Species at Risk

What We Do for Endangered Animals (“Species At Risk”)

As a wildlife rehabilitation centre, we support the Ontario Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 2007. Our goal is to contribute to restoring various species so that their endangered or threatened listing until the ESA is eventually no longer needed. We take a proactive approach in recovering and conserving Ontario’s imperiled species by:

  1. Caring for endangered and threatened species, and their habitats
  2. Using medical procedures to bring sick, injured or orphaned endangered animals back to full health and then located into their natural habitat by means of our release program
  3. Educating the general public in how to identify threats to Ontario endangered species, and take measures to address these threats and conserve species. Click here to access our video series on species-at-risk. 

We also foster the next generation of offspring whose parents did not make it, either through injury, hunting, or other reasons. For instance we harvest eggs from deceased mother turtles (e.g. Blanding’s turtle, Snapping turtle) and incubate them until they hatch. See bottom of page for pictures.

SPWC has rehabilitated over an astounding 30% of species currently at-risk in Ontario!

What does “At Risk” mean?hawk release

EXP (Extirpated): A species that no longer exists in the wild in Ontario but still occurs elsewhere.

END (Endangered): A species facing imminent extinction or extirpation in Ontario which is a candidate for regulation under Ontario’s ESA.

THR (Threatened): A species that is at risk of becoming endangered in Ontario if limiting factors are not reversed.

SC (Special Concern, formerly “Vulnerable”): A species with characteristics that make it sensitive to human activities or natural events.

Canadian Government Initiatives & Acts

With the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 2007, Ontario became a North American leader in species at risk protection and recovery. It involves:

  • protection for species at risk and their habitats
  • support for volunteer stewardship efforts of private landowners, resource users, and conservation organizations
  • a commitment to recovery of species
  • fines and more effective enforcement
  • accountability, including government reporting requirements

Under the ESA 2007 there is a strong emphasis on science-based review and assessment of species.  Species thought to be at risk are assessed by The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO), which is an independent body that reviews species based on the best available science, including community knowledge, and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge.
Endangered threatened and extirpated species, and their habitats, on this list automatically receive legal protection under the ESA 2007. It calls for the creation of recovery strategies for endangered and threatened species, management plans for special concern species, and is responsive to Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights. The recovery and protection of species at risk depends upon all Ontarians. The federal list of species at risk is determined by the federal government, based on the recommendations of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

The ESA compliments the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). Under the Planning Act, a policy is used by land use planners and others to help make sure that species at risk are not harmed by land development. For example, the PPS states that development is not permitted in significant habitats of endangered and threatened species.

Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, you cannot hunt, trap, buy or sell the “specially protected wildlife” listed in the Act. The Crown Forest Sustainability Act requires that Forest Management Plans take threatened and endangered species into account and protect them within the area covered by the plan. The Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act and the Ontario Parks policy also include provisions to protect species at risk in parks and protected areas.

Threats to At Risk Birds…

Habitat: Deforestation and urban sprawl in local areas leads to fewer places for birds of all species to build nests and raise young, making future bird generations smaller in number.

Food availability: Habitat changes affect the amount and quality of food that birds can forage, which means poorer health.

Window strikes: Reflective surfaces of windows in homes and buildings confuse birds so that they fly directly into the glass, injuring themselves, which sometimes proves fatal. You can minimize window strikes by making or buying bird window guards.

Injury and disease: With the factors above and the sometimes fragile physical bodies of birds, they are more prone than other animals to easily suffer from injury or disease. It is also difficult for birds, especially those of prey, to thrive in captivity as we rehabilitate them as they tend to hide injuries very well.

Threats to At Risk Turtles…

Vehicles collisions: Turtles need to make the journey from dry land to a body of water in order to mate and lay eggs, and they travel the same paths all their lives. If this path crosses a busy road they are much more likely to be hit by a vehicle in their attempt.

Habitat: The decrease in wetlands and forest land are both major contributors to less available living space for Ontario turtles, and not as many suitable places for laying eggs.

Injury and disease: A main cause of injury is vehicle collisions (above) but they are also affected by various reptile illnesses.

Water quality: Pollution in lakes and other bodies of water make it harder for turtles to stay healthy. Hatchlings who start off life in a contaminated lake or pond may not have as long a lifespan.


The Sandy Pines “Species At Risk” Wildlife Program promotes public awareness of and involvement of the conservation of all local Ontario wildlife and species at risk. We make group presentations, hold student workshops, have outreach materials available, and more. We inform volunteers and the public about opportunities to participate in hands-on initiatives and rehabilitation projects.
•    Access our website resources on how to prevent harm to endangered wildlife, such as:

  • What to do if you find an injured or sick animal
  • Preventing bird window strikes
  • Helping turtles cross the road
  • Making your property safe
  • Safe driving and reducing road kill
  • Handling other wildlife issues

•   Explore our ‘Love Wildlife’ education program for students across Ontario. We provide curriculum-based presentations for K-12 classes. Click here to learn more!

• Watch our Wildlife-at-Risk video series and explore our lesson plans for students in Grade 6-8. Each video highlights the work we do to rehabilitate species-at-risk and includes an interview with a special guest who shares about the work they are doing to protect species-at-risk in our community. Click here to access the video series and lesson plans.

•    Become a volunteer and help conserve and care for specific endangered species you love – Are you a bird fan? A turtle lover? There are plenty of at-risk species who need your help if you are able to fundraise, transport, feed, and more.

•    Read the SPWC newsletter for more ways to learn about how we care for at risk species, animal stories, and Centre updates. It’s published twice a year and available with a small donation.