Of all the species that have ever lived, 95% are now extinct. Extinction has been a natural process for millions of years, so why all the concern? The issue is not that extinction occurs, but the rate at which it is happening. More importantly, the increased rate of extinction is a direct result of human interference and ignorance. Humans rely on renewable resources for food, shelter, and profit. All too often we exploit the land and its inhabitants without a thought as to the consequences of our actions. Even the smallest creature plays a pivotal role in ecosystem equilibrium.
The Arctic's ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to the slightest of alterations, which can have dramatic, and sometimes catastrophic, results. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is responsible for assessing the status of wildlife species at risk. Scientific experts assign species to one of the following five categories:
Extinct species no longer exists
Extirpated species no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but they occur elsewhere.
Endangered species are facing imminent extinction or extirpation
Threatened species are likely to become endangered in Canada if limiting factors are not reversed.
Special Concern (formerly Vulnerable) species are of special concern because of characteristics that make them particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events.
As of 2000, 173 species, subspecies, or populations of wild plants and animals in Canada are threatened or endangered, including 11 in the Arctic. An additional 153 species, subspecies or populations are of special concern, including 14 in the Arctic. Below is a list summarizing the mammals, birds, and fish of the Arctic that COSEWIC has identified. For more information on each species, simply click on the animal's name.