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Land and Resources, Animal Life

sea mink, weasel family, Barren Ground caribou, passenger pigeon, bear parts

The animals of Canada are similar to those of northern Europe and Asia. Among the carnivores are several species of the weasel family, such as the ermine, sable, fisher, wolverine, and mink. Other representative carnivores are the black bear, brown bear, lynx, wolf, coyote, fox, and skunk. The polar bear is distributed throughout the Arctic; the puma is found in British Columbia. Of the rodents, the most characteristic is the beaver. The porcupine, the muskrat, and many smaller rodents are numerous, as are hares. Gophers are found in the Great Plains.

Several varieties of Virginia deer are native to southern Canada; the black-tailed deer occurs in British Columbia and parts of the Great Plains. This region is also the habitat of pronghorns. The woodland caribou and the moose are numerous and widely distributed, but the Barren Ground caribou is found only in the far north, which is also the habitat of the musk ox. Elk and bison (often called buffalo) are found in various western areas. Bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats are numerous in the British Columbia mountains. Birds are abundant and diverse, and fish are numerous in all the inland waters and along all the coasts. Reptiles and insects are scarce except in the far south.

Many animal species are threatened with extinction as urban, agricultural, and industrial uses envelop and pollute natural environments. Some species have already been lost, such as the passenger pigeon, the sea mink, and the Dawson caribou. Among the endangered animals are the beluga (white whale) and the spotted owl. Furthermore, some animals are threatened by illegal hunting; for example, an illegal market in bear parts used in some Asian medicines has had a severe impact on black and grizzly bear populations. In contrast, some of Canada’s animals have adapted very well to new environments and have become so numerous as to be considered pests in some areas. Others have been brought back from the brink of extinction by conservation efforts.

Except for fish, native animals are no longer of much economic importance in Canada. Although beaver, bison, sea otter, and whale were once hunted to virtual extinction, they are now largely ignored. Canada still has a fur industry, but the demand for furs has lessened substantially. Hunting for sport, however, generates a certain amount of income across Canada. Also, a growing number of people participate in other recreations related to wildlife, such as bird-watching, whale watching, and nature photography; all of these generate jobs and income.

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