Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) select populations COSEWIC assessment and status report 2016: chapter 2

Technical summary - Nova Scotia population

Scientific name:
Emydoidea blandingii
English name:
Blanding’s Turtle, Nova Scotia population
French name:
Tortue mouchetée, Population de la Nouvelle-Écosse
Range of occurrence in Canada (province/territory/ocean):
Nova Scotia

Demographic information

Demographic Information
Summary items Information
Generation time = Age of first reproduction + 1/adult mortality (IUCN 2014 guidelines). Mean Generation Time = 40 years (range 37-42 yrs)­
See ‘Biology – Life Cycle and Reproduction – Longevity and Development’.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in number of mature individuals? Yes, inferred and projected in two (NS1 and NS3) of seven subpopulations that are estimated to comprise 40-55% of the total population. See ‘Population Sizes and Trends – Fluctuations and Trends’.
Estimated percent of continuing decline in total number of mature individuals within [5 years or 2 generations] An average ~ 50% decline of mature individuals in NS1 subpopulation over the next 2 generations (~84 yrs) See ‘Population Sizes and Trends – Fluctuations and Trends’.
[Observed, estimated, inferred, or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over the last [10 years, or 3 generations]. It is difficult to assess trends over the last 3 generations given that the Blanding’s Turtle was only discovered in the province in 1952. However, since 1952 (~1.5 generations ago) at least 10% of the estimated number of adults have been lost from the NS1 subpopulation (representing an estimated 10-20% decline in the total female subpopulation). See ‘Population Sizes and Trends – Fluctuations and Trends’.
[Projected or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over the next [10 years, or 3 generations]. An average projected ~-68% decline of mature individuals in the NS1 subpopulation over the next 100 years (2.5 generations) with no intervention. See ‘Population Sizes and Trends – Fluctuations and Trends’.
[Observed, estimated, inferred, or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over any [10 years, or 3 generations] period, over a time period including both the past and the future. Not known.

Are the causes of the decline:

  1. clearly reversible and
  2. understood and
  3. ceased?
  1. No.
  2. Partially.
  3. Although historical collection for museum specimens has ceased, several other causes of decline continue.
Are there extreme fluctuations in number of mature individuals? No.

Extent and occupancy information

Extent and Occupancy Information
Summary items Information
Estimated extent of occurrence 1354 km2
Index of area of occupancy (IAO)
(Always report 2x2 grid value).
392 km2 (based on 98 grids)

Is the population “severely fragmented” i.e., is >50% of its total area of occupancy in habitat patches that are:

  1. smaller than would be required to support a viable population, and
  2. separated from other habitat patches by a distance larger than the species can be expected to disperse?
  1. No.
  2. No.

It is likely that all subpopulations contain sufficient habitat to support a viable subpopulation. Genetic variation within subpopulations is likely maintained by low levels of gene flow (Toews 2004). Subpopulations are only separated by 15-32 km, distances that are within the potential travel range of individual turtles (Power 1989; Mockford et al. 2005).

Number of “locations”
See Definitions and Abbreviations on COSEWIC website and IUCN (Feb 2014) for more information on this term.
(use plausible range to reflect uncertainty if appropriate)
3-5 locations. Over 98% of known turtles exist at 4 sites.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in extent of occurrence? Unknown. No observed decline in extent of occurrence at known subpopulations but researchers are still trying to determine the full extent of the range in NS.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in index of area of occupancy? Yes, inferred and projected. Three subpopulations appear to contain only 3-8 adults, and may be unable to persist at these sites.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in number of subpopulations? Yes, inferred and projected. Based on very small numbers of individuals for three subpopulations and based on PVA models that suggest at least two of the three large subpopulations are at significant risk of decline and eventual extinction. See ‘Population Sizes and Trends – Fluctuations and Trends’.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in number of “locations”?
See Definitions and Abbreviations on COSEWIC website and IUCN (Feb 2014) for more information on this term.
Yes, projected. One site is composed of only one small subpopulation (3 mature individuals) which occurs within a different watershed than the other subpopulations.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in [area, extent and/or quality] of habitat? Yes, observed and inferred decline in habitat area/quality at some sites because of cottage and residential development, roads, water level manipulation, forestry and agricultural practices.
Are there extreme fluctuations in number of subpopulations? No.
Are there extreme fluctuations in number of “locations”?
See Definitions and Abbreviations on COSEWIC website and IUCN (Feb 2014) for more information on this term.
No.
Are there extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence? No.
Are there extreme fluctuations in index of area of occupancy? No.

Number of mature individuals (in each subpopulation)

Number of Mature Individuals (in each subpopulation)
Subpopulations (give plausible ranges) N Mature Individuals
Nova Scotia 1 131 (129-134)
Nova Scotia 2 79 (60-116)
Nova Scotia 3 (including BA-KB) 118 (106-139)
Nova Scotia 4*
(may be part of NS2 but not included in NS2 estimate)
8
Nova Scotia 5* 3
Nova Scotia 6* 3
Nova Scotia 7** 31+
Total 373 (340-434)

* Small concentration of individuals that may or may not be a part of one of the three main subpopulations (NS1-NS3)

**Subpopulation just discovered in April 2016; 31 adults marked in 2 months so likely much larger.

Quantitative analysis

Quantitative Analysis
Summary items Information
Probability of extinction in the wild is at least [20% within 20 years or 5 generations, or 10% within 100 years]. Probability of extinction was not calculated for the 100 year timeframe because individuals can live nearly that long. Probability of decline for NS1 subpopulation is 73% over 100 years and risk of extinction is 42% over 400 years (Green and McNeil 2014). Probability of decline for NS2 subpopulation is 44% over 100 years (Bourque et al. 2006).

Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats, from highest impact to least)

Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats, from highest impact to least)
Summary items Information

Calculated overall threats impact High (high range) and High (low range).

Nest predation and predation of juveniles by “subsidized” predators;

On- and off-road vehicle mortality, which is likely to increase with increasing residential and cottage development and industrial practices;

Habitat destruction and disturbance due to residential and cottage development, mining, forestry and agriculture, which can result in habitat fragmentation as well as the creation of sites that attract turtles for nesting (e.g., roads, trails, quarries) but put them at increased risk of mortality, collection and/or nest failure;

Collection for the pet, food and traditional medicine trades;

Water level alteration from damming or the removal of Beaver dams;

Introduction of exotic predatory fish such as Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) and Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) and potentially the invasive European Reed (Phragmites a. australis).

Climate change resulting in changes to water regimes or temperatures in an already thermally constrained environment;

Pollution of wetlands.

These are exacerbated by:

Small population size, which increases vulnerability to genetic drift and environmental stochasticity;

Long-lived life history (i.e., very late age of maturity, great longevity, low annual reproductive output, limited juvenile recruitment, dependency on high adult survival) which makes species highly vulnerable to even small (<5%) chronic increases in adult mortality. Given its extensively late maturity, Blanding’s Turtle is much more susceptible to chronic or acute additive increases in adult mortality than other Canadian turtles;

Reduced hatching success due to shortened active season (low heat units for egg incubation) at the northern periphery of the range;

A high sensitivity to habitat fragmentation given that subpopulation persistence requires adults to engage in long-distance inter-wetland movements, to prevent loss of genetic diversity within residence wetlands.

Was a threats calculator completed for this species and if so, by whom? Yes.
Nova Scotia recovery team members: Diane Clapp, Harold Clapp, Megan Crowley, Mark Elderkin, Colin Gray, Norm Green, Sue Green, Tom Herman, Sarah Jeremy, Shalan Joudry, Chris McCarthy, Julie McKnight, Jeffie McNeil (also status report writer), Sally O’Grady, Bradley Toms, Sarah Walton. COSEWIC Amphibians and Reptiles SSC: Jim Bogart (co-chair). Facilitator: Dave Fraser (COSEWIC). COSEWIC secretariat: Bev McBride (see ‘Appendix 2a. Threats Calculator’).

Rescue effect (immigration from outside Canada)

Rescue Effect (immigration from outside Canada)
Summary items Information
Status of outside population(s) most likely to provide immigrants to Canada. Not applicable because the DU is endemic to Canada.
Is immigration known or possible? No.
Would immigrants be adapted to survive in Canada? NA
Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in Canada? NA
Are conditions deteriorating in Canada?
See Table 3 (Guidelines for modifying status assessment based on rescue effect).
NA
Are conditions for the source population deteriorating?
See Table 3 (Guidelines for modifying status assessment based on rescue effect).
NA
Is the Canadian population considered to be a sink?
See Table 3 (Guidelines for modifying status assessment based on rescue effect).
NA
Is rescue from outside populations likely? Not applicable because the DU is endemic to Canada.

Data sensitive species

Data Sensitive Species
Summary items Information
Is this a data sensitive species? Yes.

Status history

Status History
Summary items Information
COSEWIC Status History Designated Threatened in April 1993.
Status re-examined and designated Endangered in May 2005 and November 2016.

Status and reasons for designation

Status and Reasons for Designation
Summary items Information
Status: Endangered
Reasons for designation The current population size is < 500 mature individuals. The three main subpopulations are genetically distinct from each other and from other populations in Québec, Ontario, and the United States. Although the largest subpopulation occurs in a protected area, its numbers are still declining, possibly still showing the effects of historical mortality that took place 30-60 years ago. The other subpopulations are susceptible to increasing habitat degradation from forestry activities, recreation, water-level manipulation, and cottage development. Two subpopulations are very small (< 5 adults) and may not be viable. Threats across the range include increased pressure from predators, mortality from on- and off-road vehicles, vulnerability to collection, potential impacts of exotic predatory fishes, and the effects of climate change.

Applicability of criteria

Applicability of criteria
Summary items Information
Criterion A May meet Endangered A3 (c) and A4 (c) based on models that project a reduction of > 50% of mature individuals within 100 years. Continued recovery efforts may, however, reduce the expected decline.
Criterion B Meets Endangered B1 (EOO is 1,354 km2 (<5,000) and B2 (IAO is 392 km2 (<500) and (a) 5 locations and (b) continuing decline in index of area of occupancy (ii) (inferred and projected), area/quality of habitat (iii) (observed and inferred), number of subpopulations (inferred and projected) and locations (projected) (iv), and number of mature individuals (v) (inferred and projected).
Criterion C Meets C (<2,500 individuals) and Endangered C2a(i) - no subpopulation contains more than 250 mature individuals.
Criterion D Not applicable.
Criterion E Not completed.

Technical summary - Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population

Scientific name:
Emydoidea blandingii
English name:
Blanding’s Turtle, Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population
French name:
Tortue mouchetée, Population des Grands Lacs et du Saint-Laurent
Range of occurrence in Canada (province/territory/ocean):
Ontario, Quebec

Demographic information

Demographic Information
Summary items Information
Generation time = Age of first reproduction + 1/adult mortality (IUCN 2014 guidelines). Mean Generation Time = 40 years (range 37-42 yrs).
See ‘Biology – Life Cycle and Reproduction –Longevity and Development’.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in number of mature individuals? Yes, observed, inferred and projected. Observed and inferred declines for monitored subpopulations in Ontario of 50-95% over the last 10-30 years (< 1 generation) and high annual adult road mortality rates of 6-23% (see Table 2). See below for projected declines.
Estimated percent of continuing decline in total number of mature individuals within [5 years or 2 generations]. > 40% projected decline within 2 generations (~80 years) based on observed and inferred declines for monitored subpopulations in Ontario of 50-95% over the last 10-30 years (< 1 generation) and high annual adult road mortality rates of 6-23% (see Table 2 and Appendix 3).
[Observed, estimated, inferred, or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over the last [10 years, or 3 generations]. Estimated > 60% decline over the last 3 generations due to large-scale wetland loss (see ‘Habitat Trends’ and Appendix 1), and high annual adult road mortality rates of 6-23% (see Table 2).
[Projected or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over the next [10 years, or 3 generations]. Projected > 50% decline over the next 3 generations (~120 years) based on observed declines for monitored subpopulations in Ontario of 50-95% over the last 10-30 years (< 1 generation) and high annual adult road mortality rates of 6-23% (see Table 2 and Appendix 3).
[Observed, estimated, inferred, or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over any [10 years, or 3 generations] period, over a time period including both the past and the future. Estimated > 60% decline over the 3 generation period between the mid-1800s to mid-1900s when > 70% of pre-settlement wetlands were drained (see ‘Habitat Trends’ and Appendix 1).

Are the causes of the decline

  1. clearly reversible and
  2. understood and
  3. ceased?
  1. No.
  2. Partially.
  3. No.
Are there extreme fluctuations in number of mature individuals? No.

Extent and occupancy information

Extent and Occupancy Information
Summary items Information
Estimated extent of occurrence > 400,000 km2 if isolated sightings are included but almost the entire population occurs within ~222,000 km2
Index of area of occupancy (IAO)
(Always report 2x2 grid value).
> 9900 km2 (based on 2475 grids)

Is the population “severely fragmented” i.e., is >50% of its total area of occupancy in habitat patches that are:

  1. smaller than would be required to support a viable population, and
  2. separated from other habitat patches by a distance larger than the species can be expected to disperse?
  1. Unlikely that > 50% of total area of occupancy meets this criterion.
  2. Unknown if > 50% of total area of occupancy meets this criterion.

If the southwestern Ontario population were considered separately, it would meet these criteria.

Number of “locations”
See Definitions and Abbreviations on COSEWIC website and IUCN (Feb 2014) for more information on this term.
(use plausible range to reflect uncertainty if appropriate)
Likely 50 - 100.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in extent of occurrence? No.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in index of area of occupancy?

Yes,

inferred. Few to no individuals have been found over the last few years at some sites where the species was once commonly observed as recently as the 1990s to early 2000s (see Table 2).

Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in number of subpopulations? Yes, projected.
At some monitored sites, observations or capture rates have declined by 50-95% in <1 generation and high annual losses of adults have been reported from across the Ontario range (see Table 2). Two Ontario subpopulations have experienced mass mortality events (see ‘Biology - Mortality’).
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in number of “locations”?
See Definitions and Abbreviations on COSEWIC website and IUCN (Feb 2014) for more information on this term.
Yes, inferred and projected decline based on the high degree of habitat loss and development in areas south of the Canadian Shield.
Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] decline in [area, extent and/or quality] of habitat? Yes, observed, inferred and projected (see ‘Threats and Limiting Factors’). Several road, residential, wind energy and mining developments are currently occurring or proposed within Blanding’s Turtle habitat throughout the Ontario range. they do not curb the overall loss of tens to hundreds of hectares of habitat per development project. A net loss of habitat is continuing even with the protections afforded by the ESA (see ‘Protection, Status and Ranks – Legal Protection and Status – Ontario). The invasive European Reed is projected to cause a 11-70% decline in Blanding’s Turtle habitat across the GLSL range over the next three generations. Climate change is expected to greatly reduce the amount of suitable habitat for Blanding’s Turtles in southwestern Ontario by 2080.
Are there extreme fluctuations in number of subpopulations? No.
Are there extreme fluctuations in number of “locations”?
See Definitions and Abbreviations on COSEWIC website and IUCN (Feb 2014) for more information on this term.
No.
Are there extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence? No.
Are there extreme fluctuations in index of area of occupancy? No.

Number of mature individuals (in each subpopulation)

Number of Mature Individuals (in each subpopulation)
Subpopulations N Mature Individuals
Southwestern Ontario 1 ~ 690
Schnabel Method (modified closed-capture model)
Southwestern Ontario 2 818
(based on an estimated 341 adult females (± 214) and an average sex ratio of 1.4 M:1 F).
Jolly-Seber method in program JOLLY.
Southwestern Ontario 3 ~ 138
Lincoln Index
Southwestern Ontario 4 82 adults found*
Southwestern Ontario 5 5 adults found*
Southeastern Ontario 1 26 adults found*
Southeastern Ontario 2 99 (95% CI: 89-124)
Southeastern Ontario 3 114 (95% CI: 103-136)
Southeastern Ontario 4 85 (95% CI: 53-206)
Schnabel Method (modified closed-capture model)
Southcentral Ontario 1 41 (95% CI: 39-50)
Southcentral Ontario 2 19 adults found*
Southcentral Ontario 3 ~ 57
Lincoln Peterson
Southcentral Ontario 4 102 adults found*
Outaouais region, Québec 188 adults found*
# of estimated/known adults within sampled subpopulations < 3000
Estimated total Great Lakes/St. Lawrence adult population size† < 50,000

* Based on high sampling efforts (see Table 1) † based on average subpopulation estimates/region multiplied by number of atlas squares/region (see ‘Population Sizes and Trends – Abundance’).

Based on average subpopulation estimates/region multiplied by number of atlas squares/region (see ‘Population Sizes and Trends – Abundance’).

Quantitative analysis

Quantitative Analysis
Summary items Information
Probability of extinction in the wild is at least [20% within 20 years or 5 generations, or 10% within 100 years]. Not Done

Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats, from highest impact to least)

Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats, from highest impact to least)
Summary items Information
Calculated overall threats impact Very High (high range) and High (low range).
  1. Road and rail mortality and associated road effects;
  2. Habitat loss and degradation from invasive European Reed (Phragmites a. australis), development (including residential, cottage, road, commercial, mining and energy production) and wetland modifications (including Beaver dam removals and waterfowl habitat creation);
  3. Collection for the pet, food and traditional medicine trades;
  4. Increased predation of nests and juveniles by higher numbers of “subsidized predators”;
  5. Mortality of individuals from human activities and intrusions (including agricultural, forestry, energy production and mining activities; boat and ATV collisions);
  6. Pollution of wetlands (from agriculture, mining and forestry); and
  7. Predicted habitat loss due to climate change.

These are exacerbated by:

  • Small subpopulation sizes, which increases vulnerability to genetic drift and environmental stochasticity;
  • Long-lived life history (i.e., very late age of maturity, great longevity, low annual reproductive output, limited juvenile recruitment, dependency on high adult survival) which makes the species highly vulnerable to even small (<5%) chronic increases in adult mortality. Given its extensively late maturity, Blanding’s Turtle is much more susceptible to chronic increases in adult mortality than other Canadian turtles;
  • Reduced hatching success due to shortened active season (low heat units for egg incubation) at the northern periphery of the range;
  • A high sensitivity to habitat fragmentation given that subpopulation persistence requires adults to engage in long-distance inter-wetland movements, to prevent loss of genetic diversity within residence wetlands.
Was a threats calculator completed for this species and if so, by whom?

Yes.

Status report authors: Teresa Piraino, Jeffie McNeil; MMFP QC: Yohann Dubois, Daniel Toussaint; OMNR: Graham Cameron, Joe Crowley (also AR SSC), Colin Jones; CWS QR: Gabrielle Fortin; COSEWIC Amphibians and Reptiles SSC: Jim Bogart (co-chair), Ron Brooks, Jackie Litzgus, Dennis Murray; Other experts: Scott Gillingwater, Christina Davy; Facilitator: Dave Fraser (COSEWIC); COSEWIC secretariat: Bev McBride (See ‘Appendix 2b. Threats Calculator’).

Rescue effect (immigration from outside Canada)

Rescue Effect (immigration from outside Canada)
Summary items Information
Status of outside population(s) most likely to provide immigrants to Canada. S2-S3 in all adjacent U.S.A. states (see Table 3).
Is immigration known or possible? Immigration is not known but there may be very limited potential for some immigration to occur (see Rescue Effect).
Would immigrants be adapted to survive in Canada? Yes.
Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in Canada? Not in southwestern Ontario but perhaps in southcentral and southeastern Ontario and Québec.
Are conditions deteriorating in Canada?
See Table 3 (Guidelines for modifying status assessment based on rescue effect).
Yes.
Are conditions for the source population deteriorating?
See Table 3 (Guidelines for modifying status assessment based on rescue effect).
Likely.
Is the Canadian population considered to be a sink?
See Table 3 (Guidelines for modifying status assessment based on rescue effect).
Unknown.
Is rescue from outside populations likely? Highly unlikely (see Rescue Effect).

Data sensitive species

Data Sensitive Species
Summary items Information
Is this a data sensitive species? Yes.

Status history

Status History
Summary items Information
COSEWIC Status History Designated Threatened in May 2005.
Status re-examined and designated Endangered in November 2016.

Status and reasons for designation

Status and Reasons for Designation
Summary items Information
Status: Endangered
Final criteria: A2bcde+3cde+4bcde
Reasons for designation: This population, although widespread, is declining because of several observed, inferred, and projected threats. The most serious threats include: road and rail mortality; illegal collection for the pet, food and traditional medicine trades; habitat loss due to invasive European Common Reed; development and wetland alterations; and, increasing numbers of predators. Quantitative analyses estimate that the total number of mature individuals in this population has declined > 60% over the last three generations (due to large-scale wetland drainage after European arrival) and will decline 50% over the next three generations because of road mortality alone.

Applicability of criteria

Applicability of Criteria
Summary items Information
Criterion A Meets Endangered A2bcde based on loss of 60% of habitat over last 3 generations plus observed and inferred decline for monitored subpopulations in ON, and Endangered A3cde based on a continued decline (observed and inferred) in the past and projected into the future for 100 years (< 3 generations). Decline is estimated to be > 50% based on direct observation (a) and decline in the quality of habitat (c), exploitation (d) and the effects of invasive European Common Reed (e). Also meets Endangered A4bcde based on combined rationales for A2 and A3.
Criterion B Does not meet criteria: Both EOO (400,000 km2) and IAO (9,900 km2) are above criteria and there are 50 to 100 locations.
Criterion C Does not meet criteria for Endangered. Meets Threatened C2a(i) – no subpopulation estimated to contain > 1000 individuals.
Criterion D Does not meet criteria.
Criterion E Not done.

Preface

Research and stewardship activities have continued for the Nova Scotia population since the 2005 COSEWIC assessment, resulting in increased knowledge of distribution, population size, genetic structure, age-specific survivorship and habitat use. Ongoing research activities focus on searching for new subpopulations, identifying seasonal habitat sites and monitoring known subpopulations. Recovery activities include the continuation of an annual nest protection program, the release of headstarted turtles and the engagement of local volunteers and landowners. Since the last status assessment, four new subpopulations of Blanding’s Turtles have been identified and six parcels of habitat have been protected by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust (Porter pers. comm. 2014). One parcel of habitat has been purchased by the Province of Nova Scotia; it and several additional areas of important habitat on provincial crown lands are being considered for protection under the provincial protected areas program (Province of Nova Scotia 2013). The federal Recovery Strategy for Blanding’s Turtle, Nova Scotia population was published in 2012 (Parks Canada 2012) and a draft Action Plan is currently being developed. The Recovery Strategy partially identified critical habitat for the species.

Since the last status assessment, much research has been conducted on the Blanding’s Turtle, Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population. This research has included radio-telemetry of adults, hatchlings and headstarted juveniles; subpopulation monitoring at 13 sites in Ontario and two in Québec (with 2-21 years of sampling efforts conducted at each site); a province-wide genetic study in Ontario and large search efforts in Québec. All of this research has greatly increased our knowledge of distribution, habitat requirements, home range sizes, demography, local abundances, and threats to Blanding’s Turtles. Despite large sampling efforts, most monitored subpopulations appear to maintain low numbers of Blanding’s Turtles, even in areas that have abundant habitat and high densities of other wetland turtle species. Most importantly, long-term population monitoring efforts across Ontario have revealed large declines and high annual mortality rates of adults, even within protected areas, and there are many sites where the species used to be commonly observed but is no longer or rarely seen. Habitat loss is continuing across the region due to invasive species, various types of development and wetland alterations. A proposed federal Recovery Strategy for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population was posted for review in March 2016 (Environment Canada 2016) and a recovery strategy has been posted under the Ontario Endangered Species Act (ESA) (Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in Ontario (PDF version; 581 KB)).

COSEWIC history

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) was created in 1977 as a result of a recommendation at the Federal-Provincial Wildlife Conference held in 1976. It arose from the need for a single, official, scientifically sound, national listing of wildlife species at risk. In 1978, COSEWIC designated its first species and produced its first list of Canadian species at risk. Species designated at meetings of the full committee are added to the list. On June 5, 2003, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed. SARA establishes COSEWIC as an advisory body ensuring that species will continue to be assessed under a rigorous and independent scientific process.

COSEWIC mandate

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses the national status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other designatable units that are considered to be at risk in Canada. Designations are made on native species for the following taxonomic groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, arthropods, molluscs, vascular plants, mosses, and lichens.

COSEWIC membership

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 subcommittee. The Committee meets to consider status reports on candidate species.

Definitions (2016)

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 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 extinction.
Threatened (T)
A wildlife species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
Special concern (SC)
(Note: Formerly described as “Vulnerable” from 1990 to 1999, or “Rare” prior to 1990.)
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)
(Note: Formerly described as “Not in any category”, or “No designation required.”)
A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances.
Data deficient (DD)
(Note: Formerly described as “Indeterminate” from 1994 to 1999 or “ISIBD” [insufficient scientific information on which to base a designation] prior to 1994. Definition of the [DD] category revised in 2006.)
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 extinction.

The Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, provides full administrative and financial support to the COSEWIC Secretariat.

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