What is wildlife?
The B.C. Wildlife Act defines wildlife as all native and some
non-native amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals that live in B.C. For some provisions of the
Act, the definition includes fish, and other B.C. legislation defines some insects and
plants as wildlife.
- B.C. is home to more than 1140 native species of vertebrates, including 488 bird species,
136 mammal species, 16 reptile species, 20 amphibian species, and 480 fish
- 152 wildlife species and sub-species are considered candidates for endangered,
threatened, or vulnerable status. Three of these are legally designated (by the provincial
government) as endangered in BC: the Burrowing Owl, and the American White Pelican and the
Vancouver Island Marmot. The Sea Otter is designated as Threatened. Other species are under
consideration for listing.
Who manages wildlife?
Management of wildlife in Canada is shared by the federal,
territorial governments. Federal responsibility includes protection and management of migratory birds
as well as nationally significant wildlife habitat, and responsibilities for endangered species,
control of international trade in endangered species, research on wildlife issues of national
importance, and international wildlife treaties and issues.
For the most part, provincial and territorial wildlife agencies are responsible for all other
wildlife matters. These include conservation and management of wildlife populations and habitat
within their borders, issuing licenses and permits for fishing, game hunting, and trapping,
guidelines for safe angling and trapping and outfitting policies.
What are the biggest threats to wildlife?
The biggest threats to wildlife are activities that destroy habitat.
For example, urbanization (replacing greenspace (rural) areas with cities and towns) is destroying
wetlands - home to species such as the Sandhill Crane and the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad.
The Ministry of Environment works with other agencies to conserve species and
habitats and reduce the risks to wildlife from humans. For example:
- The Habitat Conservation Trust Fund gives more than $5 million a year to fish and wildlife
conservation projects. Most of its funds come from surcharges on angling, hunting, trapping and
guide-outfitting licence fees. Hunting is a way of life for many British Columbians. Our strict
hunting regulations help to conserve wildlife species and habitats;
- The Conservation Data Centre (CDC),
Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management, identifies "at risk" species and habitats
and produces information for scientists, naturalists and the general public. (
See our new
Endangered Species and Ecosystems in British Columbia website);
- The Canadian Wildlife Service (part of Environment Canada) handles federal wildlife
matters, and, with the provincial ministry, co-manages migratory birds;
- Organizations like the BC Wildlife Federation and the Federation of BC Naturalists help
conserve British Columbia's fish, wildlife, park and outdoor recreational resources.
How can I help?
Five ways that YOU can help to save wildlife:
- Create a home for birds and frogs in your own backyard, patio, or neighbourhood.
Use native plants in your garden to help save them from extinction. Need help? Call
Naturescape toll-free: 1-800-387-9853.
Help endangered species, for example,
by adopting a Vancouver Island Marmot. Visit the Vancouver Island
Marmot homepage or call
- Join a conservation organization or a habitat enhancement project.
- Encourage friends, classmates or others to work together on a project to
enhance habitats, or raise money for the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund. Call
- Increase your wildlife knowledge-join a natural history society,
visit the museum in person or on-line at
the BC Conservation Data Centre or
visit the Biodiversity & Wildlife Branch website at
http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/ ; take a training program such as
Conservation Outdoor Recreation
Education (CORE) call 1-800-533-2293 or go on-line at
BC Wildlife Federation.
How do I report an occurrence of wildlife disease?
Understanding animal health requires the collection of information about the diseases and
parasites that occur in individuals and populations over time The Wildlife Health Program is
interested in reports of these occurrences. Videos, written or oral descriptions or even
photographs can be valuable sources of information. If you would like to report an occurrence of
wildlife disease, please use the
Disease Surveillance Form found in the on-line
Manual of Common Diseases and Parasites of Wildlife in Northern British Columbia
to help collect the appropriate information and/or samples, and submit a copy of
the completed form (and samples) to your nearest
Ministry office, or contact the Ecosystems Branch's
Thank you for your interest.
My family hunts and recently we harvested a really nice
young bull moose. The butcher found small white lumps in the meat.
What are these and can we eat the moose?
The lumps you found are probably cysts that contain the larval stage of a
tapeworm. The adult worm is found in the intestine of a carnivore such as a wolf. This is an important parasite
to understand so for more information please look at our resource "Diseases you can get
from Wildlife". It is available in two PDF editions:2006 for B.C. only (PDF 5.26MB)
or 2010 edition for B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan (PDF 5.57MB), or as a searchable website (2006 edition, B.C. only). Look it up in a
number of ways; by moose, by moose measles - a common name for the tapeworm infection or just
browse. The short answer is that you can cook and eat the moose meat since you cannot be infected
by this moose worm, but, you should not feed the uncooked organs to your dogs as they can!
I found a dead crow and I was wondering if it has West Nile Virus.
West Nile Virus has been identified in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as eastern
Canada. In 2006, infections were recognized in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho (USA).
British Columbia is the only southern Canadian jurisdiction to remain uninfected. For an update on
the disease and answers to some common concerns, as well as how to be involved in BC, see the
West Nile Virus
page on the website for the BC Centre for
What is the risk of contracting West Nile Virus from
either handling or consuming wild game birds?
I've been hearing a lot about Avian Influenza (AI).
Does it affect wild birds as well as domestic ones? Where can I find out more about it?
I am a hunter and since I heard about CWD Chronic Wasting Disease,
I'm worried about eating deer that I hunt in BC. Should I be?
At this time, Chronic Wasting Disease has not been found in British Columbia. It has now been found in a small area of eastern Alberta adjacent to the Saskatchewan border. CWD infections in
game-farmed elk and wild deer in Canada appear to be linked directly or indirectly to contact
with infected elk on game farms. British Columbia has never permitted the farming of native
species of deer or elk, and B.C. does not permit the import of any native cervid species into
the province. In addition, there are significant geographical and spatial barriers to animal
movement between areas where deer or elk are infected with this disease and our borders.
If you are hunting in other jurisdictions, especially in Saskatchewan,
Alberta or U.S. states where the disease is more common, the following is important advice to
Although there is no evidence to suggest that CWD can infect humans, experts recommend that all products
from animals known to be infected with CWD should not be used for human
food. As a minimum, hunters in areas where CWD has been identified should avoid
eating the brain, spinal cord, eyes, tonsils, spleen or lymph nodes of deer and elk.
For more information, see
CWD in the 2010 edition for B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan (PDF 5.57MB).
CWD has now been proven to be transmitted through the environment after contamination by
infected animal carcasses. Therefore, it is also recommended to leave the carcass parts behind
in the jurisdiction that you hunted it; transport only the following parts of animals hunted in
areas where CWD has been diagnosed to minimize any risk of spreading CWD:
- Meat that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately);
- Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached;
- Meat that has been boned out;
- Hides with no skull attached;
- Upper canine teeth, also known as "bugler," "whistlers," or ivories;"
- Finished taxidermied heads.
- Skull plates with the antlers attached if the skull has been scraped to
eliminate any tissue. The skull plate and cleaning utensils should be cleaned with bleach.
It is recommended that you avoid moving the brain, intact skull, or
spinal cord from the area of harvest.
Chronic Wasting Disease... What is it?
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal disease of the central nervous system that affects mule
deer, white-tailed deer, moose and elk. CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible
spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). TSEs tend to be species-specific and not naturally transmitted
- scrapie, identified in domestic sheep and goats for more than 200 years;
- bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle (BSE or "mad cow disease");
- Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, which occurs naturally in one of every million humans; and
- new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans, which has been linked to the large-scale
outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle herds in Great Britain.
What does CWD look like?
Signs of the disease include gradual weight loss and changes in behaviour. In early stages of the
disease, the animal may look normal, but in later stages affected animals may show weight loss,
drooling and difficulty swallowing, increased drinking and urination, poor coordination or
stumbling, trembling or depression. Signs may be present for days, weeks or months before death.
Difficulty swallowing can lead to pneumonia and rapid death if feed is breathed into the lungs or
aspirated. After infection with the CWD agent occurs, symptoms may not appear for years. In
captivity, infected animals are usually 2 to 7 years old before symptoms are noticed, but there
have been younger cases.
Infection appears to be fatal in all cases. However, because the clinical signs are quite
nonspecific, CWD is not diagnosed by the symptoms or by testing a live animal. Laboratory and
microscopic examination of a small area of the base of the brain as well as the tonsils and lymph
nodes associated with the head of deer are the only methods to confirm the diagnosis of CWD.
Research is continuing on developing simpler tests, especially for live animals.
Where is CWD found?
The disease in mule deer was first identified in the 1960s and monitoring
programs later identified the disease in deer and elk in northeastern Colorado and adjoining
parts of Wyoming and Nebraska. At present, CWD is recognized in wild free-ranging deer and some
elk in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Illinois and Utah.
CWD is or was present in game-farmed elk in a number of states ( Montana,
Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Colorado, Wisconsin and Nebraska), in Saskatchewan
and, recently, in a single elk and a single white-tailed deer on game farms in Alberta. A
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) disease control program was initiated in 2000 to
eradicate the disease on infected elk farms in Saskatchewan. Over 7500 animals were destroyed,
with approximately 3% positive for CWD. The CFIA CWD program has now expanded to Alberta elk and
Since the fall of 2000, a number of mule deer and white-tailed
deer harvested in
Saskatchewan were confirmed to be CWD positive. Wildlife agencies in Saskatchewan and
Alberta joined the CFIA and other disease expects in an expanded control program that includes
wild deerherd reductions and intensive sample collections to confirm the number and
distribution of infected wild deer. To date,
17 free ranging
deer have been diagnosed with CWD in Alberta and
102 in Saskatchewan.
How is CWD transmitted?
An abnormal protein known as a prion is believed to cause Chronic Wasting Disease, but the
exact method(s) of transmission is not understood. Experimental and circumstantial evidence
suggests infected deer and elk transmit the disease through animal contact and/or contamination
of feed or water sources and the environment with saliva, urine and/or feces.
Is CWD in British Columbia?
All CWD infections in game-farmed elk and wild deer in Canada appear to be
linked directly or indirectly to contact with infected cervids from affected areas in the USA.
British Columbia has never permitted the farming of native species of deer or elk, and BC does
not permit the import of any native cervid species into the province. In addition, there are
significant geographical and spatial barriers to animal movement between areas where deer or
elk are infected with this disease and our borders.
At this time, Chronic Wasting
Disease is not known to occur in British Columbia and eastern Alberta is the closest location
for infected wild cervids in neighbouring jurisdictions.
How can we learn more about CWD?
British Columbia initiated a CWD surveillance program of deer and elk
during 2001. We do not expect to find the disease and have not to date. This may be because
of the reasons above; however, the surveillance program is necessary due to the concerns.
Detection of CWD or confirmation that it is not present requires hard work and significant
funding. Our program primarily focuses on random surveys of road kills and some
hunter-killed deer and elk. Sick animals showings signs of CWD are preferentially
tested as they are considered to be the most effective indicator of the disease's
presence. Regional MOE offices in Cranbrook, Fort St. John and other regions are
collecting road mortalities and hunters and game cutters are assisting with harvested animal
samples to provide brain samples.
Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to report the location
of live or dead deer or elk with CWD-like signs to their local Wildlife office
or the Wildlife Veterinarian. An animal of interest is a deer or elk of 18
months or older that is emaciated and shows some of the following signs:
abnormal behaviour, drooling, increased drinking and urination, stumbling,
trembling and depression.
For More Information:
The following web sites provide further information regarding CWD:
Chronic Wasting Disease in British Columbia
Canadian Food Inspection Agency - Animal Health
http://www.scwds.org, hit 'newsletters',
the April 2002 issue, vol. 18, no. 1
National Wildlife Health Center
If you have further question or wish additional information,
please contact your local Wildlife office
or the Wildlife Veterinarian in Victoria at 250-953-4285.
How are species at risk legally protected in BC?
British Columbia has no stand-alone endangered species act. The
Act protects virtually all vertebrate animals from direct harm, except
as allowed by regulation (e.g., hunting or trapping). Legal designation as
Endangered or Threatened under the Act increases the penalties for harming a
species, and also enables the protection of habitat in a Critical Wildlife
Management Area. At present, four species are legally designated: the Vancouver
Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis), American White Pelican
(Pelecanus erythrorhynchus), and Burrowing Owl (Athene
cunicularia) as Endangered, and the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) as
Threatened. When the
Wildlife Amendment Act is brought into force, invertebrates and plants will also
be eligible for listing, and residences of listed species may be protected.
Species on the Red and Blue Lists affected by forest and range
practices are also eligible for listing as a Category of Species at Risk in the
Forest and Range Practices
Act (FRPA) and the
Private Managed Forest Land Act. Once listed, management tools enabled under FRPA, such as
wildlife habitat areas and general wildlife measures, can be used to address the
species’ habitat requirements. Species included in the Category of Species at
Risk, along with regionally important wildlife, are known as “Identified Wildlife”,
and are managed under the Identified Wildlife
Management Strategy (IWMS). The IWMS provides direction, policy, procedures
and guidelines for managing Identified Wildlife.
How are species ranked/listed in BC and Canada?
Status Assessment and Legal Listing of Species at Risk
A species at risk is a species that is extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern
(Table 1). The status of species at risk in Canada is assessed at both provincial and national
levels, and these processes inform one another.
Table 1: Species at Risk Definitions
used by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
Extinct (X) – No longer in existence
Extirpated (XT) – No longer existing in the wild in a
jurisdiction (e.g. country, province, state), but existing elsewhere.
Endangered (E) – Facing imminent extirpation or
Threatened (T) – Likely to
become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
Special Concern (SC) – Particularly sensitive to
human activities or natural events but not yet endangered or threatened.
In British Columbia, specialists with the Conservation
Data Centre, in consultation with other experts, assign species conservation status ranks
according to a set of criteria developed by the international organization
NatureServe. On the basis of these ranks,
species are categorized into a Red List (candidates for
extirpated, endangered or threatened status) and a Blue List (species not immediately threatened,
but of concern).
Conservation Data Centres across Canada also contribute information on the
general status of Canadian flora and fauna. This information is summarized by the National General
Status Working Group, and is published once every five years for the Canadian Endangered Species
Conservation Council in Wild Species in Canada
At the national level, assessments of the status of species at risk are
conducted by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
from the National General Status Working Group assists COSEWIC in determining
which species should be considered for assessment. COSEWIC assessments are based
on status reports, which summarize the best-available information on the biology
of a species, including information on habitat, population size, distribution
COSEWIC status assessments form the basis of advice to the federal cabinet on
species that will be considered for legal listing under the
Species at Risk Act.
Provincially, vertebrate species on the provincial Red List, or assessed by
COSEWIC as extirpated, endangered, threatened or special concern, are among the
candidates for legal listing under the
When the Wildlife
Amendment Act is brought into force, invertebrates and plants will be
eligible for listing, and residences may be prescribed for listed species.
Species on the Red and Blue Lists affected by forest and range practices are
also eligible for listing as a Category of Species at Risk in the
Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA)
and the Private Managed
Forest Land Act. Once listed, management tools enabled under FRPA, such as wildlife
habitat areas and general wildlife measures, can be used to address the
species’ habitat requirements. Species included in the Category of Species at
Risk, along with regionally important wildlife, are known as “Identified
Wildlife”, and are managed under the Identified Wildlife
Management Strategy (IWMS). The IWMS provides direction, policy, procedures
and guidelines for managing Identified Wildlife.
An overview of the national and provincial status assessments and listing processes
is provided in Figure 1.
1Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
2XT = Extirpated; E = Endangered; T = Threatened; SC = Special Concern
How many species are currently considered at risk in British Columbia?
Endangered Species and Ecosystems in British Columbia website
for the most up-to date numbers and customized lists.
- 232 red- and blue-listed (endangered/ threatened or vulnerable) terrestrial vertebrates
- 45 red- and blue-listed fish
- 618 red- and blue-listed vascular plants
- 329 red- and blue-listed plant communities
- 149 red- and blue-listed invertebrates
- more than 589 red- and blue-listed non-vascular plants
What is it, and how are wildlife selected?
Where can I get information about species in British Columbia?
An excellent source is the new Endangered Species and Ecosystems
in British Columbia website, and additional information can be found through the
Biodiversity & Wildlife publications page,
the State of Environment website, or search through
the on-line Biodiversity Publications catalogue. See also "Other Links" this website.
What do we know about Grizzly Bears in British Columbia,
and what are we doing for their conservation?
Where are White Sturgeon found, what is
the status of White Sturgeon in BC, and how is it determined?
How many Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are there?
22 (September 2003).
How much area is included in Wildlife Management Areas (WMA)?
Total 231,516 ha.
What size are Wildlife Management Areas (WMA)?
Biggest 122,787 ha, smallest 17 ha.
What are Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHAs)?
Wildlife habitat areas are areas of limiting habitat that are mapped and approved by the Chief Forester and Deputy Minister of Environment. Wildlife habitat areas are managed according to specific management practices, known as general wildlife measures (GWMs). General wildlife measures may limit forest or range management practices partially or entirely.
What size are Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHAs)?
Wildlife Habitat Areas vary in size from one ha to 2400 ha, but the majority are less than 100 ha. For each species a size or range of sizes has been recommended but the actual dimensions of every WHA will ultimately be determined by site specific considerations
Are Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHAs) protected areas?
Wildlife habitat areas are not protected areas. They are designated under the Forest Practices Code as are other land designations such as old growth management areas and ungulate winter ranges. Wildlife habitat areas are managed according to specific management practices, known as general wildlife measures. General wildlife measures may limit forest or range activities entirely or partially. The level of development permitted in the WHA is determined by the impact of the proposed development on the species. For example, a WHA may allow for roads but no timber harvesting whereas another may allow for specific methods of timber harvesting as long as a certain percentage of canopy cover is maintained.