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 there sufficient information presented in the report to determine wildlife species eligibility?
  2. Given sufficient information, is the wildlife species eligible for assessment?
  3. Is the status report adequate and acceptable for assessment purposes?
  4. What status is suggested by application of approved COSEWIC quantitative assessment criteria and guidelines (e.g. rescue effect)?
  5. Does the suggested status conform to the COSEWIC definition for the proposed status category?

Each of these steps is outlined below.

1. Is there sufficient information presented in the report to determine wildlife species eligibility?

The Species Specialist Subcommittees (SSC) Co-chair introduces the wildlife species highlighting features such as taxonomy and occurrence in Canada relevant to eligibility for COSEWIC assessment. 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 because the relevant information is included in the report.

2. Given sufficient information, is the wildlife species eligible for assessment?

Given sufficient information, the SSC Co-chair establishes eligibility for COSEWIC wildlife species assessment (Table 1). If the proposed designation is for a designatable unit(s) below the species level, a justification for this is presented following the COSEWIC Designatable Units Guidelines.

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

Once it has been determined that the wildlife species is eligible for assessment, the appropriate SSC Co-chair or presenting alternative COSEWIC member then briefly reviews the status report, summarizes the discussion of the SSC, presents the results of the straw ballots, and then presents the rationale for the status assessment recommended by the SSC. After discussion, Committee members may choose to let the report stand for status assessment or move that it be withdrawn for further work.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.

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

Latest News

COSEWIC press release: May 2019

ST. JOHN'S, May 6, 2019 /CNW/ - Canada's marine protected areas are more important than ever. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has just assessed three whales, including two of the world's largest, as under threat in Canadian waters.


Assessment results (May 2019 COSEWIC wildlife species assessment meeting)

Twice per year, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) meets to discuss and evaluate the status of Canadian wildlife species. Here you will find the List of Wildlife Species scheduled for the next COSEWIC Wildlife Species Assessment Meeting, the results of wildlife species assessment meeting, and the updated COSEWIC Canadian Wildlife Species at Risk Publication.