Cochnar (308) 382-6468, x 20
Barb Perkins (303) 236-4588
SERVICE PROPOSES PROTECTION OF THE
SALT CREEK TIGER BEETLE
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed
listing the Salt Creek tiger beetle as endangered under the U.S.
Endangered Species Act. The only three known populations of these species
in the world occur in saline wetlands in eastern Nebraska. The beetles
are considered the rarest insect in Nebraska and are already protected
under Nebraska State law.
“If the Salt Creek tiger
beetle is listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Service will work
cooperatively with partners to conserve their habitat,” said Ralph
Morgenweck, director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region.
In response to a lawsuit
filed by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and several other plaintiffs, the
Service agreed on October 7, 2002 to submit a final listing determination
for the beetle to the Federal Register by September 30, 2005.
The Service requests that
the public forward any additional comments or data about the species to
the Nebraska Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 203 West
Second Street, Federal Building, Second Floor, Grand Island, Nebraska
68801. The electronic mail address is
firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments and
data will be accepted for 60 days after the February 1, 2005, publication
in the Federal Register.
The Service’s proposal
states that surveys from 1991 to
2004 show declines in population size and distribution. The surveys
indicate that the number of remaining Salt
Creek tiger beetle populations has fallen by half – from six to three
populations – since 1991. The 2004 surveys revealed that the Salt
Creek tiger beetle numbers fewer than 600 individuals.
The remaining populations of Salt Creek tiger beetles are
believed to be threatened by:
habitat loss and degradation due to
development in northern Lancaster County and Lincoln, Nebraska.
increased freshwater runoff and sediment
from urban areas – which lowers the salt content in the water and
encourages vegetative encroachment.
bank sloughing from incised streams that
the effects of bank stabilization
pesticide application or runoff, and
habitat loss and degradation due to
grazing and cultivation.
Habitats now occupied by the
beetle are small and in close proximity to each other, making it difficult
to re-colonize areas that were previously occupied. The beetle is also
more prone to extinction from catastrophic environmental events such as
floods and drought, predation and parasites.
Extensive wetland losses
have occurred in and around the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, due to urban
expansion, agricultural activities, and channelization of Salt Creek. As a
result, a large percentage of the Salt Creek tiger beetle’s habitat has
been lost. Most of the remaining saline wetlands are degraded. Only
122 acres of the barren salt flat and saline stream edge habitat of the
Salt Creek tiger beetle remain in the eastern Nebraska Saline Wetland
Complex, of which merely 15 acres can be considered “not highly degraded.”
These remaining 15 acres are believed to provide suitable habitat for the
three remaining populations of Salt Creek tiger beetles.
The Salt Creek tiger beetle is considered
a “bio-indicator” species. Its presence signals the existence of a healthy
saline wetland, and it serves as an important link in a complex food chain
of the saline wetland ecosystem. A healthy saline wetland provides
numerous benefits for people, including water purification and flood
The Salt Creek tiger beetle is a metallic brown to dark olive
green beetle with a metallic dark green underside. It measures about
0.5-inch in total length, and is native to eastern Nebraska’s saline
wetlands and the associated streams in the northern third of Lancaster and
south-central edge of Saunders counties. It occurs in exposed mud flats of
saline wetlands and along mud banks of streams and seeps.
More than 100 species and many subspecies of tiger beetles
occur in the United States. There are 32 species and subspecies of tiger
beetle in Nebraska alone, including the Salt Creek tiger beetle. Tiger
beetles are active,
ground‑dwelling, predatory insects that capture smaller or similar-sized
arthropods in a “tiger‑like” manner. They do this by grasping prey with
their “mandibles” or mouthparts. Because of
their interesting behavior and variety of forms and habitats, tiger
beetles as a group have been extensively studied.
The U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for
conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service
manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which
encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and
other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish
hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field
stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat
such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments
with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance
program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes
on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
visit our home page at
ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
ABOUT THE SALT CREEK TIGER BEETLE
What does the
Salt Creek tiger beetle look like?
The Salt Creek tiger beetle (Cicindela nevadica lincolniana) is
metallic brown to dark olive green above with a metallic dark green
underside. This insect measures about 0.5 inch in total length. It is
distinguished from other tiger beetles by its distinctive form and the
color pattern on its dorsal and ventral surfaces.
Where does it
The Salt Creek tiger beetle is confined to eastern Nebraska saline
wetlands and associated streams and tributaries of Salt Creek in the
northern third of Lancaster County. The insect is believed to have
disappeared from the southern margin of Saunders Counties. It is found
along mud banks of streams and seeps, and in association with saline
wetlands and exposed mud flats of saline wetlands.
Why does the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believe it needs to list this beetle as
The Salt Creek tiger beetle occurs in only a small area in eastern
Nebraska and is considered the rarest insect in Nebraska. Intensive
surveys for the Salt Creek tiger beetle document the loss of half of the
remaining populations, from 6 to 3 populations, since 1991. Visual
surveys suggest that Salt Creek tiger beetles number less than a thousand
individuals. The remaining populations of Salt Creek tiger beetles are
under imminent threat of extinction from: the destruction of its remaining
habitat caused by past and ongoing residential, commercial, and industrial
development and infrastructure in northern Lancaster County and Lincoln,
Nebraska; increased freshwater runoff and sediment deposition from
developed areas resulting in the reduction of salt concentrations and
vegetative encroachment; bank sloughing from incised streams that were
channelized; unregulated bank stabilization projects; pollution; pesticide
application or runoff; cattle grazing and cultivation; artificial
lighting, and inadequate regulatory mechanisms and reduced regulatory
jurisdiction. Occupied barren salt flats and saline stream edge habitats
of the two largest Salt Creek tiger beetle populations are small in size
and in close proximity to each other, making the subspecies prone to
chance extinction from catastrophic environmental events, floods, drought,
predation and parasites, and less able to colonize areas previously
What kind of
beetle is the Salt Creek tiger beetle?
One of 32 species and subspecies of tiger beetles in Nebraska, the Salt
Creek tiger beetle is an active, ground‑dwelling, predatory insect that
captures smaller or similar-sized arthropods in a “tiger‑like” manner by
grasping its prey with its mandibles (mouthparts). There are more than
100 species and subspecies of tiger beetles in the United States.
Where does the
Salt Creek tiger beetle live in eastern Nebraska?
Salt Creek tiger beetle larvae live in permanent burrows in the ground and
are voracious predators, fastening themselves by means of abdominal hooks
near the tops of their burrows and rapidly extending from them to seize
passing invertebrate prey. The adult Salt Creek tiger beetle has a
two‑year life cycle and spends 11 months of the year underground,
surfacing for only about six weeks, from
around mid‑June through July. Adults are found in the moist, muddy areas
within just a few yards of wetland and stream edges. They have adapted to
brief periods of high water inundation and highly saline conditions.
Is habitat a
factor in the beetle’s decline?
Yes. Since the late 1800s, over 90 percent of these wetlands have been
destroyed or severely degraded through commercial, residential, industrial
and agricultural development and transportation projects. Only 122 acres
of barren salt flat and saline stream edge habitat of the Salt Creek tiger
beetle remain in the eastern Nebraska Saline Wetland Complex, of which
merely 15 acres can be considered “not highly degraded.” It is these
remaining 15 acres of “not highly degraded” barren salt flats and saline
stream edges that are believed to provide suitable habitat for the three
remaining population of Salt Creek tiger beetles. Eastern Nebraska saline
wetlands are considered critically imperiled in Nebraska.
species inhabit the saline wetlands in Nebraska?
Over the past century, more than
230 species of birds, especially migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, have
been reported using eastern Nebraska saline wetlands. These birds include
the listed least tern and piping plover and the peregrine falcon, which
used to be Federally listed. Eastern Saline Wetlands are home to several
saline plants that are found nowhere else in Nebraska, including saltwort,
a plant that grows in extremely aquatic saline habitats and is listed as
endangered under the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation
Act. The vegetative community of the eastern Nebraska saline wetlands is
considered to be some of the most limited and endangered in the State.
How many Salt
Creek tiger beetles are there?
Intensive visual surveys conducted from 1991 through 2004 found six
populations of Salt Creek tiger beetle. Today, only three of these six
populations are thought to still exist. Over this period, the number of
individuals has varied widely, but it has averaged 438 annually.
How does the
number of Salt Creek tiger beetles compare with other tiger beetle
Most healthy, viable populations of tiger
beetles number in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. The
northeastern beach tiger beetle (C. dorsalis dorsalis) and puritan
tiger beetle (C. puritana) are listed as threatened under the
Endangered Species Act. Between 1989 and 1992, the northeastern beach
tiger beetle Cicindela was found at 65 sites in Maryland and
Virginia. Population estimates ranged from 9,846 to 17,480 beetles
annually. Throughout Maryland, there was an average of 6,389 puritan tiger
beetles found annually during surveys conducted in 1989, 1991, 1992, and
Is the Salt
Creek tiger beetle already protected?
The Salt Creek tiger beetle is listed as endangered under Nebraska’s
endangered species act. Under this law, State agencies must ensure that
the actions they authorize, fund, or carry out do not jeopardize the
continued existence of endangered and threatened species.
In 2000, the Service
designated the Salt Creek tiger beetle as a candidate species. However, a
candidate species does not receive any Federal protection. Candidate
status merely indicates that the species is in some trouble and its status
needs to be evaluated periodically. As threats to this beetle now appear
to be substantial and immediate, the Service believes it needs to
immediately place the species on the Federal list of endangered species.
listing the Salt Creek tiger beetle as endangered affect the community?
Proposed projects and activities that occur on private lands and do
not require any Federal action (e.g., permits, funds, authorization, etc.)
will not be affected by this Federal listing activity. However, ongoing
and future projects involving any Federal action that may either directly
or indirectly impact the Salt Creek tiger beetle or its habitat would
require consultation with the Service pursuant to section 7 of the Federal
Endangered Species Act to evaluate the potential impact to the beetle and
the need for possible alternatives to prevent any adverse impacts. In
addition, if any activity or proposed project would result in “take” of
the Salt Creek tiger beetle or the destruction or adverse modification of
habitat occupied by the beetle, provisions under section 9 of the Federal
Endangered Species Act would be triggered. The definition of take under
the Act is to “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap,
capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.”
presently being done to conserve the Salt Creek tiger beetle?
The Service and the
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have funded a two‑year study with the
University of Nebraska to acquire more information and expand the level of
knowledge about the biology of the Salt Creek tiger beetle and its habitat
requirements. The Service also has participated in several local
conservation planning efforts designed to protect the beetle and its
habitat. To date, none of these plans have been finalized or implemented.
In addition, the City of Lincoln received a $750,000 Nebraska
Environmental Trust Fund grant to be used over a three‑year period to
acquire and protect eastern Nebraska saline wetlands, including Salt Creek
tiger beetle habitat.
How does the
Service determine whether a species needs to be listed under the Federal
Under section 4 of the Federal Endangered Species Act, species are
determined to be threatened or endangered because of one or more of the
following five factors: (1) present or threatened destruction of habitat;
(2) over utilization; (3) disease or predation; (4) inadequacy of existing
regulations for protection; and (5) other natural or human-made factors
(e.g., catastrophic environmental events such as floods and drought,
electric light insect traps, pesticides. The Salt Creek tiger beetle is
threatened by habitat destruction, inadequate protection from other
Federal, State or local laws, and other natural or human-made factors.