Species At Risk

Quick Reference Guide

Our Quick Reference Guide provides a brief overview of each species’ biology, life history, threats, and appearance. To date, this guide contains only 65 species. To learn about all the other species at risk in Ontario, check out our species fact sheets.

Download the complete Quick Reference Guide(PDF, 3.2MB). Or browse each species category to download an individual or speices category quick reference guide.

Amphibians Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 326 KB)

Fowler's Toad (PDF, 126 KB) (Anaxyrus fowleri)
endangered
Fowler’s Toads are nocturnal and are mostly active at night, but can occasionally be seen during rainy, overcast days.
Jefferson Salamander (PDF, 127 KB) (Ambystoma jeffersonianum)
threatened
Unlike most small animals, Jefferson salamanders can live a very long time – up to 30 years.
endangered
Salamanders can take in oxygen through their highly permeable skin. Their skin can also easily absorb pollutants and other toxins, which can cause serious harm or death.

Birds Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 550 KB)

Chimney Swift (PDF, 121 KB) (Chaetura pelagica)
threatened
These birds breed and roost in chimneys as well as other manmade structures, including air vents, old open wells, outhouses, abandoned cisterns and lighthouses.
King Rail (PDF, 122 KB) (Rallus elegans)
endangered
During courtship, males present crayfish or small crabs to females in their bill.
Kirtland’s Warbler (PDF, 133KB) (Dendroica kirtlandii)
endangered
Kirtland’s Warbler is one of only a few warblers that have the distinctive habit of regularly pumping its tail up and down.
Least Bittern (PDF, 121 KB) (Ixobrychus exilis)
threatened
The Least Bittern is more likely to be heard than seen in its dense marsh habitat. The typical call given by males is a hollow, quiet “coo-coo-coo”. When alarmed, they can give a harsh “kek-kek-kek” call. They are most vocal in early morning and evening, but could potentially call anytime during the day or night.
Loggerhead Shrike (PDF, 123 KB) (Lanius ludovicianus)
endangered
Shrikes are sometimes called "butcher bird" because they impale their prey on thorns, barbed wire or sharp twigs.
Peregrine Falcon (PDF, 120 KB) (Falco peregrinus)
threatened
The peregrine falcon is one of the world’s fastest animals, and has been clocked diving for prey at speeds of 160 km an hour.
Prothonotary Warbler (PDF, 131 KB) (Protonotaria citrea)
endangered
The Prothonotary Warbler was named after legal clerks in the Roman Catholic Church, known as prothonotaries, who sometimes wear a golden hood and a blue cape.
Eastern Whip-poor-will (PDF, 133 KB) (Caprimulgus vociferus)
threatened
Chicks seem to hatch near full moons, giving parents more light for foraging so they can supply the extra energy demands of their rapidly-growing brood.

Fish Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 601 KB)

American Eel (Anguilla rostrata)
endangered
These fish can absorb oxygen through their skin as well as their gills, allowing them to travel briefly over wet grass or mud.
Black Redhorse (Moxostoma duquesnei)
threatened
During the breeding season, the body colour of the male Black Redhorse changes from bluish-silver to a darker greenish-black.
Channel Darter (Percina copelandi)
threatened
The sandy colour of the Channel Darter provides perfect camouflage with the sandy river and lake bottoms where it lives.
Cutlip Minnow (Exoglossum maxillingua)
threatened
The Cutlip Minnow is reported to attack and eat the eyes of other fish, which has earned it the nickname "eye-picker".
Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida)
endangered
During the breeding season, the normally drab-looking, male Eastern Sand Darters become flushed with yellowish colouration and can develop metallic blue and green colours on their cheeks.
Gravel Chub (Erimystax x-punctata)
extirpated
TBD
Lake Chubsucker (Erimyzon sucetta)
threatened
Female Lake Chubsuckers can lay up to 20,000 eggs each!
Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
special concern (Southern Hudson Bay/James Bay population), threatened (Northwestern Ontario and Great Lakes-Upper St. Lawrence River populations)
The oldest known specimen of this fish, from Lake Huron, is 155 years old.
Northern Madtom (Noturus stigmosus)
endangered
The sharp spines and poison glands found on the pectoral fins of the Northern Madtom can cause a painful wound!
Pugnose Shiner (Notropis anogenus)
endangered
TBD
Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus)
endangered
Redside dace are the only fish in Canada with the ability to jump out of the water to eat.
Shortjaw Cisco (Coregonus zenithicus)
threatened
When it was more common, the Shortjaw Cisco was likely an important food source for fish predators such as Lake Trout and Burbot.
Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)
threatened
The Spotted Gar can breathe air! It uses a special organ called a swim bladder like a lung when the fish comes to the surface for a breath of air. This allows the fish to live in areas with little oxygen in the water. Like most fishes, the Spotted Gar also uses gills to breath underwater.

Molluscs Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 461 KB)

Eastern Pondmussel (Ligumia nasuta)
endangered
To attract fish for its larvae to attach to, the female pondmussel produces a lure that looks like the wriggling legs of a swimming shrimp.
Fawnsfoot (Truncilla donaciformis)
endangered
This mussel can be distinguished from other Canadian freshwater species by the chevron-shaped markings on its shell and its very small size.
Kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus fasciolaris)
endangered
Kidneyshell larvae are clustered into packages called "conglutinates" when released, and somewhat resemble fish fry complete with eye spots, or insect larvae. When a fooled fish bites down on one of these packages, the larvae burst out and attach to the fish gills where they live as parasites and consume nutrients from the fish until they transform into juvenile mussels and drop off.
Mapleleaf Mussel (Quadrula quadrula)
threatened
The Mapleleaf Mussel depends on the channel catfish to survive. By attaching itself to the gills of the catfish, the mussel larvae consume nutrients from the fish until they transform into juvenile mussels and drop off.
Salamander Mussel (Simpsonaias ambigua)
endangered
The larvae of most freshwater mussels must attach to a fish host in order to survive. Once attached, the tiny parasitic larvae consume nutrients from the fish until they transform into mussels. The Salamander Mussel is unique in that their larvae use the aquatic Mudpuppy salamander as a host, instead of a fish.
Northern Riffleshell (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana)
endangered
Northern Riffleshell may be the most imperiled mussel species we have in Ontario, as it is believed there are fewer than 15 locations where this species occurs globally.
Rainbow Mussel (Villosa iris)
threatened
A mussel larva must attach to a host fish where it stays until is has consumed enough nutrients to transform into a juvenile mussel. The female Rainbow Mussel goes fishing for host fish by producing a lure that looks just like a crayfish, including an eyespot and wriggling legs. When a fooled fish attacks the lure the mussel ejects its larvae, which have a better chance of attaching to the host fish at such a close distance.
Rayed Bean (Villosa fabalis)
endangered
The Rayed Bean is extremely rare throughout its range. It is known from fewer than 25 river systems in Canada and the United States.
Round Hickorynut (Obovaria subrotunda)
endangered
It is estimated that Round Hickorynut populations in Canada have declined by more than 90 per cent since the invasion of the Great Lakes by Zebra Mussels.
Round Pigtoe (Pleurobema sintoxia)
endangered
Round Pigtoe eggs hatch inside a special pouch in the mother’s gills called a marsupium, where the larvae are supported before being ejected into the water.
Snuffbox (Epioblasma triquetra)
endangered
The Snuffbox's main host is the Logperch, which is known to frequently roll over small stones and gravel in search of food. The Snuffbox waits patiently for a Logperch to come along and touch its shell. The Snuffbox then captures the Logperch in its shell and holds the stunned fish long enough to puff out a cloud of mussel larvae that attach to the fish gills, where they live as parasites that consume nutrients from the fish body. The startled fish is then released.
Wavy-rayed Lampmussel (Lampsilis fasciola)
threatened
The Wavy-rayed Lampmussel can fish. To attract a fish host that its parasitic larvae can attach to, the female produces a lure that looks like a wriggling minnow. When a fooled fish attacks the lure, the mussel ejects its larvae, which have a better chance of attaching to the host at such a close distance.

Plants Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 1,195 KB)

American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)
endangered
People used the American Chestnut for treating numerous ailments (from coughs and dermatitis to heart trouble), as a staple food and beverage, to build shelters, for firewood and as a source of dye. Early settlers soon realized the many important uses of this tree.
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
endangered
Aboriginal people have used American Ginseng for a wide range of medicinal purposes including treatment of headaches, earaches, rheumatism, convulsions, bleeding, fevers, vomiting, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and as a cure-all when other treatments failed.
Butternut (Juglans cinerea)
endangered
Aboriginal people used this plant medicinally to treat toothaches, injuries and digestive problems.
Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata)
threatened
Common Hoptree is one of two native larval host plants for the rare Giant Swallowtail butterfly.
Crooked-stem Aster (Symphyotrichum prenanthoides)
threatened
Bees and butterflies pollinate the flowers of the Crooked-stem Aster. The seeds are scattered by wind after ripening.
Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
threatened
Dense Blazing Star is able to grow in soil that is contaminated with cadmium by turning this toxic heavy metal into a non-toxic form in its tissues.
Dwarf Hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia)
threatened
TBD
Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
endangered
The bright red fruit of this tree is poisonous to humans but can be eaten by over 50 species of birds and small mammals. These animals help distribute Eastern Flowering Dogwood seeds throughout forests.
Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid (Platanthera leucophaea)
endangered
This orchid’s seeds are produced in huge numbers, but germination and seedling growth depend on the presence of special fungi in the soil.
False Hop Sedge (Carex lupuliformis)
endangered
TBD
Gattinger's Agalinis (Agalinis gattingeri)
endangered
Gattinger's Agalinis looks so similar to its close relative, Skinner's Agalinis, that it can only be distinguished by experts who closely analyze specific features of the flowers, leaves and stems.
Hill's Thistle (Cirsium hillii)
threatened
In Ontario, Hill's Thistle often grows with other species at risk such as Lakeside Daisy and Houghton's Goldenrod.
Houghton's Goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii)
threatened
Houghton's Goldenrod is thought to have evolved as a result of hybridization between two other goldenrod species and a subsequent increase in chromosome number.
Kentucky Coffee-tree (Gymnocladus dioicus)
threatened
TBD
Scarlet Ammannia (Ammannia robusta)
endangered
In British Columbia, Scarlet Ammannia is found alongside another species at risk, Toothcup (Rotala ramosior). While these species are also both found in Ontario, they do not occur together here.
Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)
threatened (Boreal population), endangered (Great Lakes Plains population)
The root of this species was used by Aboriginal people for burns, strained muscles, trouble breathing and difficult labour.
Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides)
threatened
A single Wild Hyacinth can produce over 100 flowers in a single season.
Willowleaf Aster (Symphyotrichum praealtum)
threatened
Aboriginal people used Willowleaf Aster to treat stomach aches and injuries. They also smoked the dried leaves for good luck while hunting.

Snakes Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 707 KB)

Blue Racer (Coluber constrictor foxii)
endangered
The Blue Racer is among the most graceful and swiftest of Ontario’s snakes, though it only reaches a top speed of 12 to16 kilometres per hour. It is easily startled and will flee if threatened. It will also imitate a rattlesnake by vibrating the tip of its tail in leaf litter to produce a buzzing sound.
Butler's Gartersnake (Thamnophis butleri)
endangered
The Butler's Gartersnake exhibits a peculiar behaviour called side-winding. When excited, it will vigorously wriggle from side to side, making little forward progress.
Eastern Foxsnake (Pantherophis gloydi)
endangered (Carolinian population), threatened (Georgian Bay population)
If frightened, this harmless snake will mimic a rattlesnake by vibrating the tip of its tail in leaf litter to produce a buzzing noise.
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
threatened
Unlike other snakes that tend to hibernate in groups, the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake usually spends the winter months alone. It may hibernate in a pre-existing burrow or dig a burrow in the ground with its snout.
Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides)
endangered (Carolinian population), threatened (Frontenac Axis population)
This snake is an excellent climber and may be seen up a tree or bush sunning, preparing to shed its skin or hunting for prey.
Lake Erie Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon insularum)
endangered
Lake Erie Watersnakes can be a paler colour than watersnakes found elsewhere in Ontario. This is believed to be an adaptation that helps the snake camouflage on the pale limestone beaches characteristic of the islands it inhabits.
Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)
threatened
The Massasauga is very shy and prefers to hide or retreat from enemies rather than bite them. If threatened, it will shake its tail as a warning and strike only as a last resort to protect itself if it can not escape.
Queensnake (Regina septemvittata)
threatened
Queensnakes are excellent swimmers and can often be seen swimming and hunting underwater for their main food source – freshly-moulted crayfish. When freshly moulted, crayfish are soft, defenceless and easier to swallow. Ironically, during winter hibernation, crayfish turn the table and will eat juvenile and hibernating Queensnakes.

Turtles Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 487 KB)

Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
threatened
These turtles can survive in the wild for more than 75 years.
Eastern Musk Turtle (Stinkpot) (Sternotherus odoratus)
threatened
Unlike other turtles, the Eastern Musk Turtle rarely leaves the water except when females lay eggs. It spends most of the day resting on the soft lake bottom, foraging for food or basking in the sun under floating aquatic vegetation in shallow water.
Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera spinifera)
threatened
The Spiny Softshell turtle captures crayfish and .pdfuscs by partially burying itself underwater in the sand or mud and snatching unsuspecting prey. Its snorkel-like snout allows it to take a breath of air while submerged.
Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
endangered
Most female and male turtles look a little bit different. In the case of Spotted Turtles, females have bright orange eyes and chins whereas males’ are dark brown or black.
Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)
endangered
Wood turtles do not begin reproducing until they are at least 17 years old.

The Endangered Species Act


Contact your local ministry office


Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.