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The Prairies cover the south of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The Prairies are the northernmost branch of the Great Plains of North
America and the most altered of the ecozones. The mountains to the west
block much of the precipitation that would otherwise fall. That and
the high winds make this ecozone very dry, although precipitation does
generally increase towards the east. Temperatures are extreme due to
the lack of access to the ocean's buffering. Winter temperatures average
-10ºC and summers average 15ºC.
has left its mark on the Prairies, flattening the landscape and leaving
deposits from inland seas left behind by melting glaciers. These deposits
are now the fertile plains that largely define the Breadbasket of Canada.
Huge numbers of small temporary wetlands form in years with high precipitation.
Gas and oil is plentiful in the region.
Almost 95% of the Prairies have been converted into farmland, with predictable
effects on the original plant populations. Trees and shrubs are most
commonly found in the eastern region.
Trees found in the Prairies include white spruce, black spruce, balsam
fir, tamarack, water
birch, Bebb willow, peachleaf willow, wolf willow, lodgepole pine,
box elder, choke cherry, black cottonwood, eastern
cottonwood, bur oak, trembling aspen, and balsam poplar. Just a
few of the other plants that grow here are spear grass, wheat, blue
grama grass, sagebrush, yellow cactus, prickly pear, buckbrush, chokecherry,
Saskatoon berry bush, alkali grass, wild barley, red sampire, sea blite,
Parry oat grass, June grass, yellow bean, sticky geranium, bedstraw,
chickweed, needle grass, thread grass, snowberry, American silverberry,
rose, silverberry, dryland sedge, black hawthorn, greasewood, plains
larkspur , death camas, wild lupine, smooth aster, prairie sedge,
The widespread alteration of the natural habitat has resulted in diminished
populations and ranges of many animals, and the Prairies contain a disproportionate
number of threatened and endangered species.
The only large carnivore in the Prairies is the black
bear. Large herbivores include whitetail
deer (a recent invader), mule
Small carnivores include coyote,
ferret, and striped
skunk. Rodents are numerous, such as the black-tailed
prairie dog, white-tailed
jack rabbit, snowshoe
ground squirrel, Franklin’s
ground squirrel, thirteen-lined
ground squirrel, least
pocket gopher, olive-backed
pocket mouse, Ord's
kangaroo rat, white-footed
mouse and beaver.
Some of the birds of prey are the ferruginous
saw-whet owl, short-eared
owl, and turkey
vulture. Songbirds include black-billed
longspur, and black-billed
cuckoo. Birds of the forest that are found here include ruffed
woodpecker, and western
meadowlark. Some of the waterfowl found here are the American
blue heron, snow
Eskimo curlew, piping
plover, and whooping crane.
Among the amphibians that can be found here are the northern
leopard frog, striped
chorus frog, plains
plains toad, and tiger
salamander. The area has several species of snakes and lizards,
including the plains
garter snake, gopher
terrestrial garter snake, short-horned
lizard, and prairie
Predatory fish in the Prairie waterways include northern
and sauger. They prey on such fish as the lake whitefish, goldeye, lake
chub, brassy minnow, emerald shiner and yellow
Just a few of the insects are the German
skipper, spring azure, American
copper, monarch butterfly, mourning
black swallowtail, migratory
grasshopper, and pallid-winged grasshopper.
Three of the mollusc species in the Prairies are the valve snail, umbilicate
promenetus, and globular
The Prairies are the most altered of the ecozones. Agriculture covers
almost all of the land, and almost none of the original ecosystems are
left aside from tiny remnants. Despite the huge amounts of land given
over to farming, farmers comprise less than 10% of the four million
people, and 80% of the population lives in urban areas. Mining and services
are the employers of most of the population.
South Saskatchewan river
Old Man river
Near Camrose, Alberta