Species at Risk

As discussed in “Nothing but a Nuisance,” not all the plants and animals that are in PEI were always here…and some we would not miss. On the other hand there are many organisms that call PEI home, they were here way before humans and if they were to disappear it would not be good. In this module species at risk in PEI will be discuss, why they have become endangered and what is being done in an attempt to revive the populations. Organisms that have been lost to PEI and the world will also be discussed.

Classifying the Conservation Status of a Species

There are a number of different systems used to classify the conservation status of an organism. Some lists will say a species is at risk, while another one does not. There are worldwide classification systems, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.  COSEWIC, or Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, classifies conservation status of organism in Canada.

Below is the IUCN classification system:

Least Concern (LW) - not a concern; not a risk' population is stable

Near Threatened (NT) - likely to become endangered in near future

Vulnerable (VU) - high risk of endangerment

Endangered (EN) - at risk of extinction

Critically Endangered (CR) - high risk of extinction

Extinct in the Wild (EW) - no individuals exist in the wild

Extinction (EX) - the end of a group of organism, usually a species

COSEWIC is slightly different:

Not at Risk (NAR) - has been evaluated and is not a risk of extinction given current  

Special Concern (SC) - at risk of becoming threatened or endangered 

Threatened (T) - at risk of endangerment if nothing is done 

Endangered (E) - at risk of extirpation or extinction

Extirpated (EX) - species no longer exists in a given area

Extinct (X) - end of a wildlife species

In Prince Edward Island...

There are a few organism the call PEI home, that are at risk of extinction, or endangered. When an organism becomes extinct in a certain area within their range it is referred to as extirpation. For example, Black Bears once existed in PEI. They are no longer here, but still exist. Therefore, Black Bears are extirpated to PEI. An animal is extinct if it no longer exists any where. 

Below are some living things that are considered at risk based on COSEWIC's evaluation that are found in PEI.

Special Concerns:

Short-eared Owl

Monarch Butterfly


Barn Swallow, Canada Warbler, Common Nighthawk and Olive-sided Flycatcher

Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster


Piping Plover

Piping plovers are small pale shore birds, measuring 17-18cm and weighing 43-63g. They inhabit open, sandy beaches. These cute little birds have relatively long legs and a short neck. Their backs are pale tan, legs are yellow, and underparts are white with one black or brown band on the chest that is often broken.

Despite their size, piping plovers will chase intruders, peaking and biting them. They feed on insects and small aquatic invertebrates. Piping plover search for prey visually. Once prey is spotted they run rapidly, stop and then peck or quickly snatch the prey.

Like most shorebirds, piping plover nest on the ground and therefore are often disturbed. It is due to this along with other factors that the piping plover population is at risk of extinction, not only in PEI, but worldwide.

Check out this link to the Parks Canada website to learn more about this endangered species, what is being done to save it and what you can do.


Little Brown Bat 

The Little Brown Bat is one of the most common bats in Canada and is native to P.E.I. Bats are mammals, just like us, they are warm-blooded, have fur and give birth to live young. Bats tend to have a poor reputation and creep most people out; they are just mice with wings, smaller eyes, larger ears and a larger mouth full of teeth....okay, that probably didn't help. They are insectivores, so they do help control the insect population, which is always a good thing! 

The Little Brown Bat can weigh up to 14kg and measure 17cm long.  They are brown with gray underneath and bluish-gray wings. When in flight these bats can reach speeds of 35 km/h. Like most bats, Little Brown Bats are nocturnal or active at night. They live in woods, caves, farm fields and will roost in houses. In P.E.I., it is not uncommon to see bats in the attic of a house or loft of a barn.

Little Brown Bats are active during the spring, summer and fall. During the fall they build up fat to survive hibernation. Before hibernating, bats will mate, but the female does not become pregnant till the spring, when ovulation and fertilization occurs. Young are born in June or July. Hibernating bats have to select their hibernation roost based on temperature. If the temperature goes below freezing the bats will not survive, if the temperature is too warm the fat reserves will burn off too quick and the bat will starve to death. 

White-nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that is causing major problems for bat populations in the United States. During hibernation this fungus grows on the noses, ears and wings of bats. Infected bats run out of fat reserves and starve. Little information is known about where P.E.I. bats spend the winter. It is possible that they travel to nearby provinces, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. According to this article, as of April,  White-nose Syndrome had not reached P.E.I. but it has been reported in New Brunswick. Infected bats have a 10% chance of survival, indicating this disease can have a great impact on the Little Brown Bat population in P.E.I. if it spreads. 


For more information on species at risk in PEI and Canada visit:

The Species at Risk Public Registry



Black Bear 

Woodland Caribou


Passenger Pigeon - Click here for The Story of the Passenger Pigeon.


Go back to Summer Modules.