COSEWIC is an independent committee of scientific experts comprising 31 members, one from each of 13 provincial and territorial government wildlife agencies and 4 federal agencies (CANADIAN WILDLIFE SERVICE, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the CANADIAN MUSEUM OF NATURE, in its role as chair of the Federal Biodiversity Information Partnership), as well as 3 non-government science members, a co-chair from each of 10 Species Specialist Subcommittees and 1 co-chair of the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittee. The Canadian Wildlife Service provides secretariat and financial support to the committee.
Several steps are involved when COSEWIC evaluates the status of species. The committee begins by commissioning status reports on species suspected of being in danger. Because these reports serve as a basis for status determination, they are reviewed by numerous experts to ensure their accuracy and completeness. Status reports provide an up-to-date description of the species' distribution, abundance, threats and population trends as well as trends and threats to their habitat. All COSEWIC members read these reports and meet twice annually, in April and November, to discuss the situation of each species.
Since its inception, COSEWIC has examined more than 800 plant and animal (including insect) species and concluded that approximately 600 of these are either extinct or at risk (extirpated, endangered, threatened or special concern). There are more than 1000 additional species still in need of assessment. Given time and resource constraints, it will be many years before all these species are examined. The list of imperilled species has been growing at a rate of about 15 per year, but this increase does not reflect the rate at which species are becoming at risk. Instead, it is, for the most part, a reflection of the rate at which COSEWIC can assess new species while doing the many reassessments it is required by law to do at least every 10 years.
Categories of Risk
Quantitative assessment criteria based on those developed for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List are used to assign official status. A species may be assigned to one of 7 categories.
Not at Risk
Author B.T. ANISKOWICZ-FOWLER
Links to Other Sites
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines the national status of wild Canadian species, subspecies, varieties or other designatable units that are suspected of being at risk of extinction or extirpation.
Vancouver Island Marmot
Discover the natural history of the very rare and endangered Vancouver Island marmot at this nicely illustrated Marmot Recovery Foundation website.
Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility
A searchable information source about biological species such as plants, animals, and fungi found in Canada. A Government of Canada website.