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Canada lynx

Canada lynx have large paws that help them travel in deep snow.

Photo Courtesy of Natural Resources ResearchvInstiture/ Superior National Forest


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The U.S. breeding population of endangered wood storks declined from about 20,000 pairs in the 1930s to about 5,000 pairs in the late 1970s. The decline was due to loss of wetlands, which provide the stork’s food supply, small fish.
Wood stork populations were dropping by 5 percent a year when they were listed as endangered in 1984. Since then, numbers of nesting pairs have increased, and the species’ breeding range has expanded. The wood stork was reclassified to threatened in 2014 to reflect its improved status.
A small prairie butterfly, the Poweshiek skipperling is endangered. Unlike the monarch, Poweshieks do not migrate to spend winter where it’s warm; instead, they over-winter as caterpillars on blades of grass in the frozen north of the central United States and Canada.
Poweshiek skipperling caterpillars spend the winter without shelter, exposed to the elements in some of the coldest parts of the United States. To survive, they rely on a variety of complex adaptations, including the formation of chemical compounds that restrict the accumulation of destructive ice crystals inside their bodies.
Canada lynx have curiously large paws that act like snowshoes in deep snow, perfect for catching their favorite prey, snowshoe hares! Their ability to catch prey in areas with deep snow allows them to live year-round in areas where potential competitors, like bobcats and coyotes cannot.
Although deep snow helps keep competitors from lynx habitat, ski and snowmobile trails and roads maintained for winter recreation and forest management create packed-snow corridors that give their competitors access to lynx winter habitat.
One way to tell a Canada lynx from a bobcat is by taking a close look at their stubby tails. The bobcat’s tail is black with white underneath, while the tail of the Canada lynx looks like it was dipped into a pail of black paint – completely black all around.
When Lewis and Clark explored the West in the early 1800s an estimated 50,000 grizzly bears roamed between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains. Today only a few small corners of grizzly country remain, with about 1,400 to 1,700 wild grizzlies. They are listed as threatened in the lower 48 states.
Grizzly bears are named for the appearance of their coats which may look gray or grizzled. They are also known as “silvertips” and are related to Kodiak bears found in Alaska’s Kodiak Islands.
Mitchell’s satyr (butterfly) larvae go through six stages, called instars, growing larger with each stage. Larvae survive winter under the snow and then resume feeding and growing the following spring, until it’s time to form a chrysalis. After 10 to 15 days, an adult Mitchell’s satyr emerges. Adult satyrs only live about two weeks, during which time they lay eggs that hatch later in summer, and so begins the process of life again.
Mitchell’s satyrs and Poweshiek skipperlings are butterflies that survive winter as caterpillars, protected by snow from cold and dry air. Karner blue butterflies also survive northern winters, but do so as eggs that are laid in late summer and hatch in spring. Karner blue butterfly eggs, which are laid on leaf litter near the ground, do best when there is deep snow cover.
The kakapo is a large, flightless parrot found only in New Zealand. Introduced rats, cats and other predators decimated the ground-nesting kakapo’s populations. All 126 remaining kakapos now live on three offshore islands managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
New Zealand’s endangered kakapo, also known as the night parrot, is the heaviest parrot in the world; males can weigh more than 4 pounds. Although flightless, the kakapo can walk several kilometers in one night and is good at climbing trees.
The only listed fern in the upper Midwest is the threatened American hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum). This fern is the North American variety of a European species. It is found in New York, Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama, and Ontario but only the Michigan, New York, and Canadian populations are considered healthy.
American hart’s-tongue fern has an unusual look for a fern with simple, undivided fronds that look almost tropical. Rather than dying back in fall or winter, the leaves are evergreen with new leaves produced in spring. The plant’s tongue-shaped fronds lay flat along the ground and give rise to its common name, hart's tongue fern; a hart being an adult male red deer.
American hart’s-tongue fern grows in moist crevices and on rock outcrops, on or near dolomitic limestone in cool, well-shaded hardwood forests. It is sensitive to warm temperatures during the growing season and favors freezing temperatures and snow cover in winter. At sites in Tennessee and Alabama, it grows in sinkholes or near caves where temperatures are cooler.
Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama is named for the federally threatened American Hart's-tongue fern that is found there. But the Refuge was established to protect two other listed species; endangered Indiana and gray bats. The largest colony of gray bats hibernates in Fern Cave.
Gray bats(Myotis grisescens), unlike other Myotis like Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats, roost in caves year-round; using different caves in summer and winter. Winter caves have an average temperature of 42 to 52 degrees F whereas summer caves must be warm, between 57 and 77 degrees F, or have small rooms that can trap the body heat of roosting bats.
Gray bats are known to migrate up to 326 miles between their summer and winter cave. By November and through April, they hibernate. Most caves used by gray bats for hibernation have deep vertical passages with large rooms that function as cold air traps. Few caves meet their specific hibernation requirements, so about 95% of all gray bats hibernate in only 8 or 9 caves.
Tumbling Creek cavesnail is endemic to a single site in Taney County, Missouri. With adults not much larger than the head of a pin, it is the smallest federally listed species in the Midwest. This tiny snail is on the verge of extinction despite numerous conservation actions, including measures to improve the quality of water flowing into its cave.
Tumbling Creek cavesnails depend on endangered gray bats for the organic matter and energy input that bat guano provides in Tumbling Creek Cave. Potential mortality of gray bats from white-nose syndrome (WNS) could further threaten this snail. Mass mortality of gray bats from WNS has not been documented, but the disease is in some gray bat hibernation caves.
The rattlesnake-master borer moth is a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection. Found in 16 populations in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma, this moth has nothing to do with rattlesnakes. Instead, the name comes from its reliance on the rattlesnake-master, a prairie plant which its larvae feeds on, exclusively.
Rattlesnake-master borer moths lay their eggs near their larvae’s sole food source in fall where the eggs overwinter in prairie duff. In spring, larvae emerge from the eggs and feed on leaves of the rattlesnake-master until they are ready to burrow into the root of the plant. The moth stays in the burrow until late summer when it pupates and adults emerge again in mid-September.
The Przewalski’s horse, native to eastern Europe, Russia and China, is the world’s only true remaining wild horse and has never been tamed for riding. The Mongolian name for these horses is "takhi," which means "spirit". Horses are central to Mongolian culture, and takhi are a symbol of their national heritage. The species was extinct in the wild until it was reintroduced in Mongolia and China in 2008.
Several zoos have breeding programs for the rare Przewalski’s horse, including the National Zoo in Washington, DC, where the first Przewalski’s foal from artificial insemination was born in 2013.
When Indiana bats were first listed as endangered, their range-wide population was estimated at 1 million. Sounds like a lot, but it’s important to look at populations in an historic context. At one time, there were probably tens of millions of Indiana bats, possibly one of the most abundant mammals on earth.
On this date in 1831, 22-year-old Charles Darwin set sail from Plymouth, England aboard the HMS Beagle. The trip was supposed to last two years but stretched to five. Using evidence gathered on the Beagle expedition and his subsequent research, Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, a book that introduced his theory of evolution through natural selection.
On this day in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law. For 40 years, the ESA has been stabilizing populations of species at risk, preventing the extinction of many others, and conserving the habitats upon which they depend. See why the ESA is one of the most highly regarded conservation laws.
At this time of year, Kirtland’s warblers are comfortably in the Bahamas. Recovering this endangered warbler includes research on and conservation of their wintering areas. Students from the Bahamas have been spending summers at Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan learning wildlife and forest management techniques.
Most Kirtland’s warbler sightings and research in the Bahamas have been done on Eleuthera Island. But in 2012, Kirtland’s warblers were seen on San Salvador Island for the first time in 46 years. Two of the birds were males with colored leg bands that documented they had been banded near Mack Lake, Oscoda County, Michigan; one in 2009, the other in 2006.
Thank you for reading a year of Endangered Species Facts! You can see all the year’s facts right here. Here’s hoping that you have a happy New Year!
Last updated: April 14, 2015