COSEWIC wildlife species assessment: candidate wildlife species

Identifying Candidate Wildlife Species

Canada supports a great diversity of species. The first step in COSEWIC's task is to choose, from among the thousands of Wildlife Species, which ones may be most at risk of extinction or extirpation nationally, and are therefore candidates for more detailed assessment through the preparation of a COSEWIC status report.

Candidate Wildlife Species are Wildlife Species not yet assessed by COSEWIC that have been identified by the SSCs (Species Specialist Subcommittees) or by the ATK SC (Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittee) as candidates for detailed status assessment based on information suggesting a potential to be at risk. Candidates may also include Wildlife Species in the Not at Risk or Data Deficient categories where new information suggests they may be at risk.

Each SSC annually prepares and maintains a SSC candidate list of Wildlife Species that it considers at risk of extinction or extirpation nationally. Wildlife Species are selected using: the ‘May Be At Risk’ list in the Monitoring the General Status of Wild Species in Canada Program, as well as information drawn from other multi-jurisdictional monitoring, jurisdictional and international assessment processes (e.g. IUCN and ABI), published ranking systems in the scientific literature, and the expert knowledge of SSC, ATK SC, and COSEWIC members.

Eligibility of Candidate Wildlife Species

To be eligible, Wildlife Species must meet certain criteria regarding taxonomic validity, native origin, regularity of occurrence and dependence on Canadian habitat (Table 1). In cases where separate designation below the species level is desirable, justification must be provided according to COSEWIC's Guidelines for Recognizing Designatable Units.

The initial assessment of a candidate Wildlife Species’ eligibility for COSEWIC assessment is completed by the SSC Co-chairs, in consultation with their SSC members. Eligibility is ultimately reviewed and confirmed by COSEWIC as the first step in status determination.

Assessing the Relative Priority of Candidate Wildlife Species

COSEWIC attempts to give priority attention to Wildlife Species at greatest risk of extinction or extirpation across their ranges in Canada. Eligible candidate Wildlife Species are prioritized and placed on the SSC candidate lists using a "coarse filter" system. This system blends levels of apparent risk with considerations of taxonomic distinctness, global distribution and proportion of range within Canada to group Wildlife Species into categories of similar priority. Each SSC will assign their candidate Wildlife Species into one of three priority groups. Group 1 Wildlife Species have highest priority for COSEWIC assessment. Wildlife Species suspected to be extirpated from Canada would also be included in this group. Group 2 and 3 Wildlife Species have medium and lower priority for COSEWIC assessment respectively. Wildlife Species not in need of assessment are excluded. Priority groups within the SSC candidate lists will be revised and updated on an ongoing basis by the SSC.

Specifics of how Wildlife Species are assigned to the three priority groups (i.e., which criteria have the strongest influence) will vary with individual SSCs, reflecting the differences in life histories, and information available. Only biological factors are used to prioritize the Wildlife Species; logistical problems, including anticipated availability of report writers, and of adequate detailed knowledge, are not considered at this level.

High priority species from the SSC candidate lists are reviewed and ranked by COSEWIC, and result in the COSEWIC Candidate List. COSEWIC bases its ranking on prioritization data submitted by each SSC (Prioritization Criteria developed by COSEWIC for ranking Wildlife Species). The COSEWIC Candidate List identifies the highest priority candidate Wildlife Species for status report production and includes Wildlife Species not yet assessed by COSEWIC and those in the Not at Risk or Data Deficient categories, where new information suggests they may be at risk of extinction or extirpation from Canada.

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, 14th floor
Gatineau QC K1A 0H3