How do we know if a species is at risk?
To help us understand the stability of Alberta's wild species and the level of monitoring and protection they may need, each species is assigned a status.
How Wild Species Receive a Risk Status
To receive a status, species go through a dynamic cycle of assessment and status designation. Species re-enter the cycle for assessment when new information becomes available.
The cycle forms the basis for management actions to prevent our wild species from becoming at risk or to recover populations that are at risk.
The cycle has six steps, or strategies, as illustrated and listed below:
Strategy One: General Status
The General Status of Alberta Wild Species is a report that gives a broad overview of the well-being of each vertebrate wildlife species in the province.
The general status of Alberta's fish and wildlife is reviewed and updated every five years, using the most recent knowledge and research results available.
In the general status exercise, information about population size, distribution trends and threats are analyzed. The exercise helps wildlife biologists understand when a species might be vulnerable and in need of intensified management to prevent future decline.
General Status Ranks
General status ranks are used by government departments and non-government organizations to set priorities for conservation and to alert industry to species that require special consideration when making land-use decisions.
In the General Status of Alberta Wild Species, each vertebrate species is given one of the following rankings:
- At risk
- May be at Risk
- Not assessed
- Extirpated/ extinct
When the information about a species in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species exercise indicates that a species may be at risk, that species becomes the focus of a detailed status assessment, which includes the development of a detailed status report.
The determination of general status ranks also occurs in all the provinces and territories of Canada in a similar exercise reported at:
In that exercise, ranks are generated for many other species groups in addition to the vertebrates. Provincial and territorial ranks are incorporated into a national status rank, which is used to set priorities for detailed status assessment at the national level.
Search Wild Species Status
To search Alberta's wild species general status database (includes 2010, 2005 and 2000 status results):
For past General Status Reports, see
- General Status of Alberta Wild Species 2005
- General Status of Alberta Wild Species 2000
- General Status of Alberta Wild Species 1996
To see how the status of Alberta species compares with those in other provinces, see the national species general status ranks at:
Strategy Two: Detailed Status Assessment
A detailed status report is created for those species that receive an at risk or may be at risk designation in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species Report:
- Species experts prepare the provincial detailed status report. The report is a compilation of all available, current and relevant information about the species that may be at risk.
- The Scientific Subcommittee (SSC) of the Endangered Species Conservation Committee (ESCC) then receives the detailed status report. The SSC consists of biologists with expertise in fish, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and plants.
Current SCC members
- Dr. Peter Achuff, Scientist Emeritus, Parks Canada Agency, Waterton Lakes National Park, Waterton Park, Alberta
- John Acorn, Instructor, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
- Dr. René J. Belland (Subcommittee Chair), Director of Research, Devonian Botanic Garden, Edmonton, Alberta
- Dr. Darren Bender, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
- Dr. Mark Poesch, Assistant Professor, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
- William D. Wishart, Retired Director of Research, Fish and Wildlife Management Division, Alberta Environment; now Adjunct Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, and Research Associate, Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta
- assesses the population trends, size and distribution of the species
- provides the ESCC with a scientific perspective on the most appropriate detailed status designation for that species
- The Endangered Species Conservation Committee (ESCC) considers the SSC's detailed status recommendation and makes a recommendation to the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development on the assessed status of the species, as well as on any appropriate response.
The ESCC includes representatives from:
- Agricultural communities
- Environmental conservation organizations
- Government land and resource management agencies
- Indigenous organizations
- Land and resource-based industries
- Members of the scientific/academic community
ESCC member organizations
- Mr. Cameron Westhead, MLA, Banff-Cochrane
- Alberta Beef Producers
- Alberta Conservation Association
- Alberta Environment and Parks
- Alberta Fish and Game Association
- Alberta Forest Products Association
- Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association
- Alberta Irrigation Projects Association
- Alberta Native Plant Council
- Blackfoot Confederacy
- Calgary Zoo
- Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
- Métis Nation of Alberta
- Métis Settlements General Council
- Nature Alberta
- Nature Conservancy of Canada
- Rural Municipalities of Alberta
- Special Areas Board
- Treaty 6 First Nations
- Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta
- University of Alberta (Dept. of Biological Sciences)
- University of Alberta (Department of Renewable Resources)
- University of Calgary (Dept. of Biological Sciences)
- University of Lethbridge (Department of Biological Sciences)
- Western Stock Growers' Association
- The Wildlife Society - Alberta Chapter
Find Alberta Endangered Species Conservation Committee Reports at:
- The Minister of Environment and Parks receives the SSC's recommendation, along with the ESCC's recommendations for detailed status and initial conservation actions.
The Minister reviews the recommendations and makes a decision on detailed status designation.
Strategy Three: Legal Designation
Species that are designated as endangered or threatened are then legally identified as such under Alberta's Wildlife Act.
This makes the harvesting or trafficking of that species illegal, punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and/or six months in jail. There is also a year-round prohibition against disturbing the nest or den of an animal listed as endangered or threatened.
- Data deficient species become a higher priority for future work such as surveys and focused research.
- For endangered or threatened species, a recovery plan will be produced, often involving advice from a recovery team
- For species of special concern, a conservation management plan is developed to guide management of the species and its habitat.
To find the list of endangered or threatened species, see Schedule 6 of the Wildlife Regulation:
Strategy Four: Recovery Planning
Once a species has been designated as endangered or threatened, a recovery plan is developed.
The overall recovery goal for most species is to restore them to viable, naturally self-sustaining populations within Alberta. However, for some species with naturally very small populations or limited ranges, the goal may be to maintain their numbers.
For many species, a recovery team is formed to assist in developing the recovery plan, under the direction of Alberta Wildlife Management Branch.
Recovery team members are generally selected to represent a cross-section of stakeholders, including:
- Academic institutions
- Conservation organizations actively involved with the species or its habitat
- Government agencies that have management authority for the species or its habitat
- Industrial operators that could potentially have their operations or opportunities affected by recovery strategies and actions
- Landowners within the range of the species (or their representatives, such as counties or agricultural organizations)
- Other resource users
A recovery plan should be produced within one year of legal designation for endangered species and two years for threatened species.
A recovery plan includes a goal, specific objectives, strategies, and actions with associated timelines required for recovery of the particular threatened or endangered species.
A draft recovery plan is presented to the Endangered Species Conservation Committee (ESCC), and then is forwarded on to the Minister of Environment and Parks for approval.
Recovery plans are reviewed and updated regularly.
Strategy Five: Prevention Planning
Prevention strategies focus on conserving species before they need legal protection and recovery plans.
Any species that is designated as a species of special concern in a detailed status evaluation becomes eligible for special management actions. These management actions are designed to prevent the species from becoming threatened or endangered.
Conservation management plans provide guidance for species and habitat conservation and are to be used in land, water and resource management decisions made by government, land owners/lease-holders and industry.
These plans are normally prepared by biologists from the Wildlife Management Branch and include the feedback of other government departments.
Prevention strategies also include the collection of information for data deficient species. Once data deficiencies are remedied the species is resubmitted to the SSC for another status assessment.
Strategy Six: Implementation
Recovery and management planning is only effective when implemented.
The implementation of recovery plans is overseen by a Wildlife Management Branch biologist who serves as the provincial species lead.
Implementation of actions generally cannot be done by Environment and Parks alone but rather is dependent on the cooperative efforts of partners and stakeholders.
Recovery and management actions may be carried out by government agencies, non-government organizations and individuals.
The recovery plan generally includes strategies such as:
- Evaluation processes
- Habitat management and conservation
- Public education initiatives
- Species inventory and monitoring
These strategies are delivered through specific actions designed to lead to the direct improvement of a species' population and/or habitat.