The presence, characteristics and distribution of animal populations constitute an important phase of systematic geography which is largely ignored by many regional geographers. In competition with advancing and increasing human populations wild life has had to give way, many species being exterminated or forced into the more inaccessible places where the scattered bands eke out a precarious existence. This is more especially true of the larger mammals, the grazing species of the plains such as buffalo and the antelope, and the larger carnivorous such as the bears and wolves. Bird life too has suffered through the destruction of their breeding and feeding grounds as well as through indiscriminate hunting. It is true, of course, that the destruction of one type of habitat cannot be accomplished without the creation of another. While the original bird life of southern Ontario departed with its primeval forests, an association of different species has taken its place. We now see clouds of starlings instead of passenger pigeons. Pigeons thrive in cities. The same principle applies to mammals; in the unbroken forest one sees very few woodchucks, but in old pastures they become plentiful.
Animal life is more, however, than a mobile feature of the landscape. It may be the basis of human occupance. Hunting and fishing provided and still do provide the means of existence for primitive peoples. The plains Indian was a hunter of the buffalo; the Barren Ground Eskimo gets his living from the Barren Ground caribou and from fishing. The primitive way of life has given way to a curious hybrid civilization in the case of the forest dwelling Indian who has, for three centuries, been trapping furs for sale to the white man, but the basis of his existence is still the natural wild life.
A third phase of animal relations is the status of the predator. There are few animals in Canada from which man himself is in any danger and then only under special circumstances. But with the disappearance of natural prey, predators have developed a liking for domestic animals. Hawks and foxes take the farmers' chickens, wolves and coyotes pull down sheep and calves, to mention a few examples. Another type of predatory relationship is seen when rabbits destroy young fruit trees or when deer invade vegetable gardens.
Animals are subject to climatic influence, more particularly perhaps to temperature, and life zones have been drawn up on that basis. Water supply is important. The need for shelter and food relations, whether direct or through the medium of a food chain, imply a strong dependence upon vegetation. Although animals may run, swim or fly about, indeed they may migrate and vanish completely from a region for certain seasonal periods, yet for the most part faunal regions are nearly equivalent to vegetation regions.