Status of wild species

Among Canada’s wild species assessed in 2010, 77% were ranked "secure", and 12% were ranked "at risk" or "may be at risk". The total of known species present in each province and territory varies, but overall the percentage of "secure" species is similar across Canada. The general status of wild species has been assessed every 5 years since 2000. Between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of species ranked "secure" has varied between 70% and 77%. Changes between years are due mostly to an improved knowledge of wild species and the assessment of new species groups.

General status ranks of wild species in Canada, 2010

Bar chart
Long description

The bar chart shows the proportion of species ranked "secure", "sensitive", "may be at risk" and "at risk" in Canada and in provinces and territories. Among Canada’s wild species assessed in 2010, 77% were ranked "secure" and 12% were ranked as either "at risk" or "may be at risk". Saskatchewan has the highest proportion of species ranked "at risk" or "may be at risk" at 24%. New Brunswick and Newfound-and-Labrador have the highest proportion of species ranked "secure", at 78% and 74% respectively.

Data for this chart
General status ranks of wild species in Canada, 2010
Region Secure (number of species ranked) Sensitive (number of species ranked) May be at risk (number of species ranked) At risk (number of species ranked)
Canada 6600 960 806 247
Yukon 1608 453 302 5
Northwest Territories 1447 385 231 7
Nunavut 672 279 223 5
British Columbia 3196 1006 580 85
Alberta 2546 626 435 23
Saskatchewan 1816 192 603 39
Manitoba 1761 256 452 33
Ontario 3312 429 863 118
Québec 2914 525 600 68
New Brunswick 1999 269 274 29
Nova Scotia 1780 403 290 26
Prince Edward Island 941 178 302 7
Newfoundland and Labrador 1502 318 190 27

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 584 B)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Only native species where a risk ranking has been assigned are considered (8613 species in Canada). Species ranked "extinct", "extirpated", "undetermined", "not assessed", "exotic" and "accidental" are excluded. Ocean regions are not represented on the chart due to the small number of species assessed. The number of species with a risk ranking varies from 3 species in the western Arctic Ocean to 4867 species in British Columbia.
Source: Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (2011) Wild Species 2010: The General Status of Species in Canada, National General Status Working Group.

Canada supports a remarkable diversity of life. There are over 70 000 known species in Canada and many others occur but have yet to be recorded. Unfortunately, wild species face a variety of threats, including the loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat; pollution; overexploitation; and fishery bycatch and incidental loss due to resource harvesting. Wild species also face the indirect effects of human activities such as invasive species, the introduction of new diseases, and climate change. The leading cause of biodiversity loss in Canada and around the world is the loss of habitat to human development.

Every 5 years, a Wild Species report by the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council compiles information on a large number of Canadian wild species to assess the general status of species and species groups. This information can reveal early signs of trouble before species reach a critical condition. The reports also identify gaps in our knowledge of wild species. In 2010, 11 950 species were classified into 10 ranks: "extinct", "extirpated" (species no longer present in Canada but found elsewhere in the world), "at risk", "may be at risk", "sensitive", "secure", "undetermined" (data are insufficient to reliably evaluate their general status), "not assessed", "exotic" and "accidental" (rarely present).Footnote [1]

General status by species group

Not all species face the same level of threat. Of those species groups with a known risk ranking, reptiles (43%), freshwater mussels (35%) and amphibians (20%) have the largest proportion of species ranked as either "at risk" or "may be at risk". Habitat loss and fragmentation from agriculture, urban and cottage development are the major threats to reptiles. Snakes, turtles and lizards also face additional threats, such as road mortality and collection for the pet trade.

The state of our knowledge also varies across species groups. While we have a good knowledge of large and captivating animals such as mammals and birds, we find important gaps in our knowledge of mosses, lichens and arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans and others). Several large groups of organisms have not yet been assessed, including fungi, snails and seaweeds. These less-familiar organisms perform critical roles in maintaining the healthy functioning of ecosystems on which all organisms, including humans, depend for water and air purification, crop pollination, soil formation and many other services.

Fishes were not reassessed in 2010, but in 2005, 12% of fishes were ranked as either "at risk" or "may be at risk" when considering species with a known risk ranking. About 60% of all Canadian fish species are ranked as "undetermined" or "not assessed", most of these are marine species, reflecting how much we still need to learn about marine ecosystems.

General status of selected species per species group, 2010

Bar chart
Long description

The bar chart shows the proportion of species ranked "extinct or extirpated", "at risk", "may be at risk", "sensitive", "secure", "undetermined or not assessed" and "exotic" in the following species groups in Canada: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, freshwater mussels, vascular plants, mosses and lichens. Reptiles (43%), freshwater mussels (35%) and amphibians (20%) have the highest proportion of species ranked either "at risk" or "may be at risk". Arthropods (26%), Lichens (25%) and Mosses (23%) have the highest proportion of species ranked "undetermined or not assessed".

Data for this chart
General status of selected species per species group, 2010
Species group Extinct or Extirpated (number of species ranked) At risk (number of species ranked) May be at risk (number of species ranked) Sensitive (number of species ranked) Secure (number of species ranked) Undetermined or Not assessed (number of species ranked) Exotic (number of species ranked)
Lichens 1 5 100 68 468 218 1
Mosses 2 10 71 103 581 235 4
Vascular plants 25 136 444 484 2635 135 1252
Freshwater mussels 1 12 6 13 20 2 0
Arthropods* 1 9 162 198 2373 1012 145
Amphibians 1 9 0 6 31 0 0
Reptiles 3 17 0 10 13 1 2
Birds 4 37 12 49 344 4 11
Mammals 2 12 11 29 135 11 11

Note: The number of species in the chart represents the number of species assessed in Canada for that species group, excluding the “accidental” category (n=253 species).
* The arthropod group does not consider all species within that species group, which contains at least several tens of thousands of species. For all other species groups, all species found in Canada have been ranked.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 830 B)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The number of species in the chart represents the number of species assessed in Canada for that species group, excluding the “accidental” category (n=253 species).
* The arthropod group does not consider all species within that species group, which contains at least several tens of thousands of species. For all other species groups, all species found in Canada have been ranked.
Source: Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (2011) Wild Species 2010: The General Status of Species in Canada, National General Status Working Group.

Among the taxonomic groups that were included in previous Wild Species reports and reassessed in the 2010 report, the majority of reassessed species retained their status. Of 6697 reassessed species, 626 had a change in their national rank, mostly due to improved knowledge.

Theme III: Protecting Nature of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
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