Wildlife are all around us. Some species are a daily sight, like the birds that flit between our city trees. Others are a rare encounter, offering a glimpse of Canada’s wilder side.
However you encounter wildlife, the experience is bound to move you. Animals provide comic relief. They send chills up your spine. They leave you spellbound by their majesty, beauty and presence. They can stop you in your tracks to marvel at the variety of life on this planet.
At DUC, our passion is wildlife. As our name suggests, our first love is waterfowl—but our work goes much further. By conserving waterfowl habitat, we are ensuring that Canada’s wildlife—the millions of creatures that amuse, thrill and inspire us—have places to rest, feed and raise young.
Why Our Wildlife Matter
Ask someone from another country why they visit Canada. Many will say they’re drawn to our wilderness.
Canada is the envy of other countries because we have an abundance of wild places and wild species to connect with. Like us, some visitors come to harvest wildlife for food. Others enjoy them through the lens of a camera or binoculars.
Wildlife-related tourism is a major economic benefit to Canadians. Visitors from the United States alone spend hundreds of millions of dollars on wildlife viewing in Canada. And tourists aren’t the only ones who show an appreciation for wildlife through their pocketbooks. In a 2012/2013 survey, Canadians spent nearly $10 billion on birding, hunting, trapping and fishing, as well as creating wildlife habitat on their land.
The benefits of wildlife to Canadians extend well beyond our economy. They represent the very essence of Canada. The wildlife most associated with Canada are not the animals we see every day. Think of the animals on our coins: the polar bear, the caribou, the beaver, the loon. Some of us will go a lifetime without seeing even one of them in the wild.
So why have they been a symbol of our country? Perhaps because they’ve represented just how wild Canada is. Polar bears and caribou require large tracts of natural areas to survive, so maybe their elusive nature has reassured us that there are still wild places in the world. But given the perils facing some populations of polar bears and caribou in Canada, it appears that those wild places are under threat.
How Our Wildlife Are Threatened
The biggest threat to wildlife in Canada is loss of habitat — the natural spaces where animals eat, rest and raise their young. Even though Canada still has large tracts of natural areas, they are shrinking every year. In settled areas of Canada, up to 70 per cent of our wetlands have already been destroyed or degraded. And the habitat that remains is under threat. Human activity is rapidly altering natural areas like wetlands, grasslands and forests. It is the main cause of species endangerment and declining wildlife in Canada. We have close to 500 species at risk, more than 22 species that are no longer found in Canada and at least 13 species that are extinct.
Rising temperatures, higher sea levels, floods and drought—climate change is impacting our land, our water and our wildlife. Some species are able to adapt. Waterfowl that have shifted their migration routes based on environmental factors. Others, like polar bears, are faced with challenges that are hard to escape. Our rapidly changing environment is putting a new kind of pressure on wildlife. Time will tell which species are able to adapt.
How We’re Saving Wildlife
Conserving the natural habitat that remains is the important first step in protecting wildlife. We support landowners who are committed to safeguarding habitat on their land. We encourage sustainable practices in agriculture and resource industries. We collaborate with governments and special interest groups to push for regulations that protect habitat.
We’re experts at bringing degraded land and water back to life. Our restoration projects welcome wildlife back to lost wetlands and grasslands. Our special projects tackle issues like invasive species that push naturally-occurring wildlife out.
We believe in the strength of working together. Partnerships with governments, industry leaders, landowners and non-governmental organizations puts greater power behind many of our conservation, restoration, policy, research and education projects.
What does the loss of natural areas and biodiversity really mean for wildlife and for Canadians? Our scientists are driven to answer that question every day. They are also hard at work to help find the best solutions for habitat loss, wildlife loss and environmental challenges. Science is behind everything we do.
To care about conservation, people need to feel a connection with nature. We’re proud to work with educators and interpretive centres to connect Canadians with the wildlife and habitat that surround them. Through educational resources, classroom programs and student-led field programs, people are learning to care about conserving Canada’s wildlife.