Species at Risk Population Trends

Access PDF (232 KB)

Some wildlife species in Canada are at risk of extinction. The goal of the Species at Risk Act (the Act) is to prevent losses of endangered or threatened plants and animals from the wild, and to help in their recovery. Recovery strategies for these speciesFootnote [1] assess whether recovery is feasible, what threats need to be addressed, and identify objectives and approaches for recovery, and critical habitat. The Act is also intended to manage species of Special concern and to prevent them from becoming Endangered or Threatened.

Of the 350 species at risk that had final recovery strategies or management plans as of May 2016, 123 species have population-oriented objectives and have been reassessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada since their recovery documents were finalized.Footnote [2]Of these 123 species, 43 (35%) have population trends that are consistent with the objectives laid out in the recovery documents and 46 (37%) show trends that are inconsistent with the objectives. Another 11 (9%) have both some indication of improvement and some indication of decline. For the remaining 23 species (19%), data are not sufficient to determine trends.

Since May 2015, 11 species have been added to this indicator:

  • six show trends that are inconsistent with the objectives,
  • two have mixed evidence, and
  • three did not have sufficient data to determine trends.

Species that are at risk can take a long time to recover. Recovery of species is related to, among other factors, their life span, reproductive cycle, and the state of their habitat. In addition, observations of rare species are often difficult to collect. The indicator results should not be interpreted as a measure of recovery success until sufficient time has passed to allow species to recover and to collect sufficient information to assess that recovery.

Are population trends of species at risk consistent with the objectives?, Canada, May 2016

Column Chart - See long description below

Long description

The column chart shows if population trends are consistent with recovery objectives for the 123 species at risk that have both population-oriented objectives and a reassessment since the species' recovery documents were finalized. Of these 123 species, 43 have population trends consistent with the objectives laid out in the recovery strategies or management plans, and 46 show trends that are inconsistent. Another 11 species have both some indication of improvement and some indication of decline. For the remaining 23 species, there are Insufficient data to determine trends.

Data for this chart
Are population trends in species at risk consistent with the objectives?, Canada, May 2016
Common nameTrends consistent with objectives?Rationale
Atlantic Salmon (Inner Bay of Fundy population)NoThe Atlantic Salmon (Inner Bay of Fundy population) has less than 200 mature individuals left in the wild and is not self-sustaining.
Atlantic WhitefishYesIndividuals have been introduced to suitable watersheds in order to expand the species' range.
Atlantic WolffishYesThere are signs of population recovery.
Baikal SedgeNoObserved continued decline in the number of mature individuals and observed decline in extent of occurrence and locations.
Banded Cord-mossInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation trends are unknown.
Banded Killifish (Newfoundland population)YesPopulation appears to be stable. No indication of decline in either the number of populations or abundance within populations.
Banff Springs SnailYesThere is a population increase. 
Bearded Owl-cloverInsufficient data to determine trendsDue to a lack of reliable counts and the sizable fluctuations in the number of mature individuals, current population trends cannot be determined.
Bear's-foot SanicleNoThere has probably been a decline in the number and size of the total population. There has been a 5% reduction in the extent of occurrence.
Beluga Whale (St. Lawrence Estuary population)NoThe population has been declining and reasons for this decline are not understood.
Blackstripe TopminnowYesCanadian population appears to be stable.
Black-tailed Prairie DogInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulations do not appear to be increasing, and the probability of catastrophic disturbances is increasing as climate changes. It is difficult to determine the probability of population survival.
Blue Whale (Northwest Atlantic population)Insufficient data to determine trendsThe Blue Whale (Northwest Atlantic population) is estimated to contain less than 250 mature individuals; however further data on changes in population size is needed to determine if progress has been made.
Blue Whale (Pacific population)Insufficient data to determine trendsThe rarity of the Blue Whale (Pacific population) has been confirmed, but data on changes in population size is needed.
Boreal Felt Lichen (Atlantic population)NoBoth the number of occurrences and number of individuals are declining. Available habitat has declined between 1988 and 2005.
Boreal Felt Lichen (Boreal population)Mixed evidenceIt is not clear whether observed increases at some sites offset the declines observed at other sites.
Bridle ShinerInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation sizes have not been estimated in Canada.
BuffalograssInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation trends in Canada are unknown.
Coastrange Sculpin (Cultus population) (also Cultus Pygmy Sculpin)NoThe species appears to have declined in abundance.
Columbian Carpet MossInsufficient data to determine trendsDetailed population data do not exist.
Common HoptreeMixed evidenceSome subpopulations were extirpated, some have increased, and previously undocumented sites were recorded.
Copper RedhorseNoNo increase in population abundance and one location has been extirpated.
Cucumber TreeYesOntario populations appear to be at a steady state. Large trees have increased in number.
Dakota SkipperNoPopulation has declined.
Deltoid BalsamrootNoThere is a sharp decline in the total Canadian population.
Eastern Mountain AvensMixed evidenceOverall, one population has declined, the other appears stable.
Eastern Ribbonsnake (Atlantic population)Insufficient data to determine trendsLong-term population trends of the Eastern Ribbonsnake could not be established. There is limited evidence that some populations may be declining in parts of Nova Scotia.
Eastern Yellow-bellied RacerNoWithin the past ten years, the population has declined.
Enos Lake Benthic Threespine SticklebackNoIt is unlikely that genetically pure benthics remain in Enos Lake and no captive populations have been established.
Enos Lake Limnetic Threespine SticklebackNoIt is unlikely that genetically pure limnetics remain in Enos Lake and a captive population appears to be different.
Ermine haidarum subspeciesNoA historical population decline since the 1950s is inferred and habitat is declining.
Fernald's BrayaNoPopulation size is declining.
Flooded JellyskinNoA continuing decline in number of populations has been observed and a continuing decline in number of locations has been inferred.
Frosted Glass-whiskers (Atlantic population)YesKnown occurrences have been maintained.
Furbish's LousewortNoPopulations continue to decline at existing sites.
Golden PaintbrushNoDecline in population size is inconsistent with goal of attaining self-sustaining populations at existing sites. No new populations have been established.
GoldencrestNoPopulation size is declining slowly.
Grass PickerelNoThere is a decline in abundance of three sub-populations and the range has also decreased.
Greater Sage-Grouse urophasianus subspeciesNoPopulation and number of occupied leks are in decline.
Haller's Apple MossYesCurrently, nine populations appear to be stable; trends for the five most recently discovered populations are unknown.
Harbour Porpoise (Pacific Ocean population)Insufficient data to determine trendsPopulation trends are unknown.
Harlequin Duck (Eastern population)YesPopulation size is increasing, and appears to have met the population levels outlined in the goals.
Henslow's SparrowInsufficient data to determine trendsData are too few to determine recent trends.
Hoary Mountain-mintInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation sizes are not sufficiently well documented to indicate trends. 
Hooded WarblerYesIncreasing population has reached recovery goals.
Hotwater PhysaYesAlthough populations fluctuate widely, there appears to be no change to abundance or distribution.
Island MarbleNoAvailable evidence suggests the Island Marble is extirpated in Canada.
KidneyshellMixed evidenceAlthough populations in the Sydenham River appear stable, populations continue to decline in Lake St. Clair and Ausable River.
Killer Whale (Northeast Pacific Northern Resident population)YesPopulation trend is increasing or stable.
Killer Whale (Northeast Pacific Southern Resident population)NoOnly 81 animals in the population, with a stable trend.
Killer Whale (Northeast Pacific Transient population)YesThe population has been increasing.
Leatherback Sea Turtle (Atlantic population)YesThe population appears to be stable or slightly increasing.
Leatherback Sea Turtle (Pacific population)NoNesting colonies in the Pacific are in a steep and continuing to decline.
Louisiana WaterthrushMixed evidenceDeclines have been noted in some parts of the Canadian range, while new pairs have been found in other parts.
McCown's LongspurNoThere has been a continuing decline in number of individuals.
Mountain PloverInsufficient data to determine trendsLong term trends cannot be established with existing data.
North Atlantic Right WhaleYesThe North Atlantic Right Whale population increased by about 50% between 1990 and 2010.
North Pacific Right WhaleInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation trends are unknown.
Northern AbaloneNoThere has been no evidence of population recovery since the fishery closed in 1990.
Northern Bottlenose Whale (Scotian Shelf population)YesThe population appears to be stable and there has been no decline in the area of occupancy.
Northern RiffleshellYesThe trends are consistent with early recovery: the Northern Riffleshell is found in the Sydenham and Ausable rivers, and recruitment is occurring at several sites in the Sydenham River.
Northern WolffishYesThere have been early signs of recovery in distribution and abundance.
Olympia OysterYesAlthough quantitative estimates on population sizes are not available, the Olympia Oyster appears to be stable in recent decades.  
Pacific Water ShrewInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation estimates and trends are not available.
Paxton Lake Benthic Threespine SticklebackYesBenthics appear to be stable and locally abundant in Paxton Lake.
Paxton Lake Limnetic Threespine SticklebackYesLimnetics appear to be stable and locally abundant in Paxton Lake.
Pink CoreopsisYesThe Canadian population is relatively stable; estimates have increased due to increased survey effort.
Piping Plover circumcinctus subspeciesNoPopulation is about 2/3 of population goal and appears to be declining.
Piping Plover melodus subspeciesNoPopulation is less than the short-term population goal and declining.
Plymouth GentianMixed EvidenceRelative stability is consistent with maintenance of populations, yet a minor decline may have occurred.
Poor Pocket MossMixed EvidenceIndividual moss plants are difficult to identify. Poor Pocket Moss now occupies more patches but the original patch is smaller than previously.
Poweshiek SkipperlingMixed evidencePopulation decline is uncertain, area of occupancy is stable.
Prairie LupineYesNo evidence of total population decline has been observed, and one additional population was discovered.
Pugnose MinnowNoPopulation sizes are unknown in Canada. There is evidence of continuing decline in extent of occurrence and the quality of habitat. 
Pugnose ShinerInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation trends are not available.
Rayed BeanYesThe population in the Sydenham River appears to have increased.
Red Crossbill percna subspeciesNoPopulations are declining and habitat loss is expected.
Red MulberryNoPopulation size and distribution are declining.
Roseate TernNoPopulation of 100 pairs is below population goal with no increasing trend. 
Round HickorynutNoRound Hickorynut declined between 2003 and 2013; extent of occurrence has declined since 2001.
Round PigtoeNoThere has been a decline in the area, extent and quality of habitat and an apparent decease in the number of live individuals.
Salamander Mussel (also Mudpuppy Mussel)NoHabitat quality continues to decline and the species is currently found in only one river.
Sand-verbena MothInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation numbers are not well-enough known to assess change in the number of moths.
Savannah Sparrow princeps subspeciesYesStable population is consistent with recovery goals.
Seaside Birds-foot LotusMixed EvidenceSeaside Birds-foot Lotus populations appear to be self-sustaining. No new populations have been established.
Sei Whale (Pacific population)Insufficient data to determine trendsThe population is likely well below 250 mature individuals; additional information is required to determine if any recovery progress has been made.
Short-tailed AlbatrossYesPopulation size continues to increase.
Silver ChubNoPopulation has declined substantially. 
Small Whorled PogoniaNoNo new sighting of this species in Canada has been recorded. Species habitat is declining in quality.
SnuffboxYesPopulations in the Sydenham and Ausable rivers appear to be viable as reproduction is occurring at both. The extent of occupancy in these rivers has remained stable.
SoapweedYesNo decline or fluctuation in population has been documented. Fruiting success has increased at one site.
Spotted GarInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation trends are unknown.
Spotted Owl caurina subspeciesNoPopulation continues to decline; extirpation appears likely.
Spotted SuckerNoObserved a decline in the number of sub-populations and a continuing decline in quality and quantity of habitat.
Spotted WolffishYesThere have been signs of increases in abundance and area of occupancy.
Sprague's PipitYesThe long-term decline of Sprague's Pipit appears to have stopped, although no significant recovery has yet occurred.
Steller Sea LionYesSteller Sea Lion populations have been increasing since the 1970s, and there has been an increase in number of breeding sites.
Striped Bass (St. Lawrence Estuary population)YesReintroduction efforts have resulted in natural spawning and an increase in distribution.
Sweet PepperbushYesPopulation appears to be stable or declining slightly.
Swift FoxYesThe Canadian population increased from 1996 to 2001 and has remained stable to 2006.
Taylor's CheckerspotNoTaylor's Checkerspot currently occurs at only one location; population size trends are unknown, but geographic range is not increasing.
Tiny CryptanthaInsufficient data to determine trendsCurrently not possible to determine population trends for this species. 
Twisted Oak MossInsufficient data to determine trendsTrends cannot be determined.
Vananda Creek Benthic Threespine SticklebackYesBenthics appear to be stable in Vananda Creek.
Vananda Creek Limnetic Threespine SticklebackYesLimnetics appear to be stable in Vananda Creek.
Vancouver LampreyInsufficient data to determine trendsPopulation trends are unknown.
WarmouthNoObserved decline in the quality and quantity of habitat.
Water-pennywortYesPopulations are stable.
Water-plantain ButtercupMixed EvidenceFluctuations in population size are likely the result of variable environmental conditions and no clear trend exists. However, no new sites have been established.
Wavy-rayed LampmusselYesPopulation sizes are increasing and the area of occupancy is expanding.
Western Brook Lamprey (Morrison Creek population)Insufficient data to determine trendsPopulation trends are unknown.
Western Silvery MinnowYesThe species appears to be stable.
White Flower MothNoPopulation declines are expected.
White-top AsterNoPopulations of White-top Aster are stable or declining.
Whooping CraneYesIncreasing population is consistent with recovery goals.
Woodland Caribou (Atlantic-Gaspésie population)NoPopulation size and distribution are declining.
Woodland Caribou (Boreal population)NoMost local populations are declining.
Woodland Caribou (Northern Mountain population)Mixed evidenceNorthern herds are stable or increasing, while southern herds are declining. Survey data are dated and incomplete.
Wood-poppyYesRecent stable population trend is consistent with recovery objective to stabilize or increase population sizes of mature plants at all known sites.
Yellow LampmusselYesThere is no information on population trends, but habitat conditions appear stable.
Yellow Montane Violet praemorsa subspeciesNoAn overall trend cannot be determined due to fluctuations in population sizes. However, no new sites have been established and habitat quality is declining.
Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspeciesNoPopulation size is declining.
Yucca MothYesSuccessful larval emergence in 2011 confirmed the presence of Yucca moth.

Download detailed data file (Excel/CSV; 188 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Categories are assigned based on the most recent available information, accounting as much as possible for the amount of time that has been available for recovery. Mixed evidence means that there is a mix of consistent and inconsistent population trends.
Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada, and Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada Secretariat (2016).

Canada has a two-step process to determine which species require recovery documents:

  1. Scientific assessment: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada provides advice to the Government of Canada on the status of wildlife species.
  2. Listing decision: The Government of Canada reviews this information and decides whether to add the species to Schedule 1 under the Species at Risk Act. Schedule 1 is the official list of species at risk in Canada. Inclusion on Schedule 1 brings the Act into effect.

Determining population trends in rare species can present some challenges. Many of these individuals are difficult to find and identify. For example, the most reliable way to distinguish the threatened Eastern Ribbonsnake from the more common Eastern Garter Snake is to see which scale rows have yellow stripes: those of the Ribbonsnake fall on scale rows 3 and 4, whereas those of the Garter Snake are on scale rows 2 and 3.

Related indicators

Other information

FSDS Icon - Healthy wildlife populations Healthy wildlife populations

This indicator supports the measurement of progress towards the long-term goal of the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy: All species have healthy and viable populations.

Access PDF (232 KB)

Date modified: