As a nod to the most recent World Wildlife Day, we put our lenses toward four of the most critically endangered species in the United States. So what classifies species as critically endangered, you may ask?
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is the organization heralded as the leader for research, data analysis, field projects, advocacy, and lobbying primarily for nature conservation. Established in 1948 in France, the organization has since expanded as a respected key influencer for species and habitat conservation throughout the world. It produced the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which gives the categorization levels of species based on their status within their ecosystem and how they are being affected by internal and external factors.
The IUCN Red List has three main categories: Extinct, Threatened, and Lower Risk. Threatened and Lower Risk have five and three subcategories, respectively. Threatened has Extinct in the Wild (EW), Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) or Vulnerable (VU), and Near Threatened (NT). On the other hand, Lower Risk has Least Concern (LC), Data Deficient (DD), and Not Evaluated (NE).
Breakdown of IUCN’s Red List. [Image: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/]
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on Critically Endangered (CR). These animals are at high risk for extinction. There are about 1,500 species that fall under the CR category, and approximately 300 of these alone are in the United States. Below are a few animals who are on the critically endangered list.
A gorgeous red wolf seemingly suspicious of whatever it’s staring at. [Image: www.forechange.com/]
The red wolf is known for its characteristic reddish fur, with some brown and black colors running along its back. It is shorter than its relative, the much more powerful grey wolf, only standing at an average 45–80 pounds, 26 inches at the shoulder, and about four feet from the tip of its nose to its tail.
The red wolf is in danger due to habitat extinction and as a result of poachers and hunters. Unfortunately the red wolf’s closeness to coyotes have made it a growing target of accidental killings due to hunting. The USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) has been attempting to increase support and conservation of the red wolf as its numbers continue to decrease in the wild.
American Burying Beetle
The American burying beetle as seen under a careful photographic lense. [Image: www.fws.gov/]
The American burying beetle is a large insect characterized by black and orange bands on its body; its antennae, head, and front legs have orange tips, patches, and spots. It suffers from dangers of extinction from a variety of causes: Less habitat range, unavailability of carcasses that these beetles utilize as a crucial part of their breeding habits, a possible reduction of reproduction due to genetic characteristics, and more carcass competition.
The U.S. FWS have been attempting to slowly reintroduce the American burying beetle to the public with a laboratory colony in Massachusetts. They are hoping to pinpoint the cause of the decline of these species.
A beautiful photo of a hawksbill turtle luxuriously swimming in the ocean. [Image: www.worldwildlife.org/]
The hawksbill sea turtle is an old species that primarily resides in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific areas, with some numbers found in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii as well. It is characterized by a flat body, beak-like mouth, and protective carapace with black and brown across its back and sides. It can grow up to one meter long and can reach up to 280 pounds.
The hawksbill’s numbers have been decreasing due to human exploitation, loss of habitat, human and animal encroachment on its nesting sites, and the reptile’s slow maturation. Currently the IUCN and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service consider it endangered.
The Mississippi gopher frog averages three inches in length with a dark brown or black dorsal surface covered in warts. [Image: www.onegreenplanet.org/]
From its widely spread numbers, the gopher frog, also known as the Mississippi gopher frog, is now quickly declining to its extinction. It is now one of the rarest amphibians in North America, with only a 100 adults remaining in Harrison County, Mississippi. This population shift is largely due to adult mortality and a large difference in ages at maturity (females mature at 24–36 months while males do so at six to eight months), and the males not returning to mate because of the animals’ predisposition to being highly solitary. Conservation efforts are now in place to preserve the gopher frog’s population, with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service combining forces in order to rehabilitate and create a future breeding site for these amphibians.
The aforementioned species are only four of the more than 100 critically endangered species in the United States. It is unfortunate that the most common denominator for their extinction is human involvement. Currently massive rehabilitation and conservation efforts are in place in order to put a stop to their declining numbers. If you wish to be more involved in the conservation efforts, we suggest visiting USFWS, U.S. Forest Service, and IUCN’s websites to learn how you can join in on the conversation of rehabilitation efforts.
And as always, don’t forget to check out your Pocket Ranger® apps to check out volunteer options in your state parks or viewing options for the other endangered species in the country. The app is available in both the Apple Store and Google Play. Download now, and get involved!