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Endangered animals to watch out for in every state

  • Endangered animals to watch out for in every state

    Some of the most common threats to the survival of animals across the globe are habitat loss and loss of genetic diversity, according to the IUCN. The reasons for the endangered status of 50 species across the U.S. are as wide-ranging and varied as the shapes, sounds, and colors of the animals themselves. Previous examples of animal endangerment include collisions wiping out many West Indian manatees off the coast of South Carolina, forest logging robbing the ivory-billed woodpecker of much of its habitat in Arkansas, and the extinction of the passenger pigeon unleashing a domino effect on Rhode Island’s American burying beetle.

    No matter what is causing the decline of each of these 50 species—presented here without ranking, with one per U.S. state—it is undeniable that climate change has played a role. According to the World Wildlife Federation, the Earth is currently warming up more rapidly than any other period in the past 10,000 years, forcing animal species across the globe to scramble to acclimate to erratic and constantly-shifting habitats. According to CBS News, species loss is now occurring at least tens, if not hundreds, of times faster than ever before, with over 500,000 land animals facing extinction before the end of this century.

    Stacker consulted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Environmental Conservation Online System to find endangered animals to watch out for in every state. To identify the animals most threatened, Stacker focused on animals classified as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature except in instances where critically endangered animals were unavailable. New Hampshire and Maine animals are near threatened and not threatened, respectively, due to a limited amount of animals available for those states.

    However, there is a silver lining. Since conditions are more desperate now than ever before, calls for action and change are also stronger than they've been in the past. Read on to discover what species to look out for and how to help with conservation efforts.

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  • Alabama: Spring pygmy sunfish

    - Scientific name: Elassoma alabamae
    - Other states with species: N/A
    - IUCN category: Critically Endangered

    Thought to be extinct twice since it was first discovered in Cave Spring in Lauderdale County in 1937, the spring pygmy sunfish was rediscovered twice after that, most recently in Beaverdam Spring in 1973. Partial to colorless or slightly stained spring water, breeding males are more colorful than their female counterparts, with shimmering blue-green lines across their bodies. The species is facing extinction, mostly due to water pollution and shrinking spring bodies.

  • Alaska: Polar bear

    - Scientific name: Ursus maritimus
    - Other states with species: N/A
    - IUCN category: Vulnerable

    Habitat loss and climate change are battering the remaining population of polar bears. As Alaska’s Arctic experiences overheating from climate change twice as fast as the rest of the world, polar bears are struggling to maintain their habitat. Several factors distinguish polar bears from other bear species, including their size (they are the largest member of the bear family), narrow heads, and lack of true hibernation season.

  • Arizona: Bonytail

    - Scientific name: Gila elegans
    - Other states with species: California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah
    - IUCN category: Critically Endangered

    Bonytail chubs were “one of the first fish species to reflect the changes that occurred in the Colorado River basin after the construction of the Hoover Dam,” with its population completely wiped out from the dam’s lower basin by 1950. Today, habitat disturbances from dams still constitute one of the biggest threats to the bonytail, which is similar to other desert fish with its camouflage-pigmented skin.

  • Arkansas: Ivory-billed woodpecker

    - Scientific name: Campephilus principalis
    - Other states with species: N/A
    - IUCN category: Critically Endangered

    Conservationists “warned of the impending extinction” of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the early 20th century. Still, the species has persisted for a full century since then, with the discovery of a new population at the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas in 2004. A large bird, growing to over 1.5 feet long, the species can be identified by the bright red crests of males and white feathers, giving the appearance of a “saddle” on the back. Logging and forest clearing has caused the endangered status of this bird, taking away much of its habitat.

  • California: California Condor

    - Scientific name: Gymnogyps californianus
    - Other states with species: Arizona, Utah
    - IUCN category: Critically Endangered

    The California condor is the largest land bird in North America and weighs up to 25 pounds with a wingspan of up to 9.5 feet. The California condor is distinct from other birds of prey by its lack of sharp talons. This condor’s range stretched across North America when the first European settlers came; by 1940, however, habitats had been reduced to southern California. Today, human-made disturbances continue to be responsible for the species’ diminishing numbers, including lead contamination, micro-trash, powerlines, and wind turbines.

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  • Colorado: Gunnison sage-grouse

    - Scientific name: Centrocercus minimus
    - Other states with species: Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah
    - IUCN category: Endangered

    Perhaps the most noticeable characteristic of the Gunnison sage-grouse is its ‘ponytail:’ a long, black filoplume extending out from the back of males’ necks and heads. Though historically the bird was found wherever sagebrush habitats existed, including New Mexico and Arizona, today its range is limited to southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. This is largely due to habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation from commercial and housing development.

  • Connecticut: Puritan tiger beetle

    - Scientific name: Cicindela puritana
    - Other states with species: Maryland, Massachusetts
    - IUCN category: Endangered

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Puritan tiger beetles were collected in towns along the Connecticut River, contributing to their decline. Today, the two remaining populations in Maryland and Connecticut are vanishing due to dam construction, riverbank stabilization, and human recreation. They are distinguished by their brown-to-green wings, with white markings on the edges.

  • Delaware: Hawksbill sea turtle

    - Scientific name: Eretmochelys imbricata
    - Other states with species: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington
    - IUCN category: Critically Endangered

    At 3 feet long and weighing up to 154 pounds, the hawksbill sea turtle is on the smaller spectrum of sea turtles. The beak-shaped jaws for which it is named allow it to scavenge squid, shrimp, and sponges from the crevices of coral reefs. The greatest threat to this species has long been the harvesting of its distinctive, colorfully-patterned shell, which is still used to make headpieces and jewelry in some countries.

  • Florida: Red wolf

    - Scientific name: Canis rufus
    - Other states with species: N/A
    - IUCN category: Critically Endangered

    With a range that previously spread across the central U.S., red wolves were “decimated by the early 20th century as a result of intensive predator control programs and the degradation and alteration of the species’ habitat.” Although its 1967 endangered designation offered some protection, today humans remain the red wolf’s biggest dangers, diminishing populations through vehicle accidents, hunting, and the like. Highly social animals, red wolves live in close-knit packs of up to eight and often form lifelong pair-bonds.

  • Georgia: Conasauga logperch

    - Scientific name: Percina jenkinsi
    - Other states with species: Tennessee
    - IUCN category: Critically Endangered

    Known for its dark tiger stripes and piglike snout, the Conasauga logperch uses that same snout to flip over stones to search for food. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, multiple subspecies of percina were elevated to full species, increasing the multitude and diversity of the fish. Its habitat is jeopardized by pollution from agricultural and urban development.

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