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Articles by Justine Mannion

Justine is a recent graduate of a Master in Environmental Studies (Planning) degree from York University, specializing in wildlife conservation. She holds a BAH in Geography and Environmental Science from Queen’s University. She has worked in a variety of locations, including Nunavut, where she says that while gazing at a polar bear across the snowy tundra, she knew immediately that her calling in life was to help protect Canada’s vast landscapes. Justine enjoys hiking through Canada’s beautiful parks, travelling to countries far and wide, learning new languages, and spreading the word about species at risk.

Species at Risk: The Northern Riffleshell


True or false? Freshwater mussels are among the most endangered species in North America. True! As Canadians, we’re lucky to have such a large share of the world’s freshwater resources. When you consider the endangered status of freshwater mussels in Ontario, it’s scary to know that these mussels are actually indicators of overall ecosystem health. What does this say about the state of freshwater in Canada?

Species at Risk: The Swift Fox


Being able to run 60km/h means that the swift fox doesn’t get its name from just anywhere; it’s one of the fastest animals on the planet! Listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act, these foxes are as small as house cats, and play a big role in the natural disturbance regime of the native prairie ecosystems they call home. While the species is now on its way to recovery, this small canid was once close to disappearing from Canada forever. Who knew these little foxes would make such a comeback?

Species at Risk: The Least Bittern


The least bittern, listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act, is North America’s smallest heron. It weighs about 80g and measures about 30cm – that’s roughly the size of an American Robin! These little birds breed in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and quite possibly Nova Scotia, from late April to early fall, and its range extends as far south as Argentina and Brazil. Because this bird is very secretive in nature, it’s one of North America’s most poorly known species, and little is known about its migratory routes and winter habitats.

Species at Risk: The Beluga Whale


Beluga whales have become one of the symbols of marine conservation in Canada, and it isn’t hard to see why: these charismatic whales are quite unique! Belugas can turn their head in all directions and, unlike most whales, they don’t have a dorsal fin, which is believed to be an adaptation to the cold waters in which they inhabit. Belugas eat almost 50 different invertebrate and fish species, including octopus, squid, crabs, clams, halibut, and cod. They travel in pods of between 2 and 10 whales, and seek the presence of ice-free waters and concentrations of prey fish, which takes them to different habitats in different seasons.

Species at Risk: The Jefferson Salamander


I visited Rouge Park this past weekend, and I was reminded of how accessible nature is to the city of Toronto. While standing atop a hill overlooking the Greater Toronto Area, I could see the contrast of urban expansion against the areas of deciduous forest within the park. It’s amazing to think that the city of Toronto was once a natural forested area like Rouge Park. As urban and agricultural areas expand in southern Ontario, suitable habitat for species is disappearing. When we think about Canada’s species at risk, our minds often turn to the large, charismatic species that are impacted, but we rarely think of the smaller creatures that are also losing their homes.