Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Programs Work Together and with Partners to Save an Endangered Dragonfly
Midwest Region, April 10, 2015
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Female Hine's emerald dragonfly
Female Hine's emerald dragonfly - Photo Credit: Dr. Paul Burton
Hine's emerald dragonflies copulating
Hine's emerald dragonflies copulating - Photo Credit: Dr. Paul Burton

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chicago Ecological Services Office and the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Complex-Genoa National Fish Hatchery are working together to develop a captive rearing program for the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana ).


The Chicago office is the lead office for the endangered Hine’s emerald, the only federally listed dragonfly. The Chicago Office has worked with the University of South Dakota to develop the captive rearing protocol as well as monitoring the species across its range. In addition, the Chicago Office has worked with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Nature Preserve Commission, and the Forest Preserve Districts in Cook, DuPage and Will Counties, Illinois, to manage, restore and create habitat for the endangered dragonfly.

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery has an established record of working to conserve a variety of species (not just fish). Beginning in 1999, Genoa began researching methods for culturing freshwater mussels and cultivating partnerships with the states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin to implement cooperative restoration efforts in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. Genoa’s diversity of programs and water sources allows for adaptations for cold, cool and warm water species, including freshwater mussels and mudpuppies (as hosts for the salamander mussel) in addition to the several fish species on station.

The Hine’s emerald survives in only six populations that constitute five genetic populations; the Illinois population is in the most danger of near-term extirpation. The Illinois population is highly valuable genetically and the loss of this population would have strong implications for the persistence of the species as a whole. This population exists in a rapidly developing urban matrix that has fragmented the habitat into small patches. Unique or rare genetic diversity needed for the species to adapt to changing environmental conditions would be lost if the Illinois population were lost. Given the urgency of the situation, there appears to be only two strategies that have promise to recover this population: 1) habitat restoration/creation, and 2) augmentation of the population in existing habitat. Either of these approaches requires the release of Hine’s emerald adults or larvae. This project is designed to produce individuals for reintroduction or augmentation without requiring significant impact to adult reproduction from existing sites. It accomplishes this by removing either eggs or recently young larvae from the field, where they have very little chance of surviving to become adults, and moving them into captivity where they will have more than a 30 percent survival rate to adult (individual wild larvae are estimated to have a 1-5 percent chance of survival). Adults reared this way are then returned to augment the wild population.

The Hine’s emerald is a priority species for the Midwest Region because: 1) it is the only federally listed dragonfly; 2) it coexists with other federally endangered species (e.g. leafy prairie clover and Lakeside daisy) and state endangered species (e.g. Blanding’s and spotted turtle; and 3) these species occur in globally rare communities.

The program will be funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Recovery Initiative, established to restore and recover species listed as threatened or endangered on national wildlife refuges and surrounding lands. The initiative combines the resources of several Service programs (Ecological Services, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation, Migratory Birds, Science Applications) as well as partnerships outside the Service to implement large-scale conservation efforts. There is a high probability of success because of the tremendous amount of dedication to the partnership within and outside the Service.

Contact Info: Kristopher Lah, (847) 381-2253 ext.15, Kristopher_Lah@fws.gov
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