COSEWIC wildlife species assessment: status assessment and designation

For each wildlife species considered at a Wildlife Species Assessment Meeting, COSEWIC considers each of five items sequentially to determine a Canadian status designation:

  1. Is the status report adequate and acceptable for assessment purposes?
  2. Is there sufficient information to determine eligibility?
    1. Is the Wildlife Species eligible for assessment? (assess as a single DU)
      or
    2. Are the proposed Designatable Units eligible for assessment and acceptable?
  3. What status is suggested by application of approved COSEWIC quantitative assessment criteria and guidelines (e.g. rescue effect)?
  4. Does the suggested status conform to the COSEWIC definition for the proposed status category?

Each of these steps is outlined below.

1. Is the status report adequate and acceptable for assessment purposes?

This is a preliminary high-level question about the general acceptability of the report: does it meet COSEWIC standards for quality? It is not meant to elicit discussion about eligibility of the Wildlife Species or proposed Designatable Unit structure, which occur during question 3. For most reports, there should be no discussion about the quality of the report given the various reviews that have already occurred; however, the appropriate SSC Co-chair or presenting alternative COSEWIC member should be prepared to answer this question. After discussion, Committee members may choose to let the report stand for status assessment or move that it be withdrawn for further work.

In general, assessment of a wildlife species is deferred if the Committee believes that the report has not included significant relevant, currently available knowledge, information or data; or does not present an adequate, clear, or objective analysis of the available information.

2. Is there sufficient information to determine eligibility?

The SSC Co-chair or presenting alternative COSEWIC member highlights features such as taxonomy and occurrence in Canada relevant to eligibility for COSEWIC assessment (see Table 1: Determining Eligibility for Status Assessment). There could be a brief discussion about the validity of the underlying taxon (i.e., first record in Canada, taxon described by Linneaus, etc.) but all within the context of whether COSEWIC has been given sufficient information to determine eligibility and if there is sufficient information to proceed to the next steps in the process. If it is apparent that there is insufficient information to determine eligibility for assessment, either the report will be rejected because available information is not included in the report, or a finding of Data Deficient will be considered when the relevant information is included in the report.

3. A) Is the wildlife species eligible for assessment? (assess as a single DU), or B) Are the proposed designatable units eligible for assessment, and acceptable?

Given a report of acceptable quality with sufficient information to determine eligibility, the SSC Co-chair or presenting alternative establishes the eligibility of the Wildlife Species or designatable unit below the species level for COSEWIC assessment. The simplest situation is for a single DU in Canada in that only the eligibility requirements outlined in Assessment Process, Categories, and Guidelines Table 1 need to be considered. If more than one DU is being proposed for assessment, then not only do the criteria in Assessment Process, Categories, and Guidelines need to be satisfied, but so too do the COSEWIC guidelines on Designatable Units. For some assessments, the DU structure may already have been approved by COSEWIC in a separate DU report; however, even if this is the case, any new information relevant to the determination and validity of the previously approved DUs should be presented to COSEWIC and discussed in the status report.

4. What status is suggested by application of approved COSEWIC quantitative assessment criteria and guidelines (e.g. rescue effect)?

Once the status report has been accepted, the Committee proceeds to discuss the appropriate status designation. As a first step in this deliberation, information in the status report is used to assess the wildlife species according to the quantitative COSEWIC criteria (Table 2).

Contextual considerations are then reviewed, and if thought to be significant, may be used to modify the initial quantitative assessment. Such considerations include rescue potential from outside of Canada, and other life-history characteristics that may not have been adequately assayed by the quantitative assessment (see Table 3: Guidelines for modifying status assessment based on rescue effect and Table 4: Policy for modifying status assessment based on quantitative criteria).

5. Does the suggested status conform to the COSEWIC definition for the proposed status category?

As a final step in the assessment process, the Committee considers all the information, analysis, and discussion presented at the meeting, and evaluates if the status category suggested by the application of the criteria and guidelines is consistent with the definition of the status category used by COSEWIC (Table 5). If there is inconsistency, the status representing the most appropriate definition will take precedence, and any variance between the status definition and the quantitative criteria will be explained.

About us

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is an independent advisory panel to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada that meets twice a year to assess the status of wildlife species at risk of extinction. Members are wildlife biology experts from academia, government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector responsible for designating wildlife species in danger of disappearing from Canada.

COSEWIC secretariat

Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 St. Joseph Blvd, 16th floor
Gatineau QC K1A 0H3

Telephone: 819-938-4125
Fax: 819-938-3984
Email: ec.cosepac-cosewic.ec@canada.ca