The Canadian Prairie is easily recognized as a separate faunal region, one which, of course extends some distance south of the international boundary. By zoologists it is labelled the Transition Zone as is also the grassland of the interior of British Columbia. The original grassland was inhabited by large grazing mammals, by many small burrowing species and by large and small carnivores which preyed upon them. There were also a great number of birds which preferred open country instead of forest, including those attracted to the edges of the "sloughs".
The buffalo or American bison (Bison bison), a great shaggy horned beast, though slightly smaller than the wood buffalo, covered the plains in huge herds, numbering millions. They furnished meat and hides to the Indian, who, after he had acquired the horse and the rifle from the white man, was able to make a comfortable living. The coming of the railway and the white hunter who killed for the hides alone, soon reduced them to a pitiful remnant. They are now increasing in National Park areas but their former range is now put to other uses and they will never again be a real geographic factor. Their total influence as such is rather hard to estimate for besides their usefulness to man, they must have exercised considerable influence upon the ecology of the grassland itself. It has been suggested that the borders of the prairie were considerably extended by grazing.
The prong-horned antelope (Antilocapra americana) and the elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) were also found in great numbers and have suffered almost the same fate as the buffalo. Other prairie mammals include the northern gopher (Thomomys talmoides), the pocket gopher (Geomyx bursarius), badger (Taxidea americana), coyote (Canis latrans) and the jack rabbit (Lepus townsendii).
Among the breeding birds of the prairie may be mentioned the upland plover (Bartramia longicanda), prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido ), sharp-tailed grouse (Pediocetes phasianellus) cowbird (Molothrus alter), Brewer's blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalis), western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus), Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni), gopher hawk (Buteo regalis), California gull (Larus californicus), Franklin's gull (Larus pipixcan) , mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), black duck (Anas rubripes) and pintail (Dafila acuta). The sloughs of the Prairie region and the lakes to the north make ideal habitats for waterfowl hence they are more numerous in western Canada than in the east.