Every year, key themes come to light when the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada meets to discuss and review species at risk. One of these themes, which has emerged for years now, is the threat that urbanization-related issues pose to wildlife. The rapid expansion and development of Canada’s urban centres is encroaching on many habitats and populations:
- In the Great Lakes region, road mortality is killing eastern rat snakes to the point of endangerment.
- Urban development in Medicine Hat is a factor in the greater horned lizard’s decline in Alberta. In 1992 it was designated as special concern; today it is considered endangered.
- Draining wetlands is playing a part in prothonotary warbler declines in southwest Ontario.
- The removal of valuable dead trees is contributing to the decline of red-headed woodpeckers from Saskatchewan to Quebec.
- Continued development in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is harming the great basin spadefoot, a small toad with an already restricted range.
Industries and governments could help mitigate these problems by making conservation a priority, but even if they don’t, the actions of a single person can still make a big difference. And considering how many species are still on COSEWIC’s waiting list for assessment, Canadian wildlife at risk need all the help they can get.
If we as individuals make the right choices for wildlife, we can give all of these species hope for a bright future. You can start by helping the birds and animals nearest to where you live. For example, you can choose to leave a dead tree for woodpeckers on your property. It’s really that simple. Check out “Digs, Dwellings and Dens” on www.wildaboutgardening.org to see how you can encourage the wildlife you’d like to attract.