Canada’s vast landmass and marine areas are home to a wide range of wildlife such as the barren-ground caribou and the Atlantic walrus. However, the habitats of many wildlife habitats, both on land and sea, are under increasing threat from human actions. As a result, the number of endangered species in Canada has rapidly increased in recent years.

Knowing what species are under threat is vital for their protection and in this article, we have collated statistics on wildlife protection in Canada such as how many of around 80,000 species native to Canada are threatened. You will also find information on what steps Canada has taken to protect its wildlife and how each individual can help conservation efforts.

Wildlife Conservation Statistics for Canadians

  • Almost 70% of Canada’s over 80,000 classified wildlife species belong to the animal kingdom.
  • Over half of Canada’s landmass has not been used for human development.
  • There are around 55,000 identified invertebrate species in Canada.
  • Over 800 species in Canada are considered at risk of becoming extinct.
  • A quarter of species at risk of extirpation or extinction are vascular plants.
  • Over 30 Canadian species have become extinct or extirpated since the arrival of European settlers in the 16th century.
  • There are over 1,400 invasive species in Canada brought to the country intentionally or by accident that threaten some native species’ existence.
  • Over 20% of Canada’s landmass and water areas are either protected or conservation areas.

What Are the Different Species Statuses?

Species are listed under different statuses ranging from not at risk to extinct. The different statuses are:

  • Not at-risk – species that are not threatened in any way under current circumstances.
  • Special concern – species may become endangered or threatened because of identified threats combined with their biological characteristics.
  • Threatened – species that are at risk of becoming endangered if not protected.
  • Endangered – the species is under imminent threat of extinction or extirpation.
  • Extirpated – the species no longer exists in its natural environment in Canada but is still found elsewhere.
  • Extinct – species no longer exists in its natural environment or elsewhere.

Canada Has Over 80,000 Wildlife Species

Canada is an extremely biodiverse country with over 80,000 species that have been classified and scientists believe there is an equal number of wildlife species that have not yet been recognised.

The wildlife in Canada comes from five kingdoms, with animals representing 68% of all identified flora and fauna. Almost 70% of all animal species found in Canada are insects. There are over 300 animal species that exist only in Canada. Plants represent 11%, fungi 16%, chromists 4%, and protozoa 1% of all recorded species in Canada.

Canada has twenty major ecozones or ecosystems. Fifteen of them are terrestrial ecozones and five are marine ecozones. The major biomes are temperate deciduous forest, grassland, boreal forest, and tundra. About half of Canada’s land area is covered by forests and approximately 8% of the forested land in the world is in Canada.

Fauna and Flora in Canada

The large majority of Canada’s animal species are invertebrates with over 55,000 species. 11,000 are species of spiders and mites. There are 1389 species of fish and the majority of them, 1178 species, are marine fish. Canada has 215 known mammal species, around 460 bird species, 49 native reptile species, and 47 native amphibian species.

Around 17,000 species of flora have been identified in Canada, including flowers, trees, herbs, mosses, and ferns. A vast majority of Canada’s vascular plants (plants that have a system of veins to conduct nutrients and water throughout the plant) are flowering plants at 95%.

Ontario Has the Most Diverse Wildlife

25,776 different wildlife species are found in Ontario, making the province the most biodiverse region in Canada. The fewest species are found in Nunavut, where the challenging environment limits the number and plants that can survive there. There are 3,560 plant and animal species found in Nunavut.

  • Ontario 25,776
  • British Columbia 24,539
  • Quebec 21,933
  • Alberta 17,523
  • Manitoba 15,522
  • Nova Scotia 13,604
  • New Brunswick 13,462
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 13,447
  • Saskatchewan 12,511
  • Yukon 7,880
  • Northwest Territories 7,817
  • Prince Edward Island 5,641
  • Nunavut 3,560

Over 50% of Canada’s Landscape is Largely Free of Human Development

Much of Canada’s landscape has not been disturbed by human development. There are around 300,000 square kilometres of forest in Canada that have no industry, roads, or cities. This is the largest area of intact forest in the world.

There are over 2,000,000 lakes in Canada and 563 of them have areas larger than 100 square kilometres. Canada also has 134.6 million hectares of wetlands, representing approximately 25% of all wetlands in the world. These wetlands support a wide range of local ecosystems.

Canada Has Over 800 Species at Risk

Canada has a federal government legislation known as Species at Risk (SARA) aimed to prevent the extinction of wildlife species. Its goal is to protect the organisms under threat and their habitats. In addition, provinces and territories have their own conservation regulations.

Compared to many other countries, Canada has a low percentage of species at risk. However, many species are threatened by pollution, over-exploitation, loss of biodiversity, habitat loss, and the arrival of invasive foreign species.

Over 800 species in Canada are considered at risk of extinction. 363 species are classified as endangered, 190 as threatened, 235 as causing special concern, and 22 are extirpated. Species that are at risk of extinction in Canada include polar bear, lynx, sea otter, black-footed ferret, hooded seal, whooping crane, and sei whale.

At Least 19 Species Have Become Extinct in Canada

Since the European settlers arrived in Canada in the 16th century at least 19 species native to Canada have become completely extinct. When added to the 22 species that are extirpated, it means that 31 species have completely disappeared since the 16th century. Species that have become extinct include the Dawson’s caribou, Labrador duck, deepwater cisco, Banff longnose dace, and sea mink.

The Number of Endangered Species Has Risen Fast Since the 1970s

In 1978, there were only 17 species in Canada that were classified as being at risk of extinction. Since then, the number has increased incredibly fast, reaching 841 in 2022. This is partly due to the faster loss of habitat but also because each time the Wild Species report is published, more species are included in the report. For example, in 2010, the report included 11,950 species compared to 50,543 species in 2020.

As the number of at-risk species has grown, the proportion of secure species has fallen from 59% in 2000 to just 39% in 2020. Between 1970 and 2016, the populations of at-risk species fell on average by 59%.

A Quarter of Endangered Species in Canada Are Vascular Plants

Vascular plants form the biggest group of endangered species in Canada. Out of the 841 species that are at serious risk, 214 are vascular plants. Freshwater and marine fish form the next biggest groups with 109 and 102, respectively. 92 species of birds and 79 species of arthropods are at risk.

The list also includes 50 reptiles, 45 molluscs, 43 terrestrial mammals, 36 marine mammals, 28 amphibians, 22 lichens, and 21 mosses.

Invasive Species in Canada

One of the threats to native Canadian species is species that have been brought to Canada either intentionally or by accident. There are over 1,400 invasive species which include invertebrates, fish, insects, and plants.

In Canada, over 450 invasive species of flora and 400 invasive species of insects have been identified. The region of the Great Lakes is one of the most affected ecosystems in Canada with almost 200 invasive species. Freshwater ecosystems in Canada are more imperiled by invasive species than terrestrial ecosystems.

Conservation Areas in Canada

While conservationists would like to see far more done to protect Canadian wildlife, there were significant improvements made in the 21st century. Marine areas that are conserved or protected increased by 3,800% during the century and terrestrial conservation areas increased by 65%.

8.9% of the waters belonging to Canada are protected areas and 13.8% are conservation areas. 11.4% of the country’s landmass is protected and 12.1% is designated as conservation areas. There are different mandates for protected and conservation areas depending on who manages the area. For example, some will have a greater focus on historical preservation or scientific research while others may focus on ecological integrity or public usage.

National Parks in Canada

Canada’s national parks play an important role in conserving wildlife native to Canada. There are eighteen UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Canada that cover 235,000 square kilometres in total.

Banff National Park was the first national park in Canada and it was established in 1885. It covers 6,641 square kilometres of mountainous terrain that includes many ice fields and glaciers. The oldest provincial park in Canada is Algonquin Provincial Park, which was established in 1893 and has an area of 7,653.45 square kilometres. There are 2,400 lakes within the park as well as 1,200 kilometers of rivers and streams.

The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area covers approximately 10,000 square kilometres and is the largest protected freshwater area in the world. The largest national wildlife area in Canada is the Scott Islands Marine National Wildlife Area, which protects vital nesting and breeding habitat for more than 40% of seabirds in British Columbia and covers 11,570.65 square kilometres.

How is Canada Protecting Its Wildlife?

Other than establishing conservation areas, Environment Canada has enforcement officers who help protect Canada’s wildlife. For example, they work to protect animal and plant species that are threatened by actions such as illegally importing or exporting wildlife, poaching migratory birds, killing or trafficking endangered species, and activities that are harmful to protected habitats or species.

The enforcement officers from Environment Canada also enforce laws regarding toxic substances including their use and release into the environment and laws governing importing and exporting hazardous substances.

How Can Individuals Support Wildlife Conservation?

There are several things individuals can do to protect wildlife in Canada. For example, you can start in your garden and plant native species that provide food sources for Canada’s wild animals. You can also let your lawn get a little wild as manicured lawns do not offer much support or food for animal life. In addition, you can install bird baths and feeders to attract birds into your garden.

Another easy way to protect wildlife is to recycle. Disposing of litter properly and recycling as much as possible will prevent it from ending in nature where animals can get trapped in it or digest it.

While people have differing opinions about zoos, many of them have wildlife conservation programs. You can find out if your local zoo has a conservation program and donate towards their work or you can volunteer your time instead of financial donations. Another option is to adopt an animal and your donations will go towards improving habitats, monitoring, and research.

You can conserve wildlife in Canada by avoiding harmful chemicals, which can be toxic to, for example, butterflies and bees. Fertilizers also often find their way into our water sources where they can cause harmful algae growth or poison the aquatic life.

Finally, if you enjoy spending your time in nature and observing plants and animals, you can become a citizen scientist. Researchers often need help gathering wildlife counts, for example, birds, butterflies, or bees.

Conclusion

An increasing number of wildlife species are at risk of becoming endangered and it is every Canadian’s responsibility to support conservation efforts. There are over 800 species native to Canada that are at risk, a huge increase from just 17 species in 1978. Easy ways to support wildlife in Canada are to avoid littering and using substances harmful to wildlife and planting native species in your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, there are 841 species in Canada that are at risk of becoming extinct or extirpated. So far 19 species that were native to Canada have become extinct and 22 are extirpated.

There are several reasons why some plant and animal species become endangered. These include pollution, loss of habitat, and invasive species.

As well as establishing conservation and protected areas, Environment Canada also enforces laws that aim to preserve wildlife, for example, laws on trading endangered species, poaching migratory birds, or polluting waterways.

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