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Zoos

Zoos, also known as zoological gardens, are facilities exhibiting wild and domesticated animals for purposes of education, recreation, conservation and research. Zoos range from conventional, dense-occupancy facilities to open animal parks and game farms. They can incorporate aquariums exhibiting fish and other aquatic life forms. There are 28 accredited zoos in Canada, according to the Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. Canada’s largest zoo is the Toronto Zoo.

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Bear (Animal)

Bears (of the family Ursidae) are stocky, bob-tailed mammals with 5 clawed toes on each paw. Three species inhabit Canada.

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Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake is the common name for about 30 species of venomous, viperid snakes in the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus, found from southern Canada to South America. Three species of rattlesnake are found in Canada: the Western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganous), the prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridus) and the Eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus). Another species, the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) is extirpated, meaning the species no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but lives elsewhere.

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Salamander

Salamander is a common name for most members of the tailed amphibia (order Caudata). There are about 410 species worldwide; 21 are native to Canada. Salamanders are found mainly in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere and tropical South and Central America. In the latter, salamanders have radiated and the region contains more than a third of the species in the world. In Canada, salamanders are found from the Maritimes to British Columbia and north to central Labrador and northern British Columbia; none have been recorded on the island of Newfoundland.

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Flea

Fleas are very small, wingless, laterally flattened insects of the order Siphonaptera. They’re best known for being external parasites on mammals and occasionally birds. Adult fleas live in the fur or feathers of their hosts, feeding on their blood to survive and reproduce. While fleas do feed off humans, more common host animals include rodents, dogs and cats. The “human” flea, Pulex irritans, actually attacks a broad range of mammal species, and the same is true of most flea species that bite humans. About 2,000 species and subspecies are known worldwide, with at least 127 found in Canada, most of them in British Columbia and Alberta.

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Beaver

The beaver (Castor canadensis) is a herbivorous mammal. It is Canada’s largest rodent and the second-largest rodent in the world (after the capybara). It is primarily nocturnal and lives a semi-aquatic life. The beaver is one of the only mammals, other than humans, that can manufacture its own environment. It is known for building dams, canals and lodges. Its colonies are created by one or more beaver-built dams, which provide still and deep water for protection against predators. An emblem of Canada older than the maple leaf, the beaver has had a greater impact on Canadian history and exploration than any other animal or plant species. (See also Fur Trade in Canada.)

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Dinosaur Eggs

Members of the Central Asiatic Expedition, led by the American Museum of Natural History, first recognized dinosaur eggs in Mongolia in the 1920s. Since then, paleontologists have discovered fossilized remains of dinosaur eggs at over 200 locations worldwide. These locations include sites in Africa, China, Europe, India, Korea, and the Americas. The first dinosaur eggs from North America were discovered in Montana in the late 1970s. In Canada, dinosaur eggshell fragments were initially found in the early 1980s. Complete dinosaur eggs were discovered in 1987 at a site in southern Alberta known as Devil’s Coulee.

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Spirit Bear

Spirit bears are rare white-coated black bears (Ursus americanus kermodei) that live in the coastal temperate rainforests of Northwest British Columbia. Their striking colour is caused by an uncommon recessive genetic trait. Spirit bears are not a unique species or subspecies, but a unique colouration of the coastal British Columbian black bear subspecies kermodei. Referred to as moksgm’ol, meaning “white bear,” by Tsimshian coastal First Nations, spirit bears play an important role in local culture and increasingly in Indigenous-led ecotourism.

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Dinosaurs and Canada

Dinosaurs were a group of animals that dominated the land environments of every continent. They lived from the late Triassic period to the end of the Cretaceous period (225 to 65 million years ago). However, birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, meaning dinosaurs are still common today. Paleontologists have found more than 100 different species of dinosaurs in Canada. The primary site of these fossils is Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta. Well-known dinosaurs first named from Canadian specimens include Albertosaurus, Centrosaurus, Corythosaurus, Dromaeosaurus,Gorgosaurus, Lambeosaurus, Pachyrhinosaurus, Parasaurolophusand Styracosaurus.

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Bison

Bison are large, even-toed hoofed mammals of the family Bovidae. Two subspecies of bison exist in North America: the plains bison (Bison bison bison) and the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae). Historically, the plains bison lived primarily in the Great Plains of central North America, while the wood bison lived further north, from Alaska into the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and in the northern portions of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, it’s estimated that plains bison numbered 30 million and wood bison 170,000. Various aspects of European colonization led to the rapid depopulation of North America’s bison. By the late 1800s, plains bison no longer existed in Canada, and wood bison numbered about 200. Conservation efforts in both Canada and the United States mean that today, North America’s plains bison population fluctuates between 350,000 and 400,000, and wood bison between 5,000 and 7,000.

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Endangered Animals in Canada

Many animals in Canada face the risk of extinction. Animals are put at risk for several reasons, including: climate change, the loss of forest and grassland to cities and agriculture, hunting, fishing, and the pollution of lakes and rivers. As of 2021, 554 animal species are at risk in Canada, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In addition, 18 are extirpated and 18 extinct. The committee’s definition of a wildlife species includes taxonomic categories as well as geographically distinct populations. For example, the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is included in the list of at risk animal species six times, as there are six different populations facing different threats to their survival. (See also Endangered Plants in Canada.)

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Arctic Animals

Arctic animals are those that have adapted physically and behaviourally to the particular conditions of life in the most northerly regions on the planet.

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Great Canadian Fauna

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that make us proud to be Canadian, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

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Mantid

Mantids are carnivorous insects of the order Mantodea, known for their prayer-like posture. Mantids are most closely related to cockroaches and termites. There are about 2,400 species worldwide, most of which are found in the tropics. Only three species are found in Canada: the European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia) and the ground mantid (Litaneutriaminor). Of these three species only the ground mantid, found in southern British Columbia, is native.

Although mantis is sometimes used to refer to the entire group, most entomologists prefer to use that word for members of the genus Mantis.

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Yellowjacket

Yellowjacket is the common name for wasps in the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. They belong to the insect family Vespidae in the order Hymenoptera, which also includes other types of wasps such as hornets, as well as bees and ants. Worldwide, there are about 50 recognized species of yellowjacket, 17 of which are native to Canada. These native species include the common (Vespula alascensis), Eastern (V. maculifrons), Western (V. pensylvanica) and aerial (Dolichovespula arenaria) yellowjacket. One species, the German yellowjacket (V. germanica), is introduced to Canada and is especially common in Ontario and Quebec.

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Whale Species in Canada

Whale is the common name for large marine mammals of the order Cetartiodactyla (formerly Cetacea). They are subdivided into the Mysticeti, or baleen whales, and Odontoceti, or toothed whales. Smaller kinds of toothed whales are called dolphins or porpoises. Thirty-five whale species are found at least occasionally in Canadian waters — 9 species of baleen whales, and 26 species of toothed whales (mostly dolphins and porpoises). The commercial pursuit of whales was significant in early European exploration of Canada (see Whaling). Since the end of commercial whaling in Canada in 1972, whale watching has become popular. Whales found in Canada range in size from about 60 kg for the harbour porpoise to well over 100 tonnes for the blue whale, making it the largest animal ever known.

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Snake Species in Canada

A snake is a long, slender reptile of the suborder Serpentes, within the order Squamata (which also includes lizards). There are 25 species of snake currently found in Canada. In addition, one species, the timber rattlesnake, and one subspecies, the Pacific gophersnake, are extirpated. This means that, while they continue to live in other parts of their range, they are no longer found in Canada. Snake species in Canada belong to one of three taxonomic families: Boidae, Viperidae or Colubridae. Most species live in the southern part of the country; however, the common gartersnake can be found as far north as the 60th parallel, near Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.

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Common Gartersnake

The common gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is a relatively small, striped, non-venomous snake. It is one of the most widespread snake species in North America and its range extends farther north than any other North American snake. In Canada, it is found in every province except Newfoundland and Labrador, and as far north as James Bay and into the southernmost Northwest Territories. The common gartersnake is broken into five subspecies across Canada: the Maritime gartersnake (Thamnophis s. pallidulus; PEI, NS, NB, QC), the Eastern gartersnake (Thamnophis s. sirtalis; QC, ON), the red-sided gartersnake (Thamnophis s. parietalis; ON, MB, SK, AB, BC, NWT), the valley gartersnake (Thamnophis s. fitchi; BC), and the Puget Sound gartersnake (Thamnophis s. pickeringii; BC).

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National Parks of Canada

Canada’s national parks are protected areas established under federal legislation to preserve Canada’s natural heritage. They are administered by Parks Canada, a government agency that evolved from the world’s first national parks service, the Dominion Parks Branch, established in 1911. The National Parks System Plan, developed in 1970, divided Canada into 39 natural regions and set the goal of representing each region with at least one national park. Canada now has 48 national parks and national park reserves in 30 of these regions. In total, the parks cover more than 340,000 km2, which is over 3 per cent of Canada’s landmass. They protect important land and marine habitats, geographical features and sites of cultural significance. National parks also benefit local economies and the tourism industry in Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about National Parks of Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see National Parks of Canada (Plain-Language Summary).)

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Polar Bear

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the largest living species of bear. They are found throughout the circumpolar Arctic. In Canada, this means polar bears live in parts of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Manitoba,Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Polar bears are both culturally and economically significant to the Inuit. As climate change continues to reduce their sea ice habitat, polar bears are increasingly threatened.