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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release


For Immediate Release:  May 17, 2012


Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203
Melanie Cota 614-416-8993 ext. 15 


Celebrate Endangered Species Day!
Bring back the Endangered American Burying Beetle


American burying beetle

American burying beetle released in Wayne National Forest.

Photo by USFWS; Melanie Cota

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites everyone to celebrate Endangered Species Day on May 18, 2012, by learning more about endangered species in Ohio, getting outside and experiencing nature, and taking action to protect native plants and animals in your area. The Fish and Wildlife Service will be teaming up with The Wilds near Cumberland, Ohio, on Saturday May 19, 2012, from 10 am to 6 pm to celebrate Endangered Species Day and participate in Wildz Fest.


This year’s focus will be the American burying beetle, affectionately referred to as “Nature’s gravedigger,” the first insect to be listed as federally endangered under the Endangered Species Act.   The brightly colored beetle completely disappeared from Ohio in 1974, and was listed as endangered in 1989.


“Endangered Species Day provides an opportunity to celebrate our successes and strengthen our partnership with the American public to conserve our shared natural resources,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “By taking action to help our threatened and endangered plants and animals, we can ensure a healthy future for our country and protect treasured landscapes for future generations.”


In 2011, the Service partnered with The Wilds to release 80 pairs of this federally endangered beetle on their property. The Wilds plans to do another release in May at their conservation facility. The Wilds maintains a breeding colony of the endangered beetles and has provided hundreds of beetles to support efforts to reintroduce this species back in Ohio. 


Reintroduction began in southern Ohio in 1998 on the Wayne National Forest, with 750 pairs of beetles released to date and additional releases in July. Monitoring of the release sites occurs later in the summer and the following spring to detect recruitment and over-winter survival of the beetles. The beetles are captive-raised and have been supplied for Ohio releases from the St. Louis Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, The Wilds and the Ohio State University over the years.


About an inch and a half long, the American burying beetle is recognized by its striking, distinctive coloring. The body is shiny black, with orange-red markings on the wing covers and behind the head, and orange facial markings and orange tips on the antennae.


Pairs of these beetles will congregate on an appropriately sized carcass, sometimes moving it up to 3 feet before burial. The beetles crawl under the carcass and dig the soil out from under it, slowly lowering the carrion and covering the carcass to create a chamber around it for rearing their brood of 3-31 individual larvae. Both parents care for the larvae until they emerge from pupation at 30-45 days.


American burying beetles, the largest of the North American carrion beetles, have been eliminated from 90 percent of their original range. Fragmentation of large expanses of natural habitat changed the species composition and lowered the reproductive success of prey species required by the American burying beetle for optimum reproduction. It has even been suggested that the passenger pigeon, which once numbered in the billions, was an important food source for the beetle until this bird became extinct in the early 20th century.


Why care about an insect like the American burying beetle?  This beetle might be an indicator species, or one that tells us whether or not its environment is healthy. Understanding why its numbers have decreased so drastically may give us indications of problems with both its habitat and our environment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the scientific community, has formulated a recovery plan that is now being implemented.

Endangered Species Day was established by Congress to promote the importance of protecting endangered species and share actions that people can take to help protect rare plants, animals and their habitats.


“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.  More than 1,300 species of plants and animals are currently listed as either threatened or endangered in the United States, and 23 are currently listed in Ohio. 


For photos and more info on the Amercian burying beetle: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/ambb/index.html


For the USFWS recovery plan of the American burying beetle: http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/recovery_plan/910927.pdf


For information on The Wilds: http://www.thewilds.org/


For more info on Endangered Species Day:


Note to editors: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Columbus Ohio Ecological Services Field Office will be celebrating Endangered Species Day by providing a series of articles that highlight some of Ohio’s rarest plants and animals and describe how the public can experience and protect these unique species. 


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.


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