16.2 Trends in NWT populations of species at risk

Last Updated: 
November 12, 2015

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC)1 assesses the status of species at risk in Canada. The Species at Risk Committee (SARC) assesses the status of species at risk in the NWT. This indicator provides information on population trends for each NWT species that COSEWIC or SARC has assessed as a species at risk in Canada or in the NWT.

Trend information is noted as either “increasing”, “declining” or “stable”. Uncertainties are noted.

Information on population trends is derived from COSEWIC reports1 and SARC reports2 with updates from ENR biologists and others as noted. 

NWT Focus

For many species found in the NWT, threats to the survival of the species are more severe in areas outside the NWT than within the NWT. For some species, such as grizzly, wolverine, wood bison, peregrine falcon and boreal caribou, the people of the NWT are responsible for some of the only remaining healthy populations in North America or the world. Population status and trends for species at risk provide an overview of the current state of the most vulnerable components of northern ecosystems.

Current view: status and trend

There are 34 species or subspecies in the NWT that have been assessed as species at risk in Canada according to COSEWIC. Of these, four species – peregrine falcon, whooping crane, bowhead whales and grey whales – have increasing populations in the NWT. Seven species – Peary caribou, northern mountain caribou, Dolphin-Union barren-ground caribou, red knot, wood bison, northern leopard frog and polar bear – have some decreasing populations. Previously common species of insect-feeding birds, such as the common nighthawk, olive-sided flycatcher, rusty blackbird and bank swallow, are becoming less common. These species have declining populations throughout North America but the trend in NWT populations is uncertain. The recent trends in NWT populations of other species at risk cannot be reliably determined.

Species at Risk COSEWIC Status – Year of assessment

SARC Status - Year of assessment


Percent of global distribution in Canada Percent of Canadian distribution in NWT Recent trend in NWT population(s)
Northern Arctic, Southern Arctic, and Northern Mountain Ecozones
Peary Caribou Endangered - 2004 Threatened - 2012 100% 40 - 60% Stable at low numbers; increased in some areas
Northern Mountain Caribou Special Concern - 2014   100% 20% Stable - Uncertain
Dolphin-Union Barren-ground Caribou Special Concern - 2004 Special Concern - 2013 100% 40% Stable, likely declining
Collared Pika         Special Concern - 2011       60% 40% Unknown
Polar Bear  Special Concern - 2008  Special Concern - 2012 50%  10%  Likely declining in one population; Stable to uncertain in to others 
Wolverine Special Concern - 2013   20% 25% Stable – Declining on barren-grounds - Uncertain
Grizzly Special Concern - 2012   10-20% 20% Stable – Uncertain
Red Knot (rufa)1 Endangered - 2007   100% (breeding distribution) 10% Declining
Red Knot (islandica)1 Special Concern - 2007   40% (breeding distribution) 20% Unknown
Buff-breasted Sandpiper  Special Concern - 2012    60% (breeding distribution)  50%  Unknown 
Peregrine Falcon (on tundra ) Special Concern - 2007   10%? (breeding distribution) 10% Increasing
Eskimo Curlew Endangered - 2009   uncertain distribution uncertain distribution Not seen for decades
Ivory Gull Endangered - 2006   10% (breeding distribution) 0% (historical nesting site only) Uncertain
 Freshwater Fishes
 Dolly Varden (northern form) Special Concern - 2010    50%      50%  Declining - Uncertain
Vascular Plants
Hairy Braya Endangered - 2013 Threatened - 2012  100%  100% Declining
Nahanni Aster Special Concern - 2014   100% 100% Stable
Taiga Plains and Taiga Shield Ecozones
Wood Bison Threatened - 2013   100% 60% Declining in some herds, stable in others
Boreal Caribou Threatened - 2002 Threatened - 2012 100% 10% Declining to stable - Uncertain in some regions
Little Brown Myotis (Bat)      Endangered - 2013   50%  5%  Unknown 
Northern Myotis (Bat)  Endangered - 2013   40%  1-5%  Unknown 
Whooping Crane Endangered - 2010   Almost 100% (breeding distribution) 90% Increasing
Common Nighthawk Threatened - 2007   37% (breeding distribution) 5-10% Unknown
Barn Swallow Threatened - 2011   5-15% (breeding distribution) 5% Unknown
Bank Swallow Threatened - 2013   5-15% (bredding distribution 5% Unknown
Canada Warbler Threatened - 2008   80% (breeding distribution Less than 1% Unknown
Olive-sided Flycatcher Threatened - 2007   80% (breeding distribuiton) 5% Unknown
Rusty Blackbird Special Concern - 2006   Almost 100% (breeding distribution) 10% Stable – Uncertain
Horned Grebe Special Concern - 2009   80% (breeding distribution)  10% Stable - Uncertain 
Peregrine Falcon (in forest) Special Concern - 2007   10% (breeding distribution)  20%  Increasing
Short-eared Owl Special Concern - 2008   10-30% (breeding distribution) 10% Unknown
Yellow Rail Special Concern - 2009   10% (breeding distribution) 1% Unknown
Freshwater Fishes
Bull Trout Special Concern - 2012   80% 10% Unknown
Shortjaw Cisco Threatened - 2003   90% Unknown Unknown
Northern Leopard Frog Special Concern - 2009 Threatened - 2013 60% 2% Declining - Uncertain
Western Toad Special Concern - 2012   40% Less than 1% Unknown
Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee Endangered - 2014   Less than 5% Less than 5% Unknown
Western Bumble Bee (Northern Species) Special Concern - 2014   40-50% Less than 5% Unknown
Arctic Marine Ecozones
Marine Mammals
Bowhead Whale Special Concern - 2009   30% 30% Increasing
Grey Whale Special Concern - 2004       10%     Less than 1% Increasing
Marine Fishes
Northern Wolffish Threatened - 2012   20% uncertain distribution Unknown

1Red Knot (rosellari): Threatened - 2007 may be present in the NWT, but this remains unconfirmed.

Looking forward

Trends in populations of species at risk in the NWT are varied. Species with clearly increasing populations have either been the subject of intensive recovery efforts – peregrine falcon, wood bison, whooping crane – or the single threat to their survival has been halted for many decades – commercial hunting of bowhead whales.

The reasons for continuing declines or uncertain population trends in other species at risk in the NWT differ for each species. Current threats to species at risk in the NWT include climate change, habitat use, prey declines, diseases and over-hunting. Reducing impacts of all these threats in the future will prove as challenging as in the past.

Find out more

  • Trends in populations of forest-associated species at risk are indicators in the Forest Criteria and Indicators developed by the CCFM. Forest-associated species at risk are those occurring the Taiga Shield, and Taiga Plains ecozones.
  • For more informaton on Species at Risk in Canada and Species at Risk in the NWT.
  • See WILDLIFE for other indicators on populations of species at risk. See USE OF RENEWALBE RESOURCES for indicators on sustainable use of some species at risk.

Technical Notes

  • Estimates of percent of distribution are based on printed material and were rounded to the nearest 10%, except for values less than 10%.
  • Increasing, Declining, Stable = population trends in the NWT, as measured or inferred, based on written material;
  • (COSEWIC and SARC reports) Uncertain = population trends uncertain or inferred based on expert opinion only;
  • Unknown = population trend is not available and has not been measured or inferred based on any source.


Found an error or have a question? Contact the team at NWTSOER@gov.nt.ca.


Ref 1 - COSEWIC. 2008. COSEWIC Webpage

Ref 2 - SARC. Current. SARC Webpage.