Background information

Wild Species 2010: the General Status of Species in Canada

Wild Species 2010, the third report in the Wild Species series, presents the results of general status assessments for a broad cross-section of Canadian plants and animals. General status assessments are made by integrating the best available information on population size, distribution, threats and trends to generate an expert evaluation of the status of each species. This information can be used to place a species in a geographic, taxonomic and ecological context, and gain an impression of the species' general status within that context. General status ranks are used by COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), to help prioritize species for detailed status assessments.

General status assessments are used to classify species into one of 10 general status ranks. These categories necessarily represent a coarse-scaled assessment of a species' status in Canada, due to the large number of species assessed, and the variability in the quantity and quality of information available for each species. Nevertheless, general status ranks allow species to be prioritized in terms of the effort and attention needed to prevent their further decline or loss. In some cases, more recent detailed assessments, including those done by COSEWIC, or as part of this website (Status of Birds in Canada), can lead to changes in assessment of the status of a species. These changes will be reflected in the next Wild Species report, due out in 2015.

For more information on the Wild Species series see:

For a copy of the Wild Species 2010 report, including species ranks see:

For previous Wild Species reports, see: (2005 report) (2000 report)

General Status of Species categories:

  • Extinct - Species that are extirpated worldwide (i.e., they no longer exist anywhere).
  • Extirpated - Species that are no longer present in a given geographic area, but occur in other areas.
  • At Risk - Species for which a formal, detailed risk assessment (COSEWIC status assessment or provincial or territorial equivalent) has been completed and that have been determined to be at risk of extirpation or extinction (i.e. Endangered or Threatened). A COSEWIC designation of Endangered or Threatened automatically results in a Canada General Status Rank (Canada rank) of At Risk. Where a provincial or territorial formal risk assessment finds a species to be Endangered or Threatened in that particular region, then, under the general status program, the species automatically receives a provincial or territorial general status rank of At Risk.
  • May Be At Risk - Species that may be at risk of extirpation or extinction and are therefore candidates for a detailed risk assessment by COSEWIC, or provincial or territorial equivalents.
  • Sensitive - Species that are not believed to be at risk of immediate extirpation or extinction but may require special attention or protection to prevent them from becoming at risk.
  • Secure - Species that are not believed to belong in the categories Extinct, Extirpated, At Risk, May Be At Risk, Sensitive, Accidental or Exotic. This category includes some species that show a trend of decline in numbers in Canada but remain relatively widespread or abundant.
  • Undetermined - Species for which insufficient data, information, or knowledge is available with which to reliably evaluate their general status.
  • Not assessed - Species that are known or believed to be present regularly in the geographic area in Canada to which the rank applies, but have not yet been assessed by the general status program.
  • Exotic - Species that have been moved beyond their natural range as a result of human activity. In this report, Exotic species have been purposefully excluded from all other categories.
  • Accidental - Species occurring infrequently and unpredictably, outside their usual range.