It’s Endangered Species Day May 20th!

By Jess Lario.

Endangered Species Day has been celebrated on the third Friday in May every year since 2006. The purpose of this day is to recognize and increase awareness about endangered species all over the world. Currently in Canada there are over 600 species at risk and more than 150 additional species are being considered. With an increasing number of species being added to the list every year, understanding why these species are declining in number and what we can do to help is important now more than ever.

The environments that we enjoy across Canada and here at home in Muskoka rely on biodiversity. Ecosystems are incredibly complex and rely on many different types of organisms completing many kinds of jobs. A loss of too many of these species can result in a decline of function of the ecosystem, or worse, an ecosystem crash. Another concern is that species are becoming endangered or lost before they are being discovered. Due to our advancing technology, we sometimes find that organisms that were once considered the same species are two or more different species. To properly protect and conserve species they must first be recognized.

A poster explaining the categories under Species at Risk Act by Environment Canada
A poster explaining the categories under Species at Risk Act by Environment Canada

There are many different reasons a species may become endangered. Often it is the result of compounding from several pressures at once. These pressures may be natural but most often are human induced. These pressures create obstacles for species that they may not be able to overcome.

Climate change is a pressure increasingly faced by species all over the globe. In Canada, the average temperature has been increasing more rapidly than many other places in the world. This change can make it more difficult for organisms to find resources such as food or water. It can also affect species that rely on seasonal timing for things like migration and hibernation. Invasive species may outcompete native species for food and water, causing local and widespread extinction. Habitat loss and fragmentation are factors that have been increasing the number of endangered species. Even though these may feel like global problems, we can witness them here at home.

Muskoka is a uniquely diverse location since it is the southern-most limit for northern species and northern-most limit for southern species. There are 46 local species that have been identified as at risk. Ten of these species are listed as endangered and are at risk of extinction, including animals like the spotted turtle, little brown bat, lake sturgeon, and rusty-patched bumble bee, and plants like the Butternut and Engelmann’s quillwort.

It may feel daunting when we consider global environmental problems, but as a collective of individuals we can make lasting impacts! The most important step in helping prevent further declines and more species being added to the ‘endangered’ list is education. Understanding which species are listed and which are vulnerable will help you make the right choices to reduce impacts.

  • Do your best to avoid accidentally introducing invasive species into an area. Do not move natural material from one location to another such as water from one lake to another or plants and firewood from one location to another.
  • Encourage natural spaces in your own yard and community. By removing less habitat and even restoring some in your yard by planting native plants, you can provide important resources for native species.

Even though May 20th is the officially recognized Endangered Species Day this year, each day we should use best practices and help spread information to preserve these important species!

Canadian endangered species graphic by the Nature Conservancy of Canada