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Western prairie fringed orchid

Western prairie fringed orchid grows in prairies and wet meadows in the north central United States and south central Canada.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Sullivan

November 2014

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The northern long-eared bat is a species currently proposed for listing as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This is one of the cave bats most impacted by white-nose syndrome. Hibernating populations in the northeastern U.S. have declined by up to 99 percent from pre-white-nose syndrome numbers.
Northern long-eared bats hibernate in areas in caves and mines (called hibernacula) with such a high amount of humidity that often drops of water are seen on their fur.
Northern long-eared bats are not easy to find when hibernating, they tend to wedge themselves deep in cracks and crevices of walls and ceilings, often with only their nose and ears visible!
The grotto sculpin (Cottus specus) was listed as endangered in 2013. This small, cave-dwelling fish is found in only one county in the world, Perry County, Missouri. A grassroots conservation initiative is taking off in Perry County to recover the grotto sculpin and improve water quality throughout the watershed.
Canada lynx, listed as threatened, are secretive and mostly nocturnal animals, although they may be active at any time of day. They don’t seem to shy from swimming; they have been known to swim, for example, to escape forest fires.
In Missouri only two wild populations of endangered Topeka shiners remain. Recovery efforts focus on reintroducing this fish at five sites. The first reintroductions were a year ago today, when biologists released Topeka shiners into ponds and a stream at The Nature Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch and ponds at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Pawnee Prairie.
Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana), a federally threatened plant, is a shrub that grows 3 to 10 feet tall.  Native to the southern Appalachian Mountains, within the Midwest Region it is only found in Scioto County, Ohio.  Virginia spirea grows along rocky streambanks or sandbars of free-flowing streams where there is significant scour to reduce competition from other species.
Frequently Virginia spirea is found where driftwood and other debris accrue.  In these areas, fragments of the plant’s rhizome are deposited during high water and then become established.   This shrub has a fibrous mass of roots and lateral rhizomes that anchor it, so even if most of the plant is ripped away during flooding, it easily resprouts from remnants of the rhizomes. 
The Virginia spiraea flowers, but few seeds are produced so new plants are rarely established from seeds. Instead, it reproduces by cloning, producing many new sprouts from one plant, which grow into shrubs. There are fewer than 30 genotypes in total, meaning there are fewer than 30 individual sets of genes; all the other plants are clones of one of the 30 types.
Both Canada lynx, a first state record, and gray wolf and were documented in Missouri during the fall and winter 2013.
Bald eagles, our nation’s symbol, were declared recovered in 2007 and are now safe from extinction. Thank a veteran today for keeping our nation safe.
The massasauga is a "pit viper," with heat-sensitive pits under each eye that alert the snake to prey or intruders. They are usually hungry for warm-blooded prey like mice and voles but will eat cold-blooded prey like frogs and other snakes. Although predators, massasaugas are also preyed upon by raccoons, hogs, skunks, foxes, hawks and eagles.
For their body size, bats live longer than any other order of mammal. On average, the maximum recorded life span of a bat is 3.5 times greater than other mammals of similar size.
Why do bats live longer than other small mammals? Hibernation may be one key. Hibernation reduces the risk of predation because bats tend to hibernate within caves in areas not accessible to predators. Decreased body temperature and metabolism during hibernation may also promote longevity.
A tiny bat from Siberia set the record for the world’s oldest bat. Brandt's bats, which weigh about 4 to 8 grams (0.14 to 0.28 ounces), have the longest life span for their body size. One bat lived at least 41 years in the wild.
Minnesota dwarf trout lilies grow wild in only three counties in the world: Goodhue, Rice and Steele counties in southeastern Minnesota. This lily is a spring ephemeral, adapted to flower and grow before trees develop their leaves. By the time leafed-out trees shade the forest floor, the dwarf trout lily has bloomed, generated its food for the coming year and lost its leaves.
Two closely related orchids are threatened species, the eastern and western prairie fringed orchids. They were considered a single species until 1986, but are now recognized as separate species based on differences in the shape of the column, flower size, color, petal shape and length of the nectar bearing spur.
The western prairie fringed orchid was first documented by the Lewis and Clark expedition, apparently in what is now Wyoming. But the heart of its historic range was from the Red River valley of Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota, extending southeastward to Iowa and Missouri.
The western prairie fringed orchid grows in prairies and wet meadows where it is often managed by carefully planned fires that reduce mulch buildup and control non-native grasses. In some areas, cattle-grazing has a similar effect. A number of western prairie fringed orchid sites are on private lands where families have maintained the orchid through conservation-minded farming practices.
When listed in 1998 as threatened, Virginia sneezeweed was known only from two counties in Virginia. But soon after listing it was found growing in the Ozark highlands of Missouri where it has now been found in five counties.
First discovered in 1936, Virginia sneezeweed is a wetland plant that grows only on the shores of shallow, seasonally flooded sinkholes and ponds. It has adapted to survive the water level fluctuations of seasonal ponds, giving it a competitive advantage.
It is not certain why Virginia sneezeweed is only found in Virginia and Missouri but this disjunct distribution may have been caused by the separation of the plant’s geographical range during Pleistocene glaciation, leaving two relict ranges.
Sneezeweeds, like Virginia sneezeweed and some of the more common plants of the same genus Helenium, were so named by early settlers who dried the yellow flower heads and ground them into a snuff. Inhaling the snuff would make people sneeze,open stuffy noses and supposedly rid the body of evil spirits.
In fall, whooping cranes in the eastern population migrate from Wisconsin to points south, from Illinois and Indiana to Florida. Partners in the reintroduction project use a variety of methods to introduce young birds into the wild in a way that allows them to learn a southern migration route.
One method for reintroducing whooping cranes uses ultralight aircraft to lead whooping cranes on their first fall migration from Wisconsin to Florida.  To accomplish this, conditioning starts early, even newly hatched chicks are exposed to recordings of ultralight engine sounds.
Whooping cranes that are led on their fall migration by ultra-lights, find their way back to Wisconsin in the spring unaided.
The wild turkey, native to the North American continent and the largest ground–nesting bird found by the first European immigrants, is not an endangered species and for that we are thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!
Early settlers found wild turkey in a variety of habitats in what are now 39 states and the province of Ontario in Canada. As colonists pushed westward clearing forests and market hunters shot turkeys year-round, numbers rapidly and steadily declined. Connecticut lost its wild turkeys by 1813, Vermont by 1842 and other states followed. By 1920, the wild turkey was lost from 18 of the original 39 states and survived only in the most inaccessible habitats.
Forest stands started regenerating after the Great Depression, which set the stage for returning the wild turkey back to its former range. After World War II, restoration and research programs by state agencies eventually led to wild turkey populations in every state except Alaska.
In 1626 Plymouth Colony passed a law limiting the cutting and sale of colonial lumber, likely the first conservation law passed in what is now the United States.
Last updated: November 20, 2014