Scientific Name: Oxytropis lagopus
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2014
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 3, Special Concern
- (SARA Schedule 1 provisions do not apply)
The Hare-footed Locoweed is a member of the pea family. It has silky, silvery herbage, and stands up to 13 cm tall. The flowers are bluish-purple and are 13 to 16 mm in length. The leaves are 3 to 11 cm long with 5 to 17 leaflets. Keels of petals have sharp, pointed ends, distinguishing this species from the similar Milk Vetch. The erect pods measure 6 to 15 mm in length and inflate upon maturing.
The Hare-footed Locoweed is native to and widespread in the Rocky Mountains. In the United States, it can be found from Wyoming to western Montana and Idaho. In Canada, it is limited to southwestern Alberta. The Canadian populations occur in a very restricted area of ridges and hills around the western section of North Milk River (near the Montana border, south of Cardston). The area is bounded by Whiskey Gap to the west, Lake Shanks region to the east and Ross Lake area to the north.
Some 10 000 to 20 000 plants occur at eight different sites within this area of Alberta. The majority of these occur around Lake Shanks. Population trends are difficult to predict, since data have only been collected twice, once in 1986 and again in 1993, from a select number of sites.
Alberta populations of Hare-footed Locoweed grow on unglaciated, gravelly soils of the Milk River Ridge. The plant usually grows in 10-metre-wide strips along upper slopes or plateau rims of steep ridges, where the soil is characterized by a brown chernozem. Other features include dry grassland, low winter precipitation, high evaporation rates and fast run-off. The Milk River Ridge is known to be an important area for rare and unusual species of plants.
The species is a perennial that reproduces through pollen production. The Alberta populations actively produce fruit and set seed. Farmers consider the plant hazardous, since extensive grazing has been known to poison and sometimes kill livestock.
There are a number of factors that threaten this plant, the biggest being gravel extraction. Grazing is known to limit the plant's use of available habitat, and cultivation of natural habitats has eliminated many sites as well. The Hare-footed Locoweed at most of the remaining sites are probably safe from cultivation because they are on steep inclines.
Species that have been designated at risk by COSEWIC since the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was written must be added to Schedule 1 through a regulatory amendment.
Information on this procedure is available in the Assessment section. If Hare-footed Locoweed is added to Schedule 1, it will benefit from the protections afforded by SARA.
More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
The decision to end gravel extraction at Alberta's Ross Lake Community Pasture has been the only active measure to ensure species' continued survival.
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
Hare-footed Locoweed (Oxytropis lagopus var. conjugans) is a member of the Fabaceae (pea family). It is a perennial forb, having a stout taproot crowned by leaves and large, purple, attractive flowers. Despite its attractiveness it has little interest for the horticultural trade. Plants can be poisonous to livestock, especially horses. Parts of the plant have medicinal properties and they were used by First Nation peoples to treat several ailments.
This member of the pea family occurs in highly restricted habitat within a small area of rough fescue prairie on gravelly soils in southern Alberta and western Montana. Alberta occurrences represent a large portion of the world population. The plants face numerous threats including competition with invasive alien plant species, mining and quarrying, cultivation, oil and gas drilling, road development, and intensive livestock grazing, all of which have not been mitigated and are contributing to continuing habitat loss and degradation.
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances). Given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species".
COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2013 to September, 2014) from November 24 to November 29, 2013 and from April 27 to May 2, 2014. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species.
The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following:
Special Concern: 20
Data Deficient: 0
Not at Risk: 1
Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 25 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.
The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk.
Please submit your comments byApril 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website