Parks Canada works to preserve Canada’s natural heritage and contribute to the recovery of species at risk found in national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.
The American bison is the largest mammal in North America. Males can stand up to two meters high and weigh more than a tonne! There are two subspecies of bison in North America: the wood bison and the plains bison.
Bison once roamed the continent in the millions, but their numbers have plummeted as a result of intensive hunting (from 1800 to 1850). Today, only 30,000 bison remain in the wild in Canada.
The plains bison is currently threatened by habitat loss, disease, cross-breeding with domestic bison, and climate change. The plains bison is designated as “threatened” in Canada
Parks Canada is working with domestic bison producers, Indigenous communities and species experts to ensure the recovery of bison. Thanks to effective protection measures, a number of national parks now host healthy, genetically diversified herds of plains bison.
Caribou are different from other members of the deer family because both the females and the males have antlers. Three types of caribou live in Canada. The barren-ground caribou, which is highly migratory, populates the Arctic. The Peary caribou, the smallest, is found on the islands of the High Arctic archipelago, while the woodland caribou, which appears on our 25 cent coin, lives in the boreal forest and mountain areas ranging from Newfoundland to British Columbia.
Woodland caribou are found in numerous Parks Canada sites across the country. Habitat alteration (loss, degradation, fragmentation) and related increases in predation threaten the woodland caribou’s survival. Therefore, the species is protected under the Species at Risk Act.
Parks Canada is taking concrete steps to protect the woodland caribou. By placing radio collars on wolves, their main predator, we can monitor their impact on caribou population recovery. In the winter, areas in some parks are closed to protect the caribou’s winter habitat.
No other butterfly species migrates like the North American monarch. Every year, it covers 5,000 km—the longest migration of any butterfly species in the world. The monarch population has dropped sharply in recent years. In the 1990s, more than a billion monarchs migrated south. Today, only 35 million are making the journey.
This species is threatened by extreme weather changes and especially by habitat loss. The Monarch butterfly is therefore protected under the Species at Risk Act.
In the summer, the eastern population can be found in southern Ontario and Quebec. In the fall, Point Pelee National Park serves as an important gathering point for these insects before they migrate to Mexico.
Point Pelee National Park has restored its savannah ecosystem that provides habitat for the monarch. Other Parks Canada sites across the country also provide critical habitat for this butterfly.
Belugas are distinguished by their thick white skin, prominent rounded forehead, and lack of a dorsal fin. This white whale is often called the “canary of the sea” because it seems to sing. Although multiple populations are present in Canadian waters, the St. Lawrence beluga population is particularly vulnerable.
The St. Lawrence belugas spend the summer in the St. Lawrence Estuary near where the Saguenay Fjord flows into the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. Over the past few hundred years, this beluga population has been decimated by intensive hunting. It is estimated that there were more than 10,000 belugas in 1860, but only 900 are left today. This whale is now protected under the Species at Risk Act.
Parks Canada is playing an important role in the recovery of the St. Lawrence beluga whale population by protecting its critical habitat and minimising disturbances from naval traffic. Through the establishment of new National Marine Conservation Areas, including in the Arctic, other populations of beluga whales will be protected.