 1 29 0
Endangered 45 127 1
Threatened 33 48 16
Special concern 7 74 30
Not at risk 0 11 25
Total 86 289 72

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How this indicator was calculated


The pattern of a larger number of species moving up to higher risk categories than species moving down to lower risk categories holds across 8 of 12 species groups. Terrestrial mammals have shown the strongest improvement, while freshwater fishes and marine mammals show the strongest declines.

Data table
Changes in risk of wildlife species disappearance by species group, Canada, 2016
Wildlife species group Higher risk
(number of species)
No change
(number of species)
Lower risk
(number of species)
Amphibians 3 13 1
Arthropods 3 17 1
Birds 12 47 11
Fishes (freshwater) 14 44 9
Fishes (marine) 5 8 4
Lichens 1 6 2
Mammals (marine) 7 20 4
Mammals (terrestrial) 4 27 9
Molluscs 2 17 3
Mosses 0 9 1
Reptiles 9 19 2
Vascular plants 26 62 25
Total 86 289 72

Download data file (Excel/CVS; 1.09 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: In this analysis, wildlife species refers to a species, subspecies or a genetically or geographically distinct population. Wildlife species disappearance may refer to extinction or extirpation (i.e., a wildlife species that no longer occurs in the wild in Canada). Results from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada have been further analyzed as described in the Data Sources and Methods document.
Source: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, May 2016.

The Committee assigns one of seven status categories when assessing wildlife species:

  • Extinct: a wildlife species that no longer exists
  • Extirpated: a wildlife species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere
  • Endangered: a wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction
  • Threatened: a wildlife species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed
  • Special concern: a wildlife species that may become a threatened or an endangered wildlife species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats
  • Not at risk: a wildlife species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances
  • Data deficient: a category that applies when the available information is insufficient (a) to resolve a wildlife species' eligibility for assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the wildlife species' risk of extinction

The Committee reports its results to the public and also makes recommendations for listing wildlife species under the Species at Risk Act. The Committee initially focused on vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes) and plants, so these are the best-represented groups in the change analysis.

FSDS Icon - Healthy wildlife populations

Healthy wildlife populations

This indicator supports the measurement of progress towards the long-term goal of the 2016-2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy: All species have healthy and viable populations.

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