Endangered and Threatened species of North Carolina
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) protects species of plants and animals that are in danger of extinction. The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The ESA is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The USFWS has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the responsibilities of NMFS are mainly marine wildlife such as whales and sea turtles.
The ESA allows the USFWS and the NMFS to list species of plants and animals as threatened or endangered. "Endangered" means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. "Threatened" means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. In addition, candidate species are species for which the agencies have enough information to warrant proposing them for listing, but are precluded from doing so by higher listing priorities. For additional information about the ESA, please see Endangered Species Act Basics.
Currently, 52 federally threatened and endangered species are known to occur in North Carolina. Fact sheets for each protected species are available by clicking on the name of the species below. Links to additional information about each species are located at the bottom of individual fact sheets.
The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program (NCNHP), as part of its mission to preserve the biological diversity of North Carolina, maintains an inventory of all known locations of rare taxa and serves as the state's data source of locality information of natural areas and rare and federally and state listed plant and animal species. Using NCNHP data, the USFWS has developed a County List of federally protected species by each North Carolina county.
Since most of our federally threatened and endangered plants are not readily identifiable throughout the year, surveys must be conducted during the time of year when the species are recognizable by their flowers and/or vegetative characters. Please see the Optimal Survey Windows for Plants document for additional information about conducting surveys for listed plant species.
Survey protocols for Red cockaded Woodpeckers can be found in the revised Recovery Plan.
Since freshwater mussels and fish require removal from the water and extensive handling, Endangered Species Recovery Permits are required to conduct surveys for these species. Please contact the Raleigh Field Office for additional information.
For additional information about the endangered species consultation process and instructions on preparing a biological assessment or biological evaluation, please see our Endangered Species Consultation page.