NWT Species General Status Ranking

How do we track the status of wild species in the NWT?

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) works with other governments, agencies and wildlife co-management boards to share information and build on our collective knowledge about NWT species through the NWT Species General Status Ranking Program and the NWT Conservation Data Centre.

What is the NWT Species General Status Ranking Program?

The NWT Species General Status Ranking Program provides the starting point for our ongoing efforts to monitor and conserve biodiversity in the NWT. The program aims to provide official lists of all species known to be present in the NWT and determine their status and distribution every five years. All territorial and federal agencies and co-management boards with a role in managing or conserving wild species in the NWT are involved in the program.

Why rank NWT species?

The NWT is home to about 30,000 species. Some have a very important place in our economy and our cultures. Some species are facing threats due to human activities and other species are simply very rare. Increasing our knowledge of all species is essential to modern wildlife management and ecologically sustainable development.

An important first step in safeguarding biodiversity is to increase our knowledge of each species and to provide a mechanism to rapidly evaluate and rank the conservation status of each species. Monitoring the status ranks of species is important to detect changes before they become critical and to determine which species need a more detailed assessment of their conservation status or closer monitoring.

Which NWT species are ranked under this program?

Thousands of species have been ranked under the program since 1999. Species ranks are published every five years in the NWT Species report. Species included in each report are determined in collaboration with all jurisdictions in Canada through the National General Status Working Group. For more information on the working group, visit:

How are species ranked?

Starting in 2011, the NWT General Status Ranking Program adopted the standard protocol developed by NatureServe to rapidly evaluate and rank the conservation status of species. This allows NWT data to be combined with the results of similar programs in Canada and throughout the western hemisphere.

More information on NatureServe standards and methods can be found on the NatureServe Canada website.

The methods used to rank species are explained in detail in the NWT Species report. In general, each species is ranked using these steps.

  1. Species lists are created and updated
  2. Information about rarity, trends and threats (factors) are added and sorted.
  3. Each factor is scored using rating codes to determine the rank.

For more information on calculating species ranks, visit the NatureServe website (Conservation Rank Calculator). 

What is the difference between a General Status Rank and a species at risk status (NWT SARC or COSEWIC)?

A General Status Rank is the result of a coarse evaluation of the status of a species. It identifies in a very general way which species are thought to be secure, which are sensitive and which species may be at risk and require more attention or investigation.

Species with a General Status Rank of “May be at Risk” are the highest priority for more detailed assessment by the NWT Species at Risk Committee (NWT SARC) or the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

An NWT SARC or COSEWIC status is the result of a detailed assessment of the status of the species and identifies whether or not a species is at risk of becoming extinct. The General Status Rank helps prioritize which new species will be assessed in detail.

For more on the species at risk assessment and listing process in the NWT, visit the NWT Species at Risk website:

How do traditional and local knowledge contribute to the General Status Ranks?

Traditional and local knowledge helps to rank the status of NWT wild species by:

  • Indicating the actual presence of a species (e.g. observations or knowledge of Long-toed Salamander in Liard Valley)
  • Contributing to the number of species known to exist in the NWT
  • Contributing to information relative to each indicator (for example, the number of occurrences, identification of threats, etc.)
  • Contributing to our understanding of the importance of individual species to northern life, culture and economy

All co-management boards responsible for wildlife in the NWT contribute to and review the draft ranks. During this process, traditional and local knowledge contributed information that changed ranks and increased the number of known species in the NWT.

NWT Conservation Data Centre

The Northwest Territories (NWT) contributes to an international network of biodiversity databases through the NWT Conservation Data Centre (CDC).

All CDC programs are part of NatureServe, and share common methodologies for collecting and managing biodiversity data and information. This allows us to pool data across geopolitical boundaries and to rapidly evaluate and rank the general conservation status of thousands of species in Canada and throughout the western hemisphere.

Where can I find ranking information on NWT species?

Official NWT species ranks are published in the most current NWT Species report. Ranks in each report are valid for five years.

The raw information used to evaluate and rank the general status of NWT species is searchable through the NWT Species Infobase.