7 animals added to Ontario’s at-risk species list

Ontario’s at-risk list now has seven more species, thanks to recommendations by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario using the Endangered Species Act, 2007.

Why do at-risk species matter? 

“When you protect one species, you protect all,” says Lance Woolaver, executive director of Wildlife Preservation Canada. Animals work in a delicate biofeedback loop, supporting each other, people, and the balance of our ecosystems. “There is a cascading effect when one species is affected,” Woolaver says. “Scientists don’t always know how important a species is until it’s gone.”

Plants and animals make up a rich, biodiverse ecosystem that supports clean air and water, fights against droughts and floods, creates fertile soil, and helps other animals and plants adapt to climate change. 

Here’s what you need to know about the species at risk and what you can do to help them:

American Bumblebee: Special Concern

The American bumblebee, a native plant pollinator, is at risk of becoming threatened or endangered by pesticide use, habitat loss from agriculture, and new diseases. They live in farmlands, meadows, and grasslands of southern Ontario and Quebec, often repurposing abandoned nests for their own homes.

Davis’s Shieldback: Threatened

Meet Davis’s Shieldback, a flightless bush cricket which shares its song by rubbing its wings together. It hangs out in oak woodland, near forests, and trails, helping to improve soil health around Norfolk County and parts of the U.S. Fire suppression practices, off-road vehicles, and ecosystem changes are its biggest enemies.

Lesser Yellowlegs: Threatened

Lesser Yellowlegs, also known as “marshpipers,” support biodiversity in southern Canadian wetlands and fields. Once on the decline from hunting, they are now facing habitat loss. Watch out for these birds because they fight tooth and nail to protect their young.

Purple Wartyback: Threatened

This freshwater mussel resides along the riverside amidst cobble, gravel, and sand throughout the United States and southwestern Ontario. Mussels keep our water clean and fight against bacteria and algae. Agricultural pollution runoff, wastewater, climate change, and severe weather are its current threats.

Reversed Haploa Moth: Threatened

Nicknamed the “woolly bear” because of its furry wings, the Reversed Haploa Moth is a rare insect that is often hanging around endangered oak woodland and dune habitats in southwestern Ontario. Ironically, Bacillus thuringiensis, a pesticide used to control invasive moth species, is also harming the Haploa.

Striped Whitelip: Endangered

In the wet, lowland forests or flooded areas of the Essex and Lambton regions, the striped whitelip hides amongst the wood and leaves of the oak, hickory, and maple, away from threats of climate change, extreme weather, and new development. If extinct, many mammals and insects that feed on this escargot will go hungry.

Suckley’s Cuckoo Bumble Bee: Endangered

Find this bee in Canada’s lowlands, farms, urban forests, or boreal forests. Despite being mooches that rely on nesting bees for shelter, they are important pollinators of native and agricultural plants. Sadly, this bee’s home is at risk from an increase in pesticide use and farming development.

What can we do to help?

Woolaver and fellow conservationists call on the public to get involved. The first and most important step is to get familiar with your area and know what species are at risk. Speak with your local MPP or politician and urge them to fight for healthy local ecosystems or volunteer or local conservation organizations, Woolaver says. 

MECP recommends submitting a sighting to the Natural Heritage Information Centre or joining iNaturalist for quick submission. 

Homeowners with species at risk on their property can apply for the Species at Risk Stewardship Program, and individuals wanting to protect pollinators should visit Seeds of Diversity. Report any illegal activity to 1-866-MOETIPS.

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