The assessment of 28 wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in November verified what many of us already knew. Without significant efforts, more and more of our native species are at risk of becoming extinct. Habitat loss, climate change and human activity are increasingly threatening their worlds, making survival an even greater challenge.
Our Maritime boasts a wide array of marine life that is essential to the balance of the ocean environment. However the Atlantic population of grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus) remains on the extirpated species list, where it has been since it was officially designated in 1987. The Atlantic population of the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) was listed as a “species of special concern.” The basking shark is the second-largest fish in the world, measuring up to 15 metres, or close to the length of a city bus. Running interference with the fisheries industries on the Atlantic coast, these mammoth creatures get caught in trawls, longlines and gillnets. Females take up to 18 years to reach maturity and have one of the longest gestational periods of any animal: 2.6 to 3.5 years. With average litters of six pups, the Atlantic basking shark may be heading in the direction of its Pacific counterpart, which was assessed as endangered in 2007.
Reassessed as endangered in 2000, the swift fox (Vulpes velox) was once considered extirpated from Canada. The speedy member of the canid family can travel at a rate of 60 kilometres per hour and grows to be the size of a house cat. A symbolic part of First Nations spirituality, the swift fox (above) is thought to have fallen to overhunting, as well as poisoning campaigns for animals such as coyotes, wolves and ground squirrels. The last known wild sighting was in Alberta in 1938.
The swift fox has benefitted from reintroduction programs that began in 1983. Although population numbers in Alberta and Saskatchewan have doubled in recent years, the prairie dweller is still not out of the woods. Designated by COSEWIC as a threatened species, the swift fox continues to be in jeopardy due to predation, habitat loss and disease.
Saving Canada’s Species
The latest COSEWIC assessment will be submitted to the Federal Minister of the Environment for listing consideration under the Species at Risk Act in late summer 2010. SARA was established to ensure that species at risk in Canada are protected. CWF regularly attends COSEWIC meetings and provides comments on listings, recovery strategies and action plans. As a core part of our mission to represent wildlife on conservation issues, CWF has funded research and recovery programs for species at risk including the swift fox, developed special status reports and published informative fact sheets on imperiled wildlife.