Birds, bees, butterflies among Canada’s at-risk species

Dene Moore
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew
Birds, bees, butterflies among Canada’s at-risk species

Friday is international Endangered Species Day and there was some small bit of good news this week for Canada’s species at risk.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Species says the outlook has improved for a precious few.

The committee met earlier this month to review the status of 20 species and their latest report says the Spiked Saxifrage, a wildflower found only in Yukon and Alaska, has gone from threatened to special concern.

And the Winter skate population found along Georges Bank on the Western Scotian shelf says the fish has improved from special concern to not at risk.

“This good news was due to better survey data where we found more individuals (the plant) and findings of relatively large population size and no signs of decline (the fish),” Eric Taylor, a professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia and chairman of COSEWIC, tells Yahoo Canada News.

But seven species were assessed as endangered, including the warmouth, a freshwater fish found only in the Lake Erie drainage system which goes from a species of special concern to endangered.

The population of Black Swift bird found in B.C. and Alberta has dropped by half of what it was in the early 1970s.

And there have been two sightings of North Pacific right whale in British Columbia waters – the first since 1951 – but the mammal remains endangered.

The endangered list is rounded out by the Ottoe skipper butterfly found in Manitoba and the Proud globelet snail once found in Ontario.

And though the George’s Bank Winter skate assessment improved, the populations on the Eastern Scotian Shelf of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence remain endangered.

Another five species are listed as threatened: the Black Redhorse fish, black-foam lichen, Eastern wolf, an ermine found only on Haida Gwaii and the western rattlesnake.

“Two snakes, the Western and Prairie rattlesnakes, face a common suite of threats, including road networks and vehicle traffic,” the report says.

The committee also looked at the state of the Yellow-banded bumble bee, one of 800 bee species known in Canada and one of seven assessed in the past five years. All of them are considered at risk to some degree.

The Gypsy cuckoo bumble bee, Rusty-patched bumble bee and Macropis cuckoo bee are considered endangered; the southern population of the Western bumble bee and the Sable Island sweat bee, threatened; and the northern population of the western bumble bee, special concern.

“The Yellow-banded bumble bee is widespread across Canada, and was once relatively common. It has now declined in both numbers and distribution in southern Canada, and was therefore assessed as Special Concern,” says the latest report.

Taylor says most of the 20 species the committee looked at remained in the same category, illustrating the long-term commitment needed for recovery.

The report will be submitted to the federal environment minister this fall for consideration for listing under the Species at Risk Act.

Under the current government, approximately 40 endangered and threatened species have been added to the list of species at risk and another 15 of special concern. The minister has received in that time approximately 155 assessments of species eligible for addition, according to Environment Canada.

Taylor says recovery efforts in Canada are “gaining steam.”

“It is really too early to tell how we are doing as the efforts to date have mostly been on documenting the problem, recovery will take many years and a strong commitment to see real, sustained improvement over even a portion of the 700 or so species at risk in Canada,” he says.