The boreal forest, or taiga, supports a large range of animals. Canada's boreal forest includes 85 species of mammals, 130 species of fish, and an estimated 32,000 species of insects. Insects play a critical role as pollinators, decomposers, and as a part of the food web. Many nesting birds rely on them for food. The cold winters and short summers make the taiga a challenging biome for reptiles and amphibians, which depend on environmental conditions to regulate their body temperatures, and there are only a few species in the boreal forest. Some hibernate underground in winter.
The taiga is home to a number of large herbivorous mammals, such as moose and reindeer/caribou. Some areas of the more southern closed boreal forest also have populations of other deer species such as the elk (wapiti) and roe deer. There is also a range of rodent species including beaver, squirrel, mountain hare, snowshoe hare, and vole. These species have adapted to survive the harsh winters in their native ranges. Some larger mammals, such as bears, eat heartily during the summer in order to gain weight, and then go into hibernation during the winter. Other animals have adapted layers of fur or feathers to insulate them from the cold.
A number of wildlife species threatened or endangered with extinction can be found in the Canadian boreal forest, including woodland caribou, American black bear, grizzly bear, wood bison and wolverine.