Once common, now disappearing: Wood Turtle and Olive-sided Flycatcher focus attention on Species at Risk.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) met in Ottawa, Ontario, November 28-30, 2007 where the conservation status of 15 species wasassessed. This is the 30th year of work by the Committee.

Stomping Turtle in trouble

Wood Turtles can live for several decades along forested creeks and rivers from the Maritimes west to Ontario. This species was assessed as Threatened due partly to the loss of habitat and increased road mortality. These turtles stomp their feet to attract earthworms. A victim of its attractive appearance and tameness, turtles are the focus of illegal harvesting.

Collectors also represent a threat to another reptile, the Eastern Hog-nosed snake, contributing to an assessment of Threatened. Individuals wander widely and are commonly killed on roads. This non-venomous species has a tendency to inflate its neck to a cobra-like hood, hiss, strike, and eventually feign death. These snakes are fast disappearing from southern Ontario.

More unexplained bird declines

The Olive-sided Flycatcher, a species found across Canada, was assessed as Threatened because of a long-term decline in numbers. Similar to some other recently assessed birds that feed on flying insects and winter in South America, the cause of the decline is unclear.

Fisheries management pays dividends

The Canary Rockfish is harvested along the West Coast of North America. The species declined drastically as a result of fishing pressure. The overall decline led COSEWIC to assess the species as Threatened. However, improvements in the way the fishery is managed, including observer coverage and the novel use of video records, have reduced the risk that the species will become endangered.

Endangered seals

Canada’s only freshwater seal, the Lac des Loups Marins subspecies of the Harbour seal, now estimated to number only about a hundred individuals, is considered Endangered.

Botanical bottlenecks

Three perennial plants were all assessed as Endangered. The Wood-poppy is restricted to 3 small and highly fragmented populations in SW Ontario. The Golden Paintbrush and the Yellow Montane Violet both occur in a few scattered locations on southern Vancouver Island and adjacent islands. These plants are all impacted by habitat loss and the spread of invasive aliens.

Disappearing sand dune ecosystems

The Committee assessed the status of two prairie sand dune moths, the Dusky Dune Moth and Pale Yellow Dune Moth. The dusky species, which is associated with disappearing active dunes was assessed as Endangered, while the status of Special Concern was assigned to the pale yellow species which lives in sparsely vegetated semi-stabilized dunes. These moths join a variety of other dune-inhabiting plants and animals at risk of extinction. A working group is partnering with researchers to prepare a report about ongoing changes to prairie dune ecosystems.

About COSEWIC

COSEWIC assesses the status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other important units of biological diversity, considered to be at risk in Canada. To do so, COSEWIC uses scientific, Aboriginal traditional and community knowledge provided by experts from governments, academia and other organizations. Summaries of assessments are currently available to the public on the COSEWIC website (and will be submitted to the Federal Minister of the Environment in fall 2008 for listing consideration under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). At this time, the status reports and status appraisal summaries will be publicly available on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

There are now 556 species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including 225 Endangered, 141 Threatened, 155 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated Species (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 13 are Extinct and 43 are Data Deficient.

COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Canadian Museum of Nature), three Non-government Science Members, and the Co-chairs of the Species Specialist and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittees.

Definition of COSEWIC terms and status categories:

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 that no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but exists elsewhere.
Endangered (E): A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
Threatened (T): A wildlife species that is likely to become Endangered if nothing is done to reverse the factors leading to its extirpation or extinction.
Special Concern (SC): A wildlife species that may become Threatened or Endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
Not at Risk (NAR): A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances.
Data Deficient (DD): A category that applies when the available information is insufficient (a) to resolve a wildlife species’ eligibility for assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the wildlife species’ risk of extinction.
Species at Risk: A wildlife species that has been assessed as Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern.

Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings
Chair, COSEWIC
Department of Biology
Dalhousie University
Telephone (1): (902) 494-2687
Telephone (2): (902) 494-3515
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For general inquiries:
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
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Cosewic
For inquiries on Reptiles and Amphibians:
Dr. Ronald Brooks
Department of Zoology
University of Guelph
Telephone: (519) 824-4120 ext. 53944
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For inquiries on marine mammals:
Dr. Andrew Trites
Marine Mammal Research Unit
University of British Columbia
Telephone : (604) 209-8182
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For inquiries on birds:
Dr. Marty Leonard
Department of Biology
Dalhousie University
Telephone: (902) 494-2158
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For inquiries on moths:
Dr. Laurence Packer
Department of Biology
York University
Telephone: (416) 736-2100 ext. 66524
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For inquiries on Sand Dunes:
Dr. Gordon Court
Provincial Wildlife Status Biologist
Government of Alberta
Telephone: (780) 422-9536
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For information on Marine Fishes:
Dr. Howard Powles
Devonian Botanic Garden
University of Alberta
Telephone: (819) 684-7730
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For inquiries on plants:
Dr. Erich Haber
Telephone: (613) 435-0216
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For inquiries on Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge:
Henry Lickers
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
Department of the Environment
Telephone: (613) 936-1548
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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

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