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Ozark hellbender

Ozark hellbenders were reduced to less than 600 in the wild, but captive propagation is helping to add to their numbers.

Photo by Jeff Briggler; Missouri Department of Conservation

July 2014


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Great Lakes piping plover nests are well guarded by the plover parents. If a predator or human comes too close to the nest, the adult plovers often do a broken-wing display. By pretending to have an injured wing, the parent tries to distract the predator and lead it away from the nest.
Predators or storms sometimes cause Great Lakes piping plovers to abandon their nests. When this happens, biologists gather the eggs or chicks and raise them in captivity. Once the young plovers can fly, they are released into flocks of similar-aged wild plovers in the hopes that the captive-reared birds will migrate and return to breed the following season.
Collecting and incubating piping plover eggs from abandoned nests and captive rearing the young for release has been successful. Fledging success is greater than 90% with captive rearing. Because each bird has unique leg bands, we’ve documented some of these birds returning to nest and fledge their own young.
Independence Day celebrates July 4, 1776, when the 2nd Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence – a time when passenger pigeons darkened the skies, Carolina parakeets nested as far north as the Great Lakes, eastern elk roamed from Minnesota to New York, blackfin cisco swam in the Great Lakes and heath hens displayed on prairies.
Mitchell’s satyr is a medium-sized, chocolate-brown butterfly with four to five eye spots (called ocelli) on the forewings and hindwings. In Michigan and Indiana, this endangered insect makes its home in prairie fens, a rare type of groundwater-fed wetland. Prairie fens also provide habitat for other rare plants and animals.
Adult Mitchell’s satyrs live for only 2 to 3 weeks. During that time, late June through mid-July in the Midwest, they mate, lay eggs and then die. Eggs hatch 7 to 11 days after being laid and the hatching satyrs then spend most of their lives as larvae (caterpillars).
Mitchell’s satyrs lay their eggs on wildflowers rather than on the plants that their caterpillars feed upon. After hatching, larvae crawl to their food plants, which are certain sedges and grasses. Fire is a natural process in fens that keeps shrubs and trees from overtaking these sedges. Land managers use fire as an important tool to maintain habitat for Mitchell’s satyrs.
The Karner blue is an endangered butterfly found in oak savannas and pine barrens in a large part of Wisconsin, and smaller portions of Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York and Ohio. The wingspan of the Karner blue butterfly is only 1 inch, the size of a postage stamp!
Prescribed fire is often an important management tool for restoring and maintaining oak savannas for Karner blue butterflies and its sole larval host plant, wild lupine.
Northern monkshood is a threatened plant that grows in northeastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin, northeastern Ohio and New York. Although a large geographic distribution, northern monkshood grows at fewer than 100 locations.
Northern monkshood grows on shaded cliffs, slopes and stream-sides that have cool soils, cold air drainage or cold groundwater flow. On talus slopes, also called algific talus slopes, outflows of cool air and water from ice contained in underground fissures create these cool conditions.
Algific talus slopes, where the northern monkshood grows in Iowa and Wisconsin, are found in a broader geologic context called the “Driftless Area." The Driftless Area was bypassed by the last continental glacier. This region has steep, rugged terrain but is also underlain by soluble bedrock so there are sinkholes, caves and underground drainage.
Algific talus slopes in northeastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin are also home to the endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail, a very small land snail. The Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve this snail, northern monkshood and the plant and animal community found on slopes throughout the Driftless Area.
A Hine’s emerald dragonfly was collected by Dr. Ronald Panzer on July 14, 1983, at Lockport Prairie in Illinois. This dragonfly was believed extinct and had previously only been collected in Ohio (1952-1961), Indiana (1945), and Alabama (1978).
Typical of most dragonflies, the adult male Hine’s emerald dragonfly defends small breeding territories, pursuing and mating with females who enter. The female lays eggs by plunging the tip of her body into shallow water. Later in the season or the following spring, immature dragonflies, called nymphs, hatch from the eggs.
Adult dragonflies are beautiful, but they are a short phase in the life of this insect. Adult Hine’s emerald dragonflies live only 4 to 5 weeks. The nymph, (the immature life stage) lives in water for 2 to 4 years, eating smaller aquatic insects and shedding its skin many times. The nymph then crawls out of the water and sheds its skin a final time, emerging as a flying adult.
The northern population of copperbelly water snake, a threatened distinct population segment, occurs in a small area of the tri-state region of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. This non-venomous snake has a bright orange-red underside and a dark back. The copperbelly may be confused with the more numerous northern water snake. However, copperbellies always have a solid orange, unpatterned belly.
Copperbelly water snakes travel long distances for snakes of their size. They move to different wetlands as water levels and, thus, food availability changes. This can make them vulnerable to raccoons, skunks and hawks, especially if they must travel across roads, mowed areas and farmlands.
The copperbelly water snake makes its home in wetlands within forested areas, where it feeds on frogs and tadpoles. This threatened species needs large blocks of habitat, connected by wooded corridors that provide cover as the snakes move around. These areas also support a variety of other wildlife, such as deer, turkeys, wood ducks and turtles.
Copperbelly water snakes hibernate in crayfish burrows in areas that are generally above the water table in the fall, but may be under several feet of water by spring. Copperbellies can survive underwater for weeks if the water is cold. A high water table prevents the ground from freezing, which protects copperbellies in the winter as they hibernate.
Endangered Kirtland’s warblers nest in young, Christmas tree-sized jack pines growing on sandy soil. Historically, wildfires created their habitat. Today, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plant jack pine seedlings, conduct prescribed burns, and use other techniques to create thousands of acres of Kirtland’s warbler habitat each year.
Do you enjoy picking and eating wild blueberries in July and August? So do Kirtland’s warblers. A study looking at Kirtland’s warbler droppings collected in Michigan found blueberry seeds in over 40% of all the samples analyzed. Kirtland’s warblers also feed on a variety of small berries during the winter when they are in the Bahamas.
2007 saw a significant milestone for Kirtland’s warbler; they nested in Wisconsin for the first time. They have continued nesting in Wisconsin every summer since then. An active network of volunteers and agency staff track nesting in the state. Monitoring efforts include banding males, some females and fledglings.
Color banding Kirtland's warblers enables biologists to identify individual birds, helping us learn more about their movements, longevity, and productivity. For example, all 10 banded males present in Adams County, WI, in 2009 returned in 2010, including one individual originally banded in the Bahamas. Of the 18 banded males present in Adams County in 2010, 16 returned in 2011; evidence of strong site fidelity and a high survival rate.
The Ozark Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi), listed as endangered in 2011, is one of two subspecies of hellbenders. At close to 2 feet long, hellbenders are the largest salamander in North America. Hellbenders are also some of the longest living amphibians, living up to 30 years in the wild (and possibly more).
Ozark hellbender males make great parents, guarding their young from crayfish, fish and other hellbenders for several months after hatching. Males also care for their eggs by rocking their body back and forth to increase oxygen and movement.
Although Ozark hellbenders have lungs, they rarely use them and, instead, obtain oxygen through cutaneous respiration (breathing through skin). The ripples of skin along their sides increase the amount of their skin’s surface area and thus the amount of oxygen they can get from water. Because of these folds of skin, Ozark Hellbenders are also referred to as “old lasagna sides.”
Estimated as having fewer than 600 individuals remaining in 2006, the Ozark hellbender is beginning its path towards recovery. Over 700 juveniles have been head-started by the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri Department of Conservation and released back into the wild. Propagation efforts are helping to stabilize the populations until threats can be better understood and addressed.
Today is International Tiger Day; established at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010 to promote the protection and expansion of wild tigers and their habitats and to gain support through awareness for tiger conservation.
There are eight subspecies of tiger (Panthera tigris), three of which are extinct. The remaining subspecies include the Bengal, Indo-Chinese, South China, Amur (also called Siberian) and Sumatran tigers. Illegal killing, a shrinking food supply and habitat loss led to the extinction of the Bali, Javan and Caspian subspecies; and continue to threaten the survival of the others.
Tigers live in a variety of habitats from the temperate forests of the Russian Far East, to the mangrove swamps of the Sunderbans of Bangladesh and western India, to the tropical forests, grasslands and marshes of India and Indonesia. Historically, they were also found near the Caspian Sea in Turkey and Iran, and on the islands of Bali and Java in Indonesia.
Last updated: July 16, 2014