May 18

Endangered Species Day, which was started by the United States Senate, is a chance to raise awareness about the plight of the thousands of animals and plants around the world threatened with extinction. People across the USA are taking part in events to support the day and promote conservation. However, it shouldn’t stop there, wherever you are in the world you can do your bit to support this day too.

In honour of this day, the ARKive team have had a good dig around in the collection to showcase some of the slightly less famous, but no less important, endangered species from the USA.

Soaking up the rays

Photo of the Alabama red-bellied turtle

The striking Alabama red-bellied turtle is endemic to the states of Alabama and Mississippi and is now listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. You might often spot this critter basking in sunshine on fallen logs. Sadly, one of the main threats to this species is the destruction to nesting habitats and the collection of eggs by humans as a food source.

Clever little beetle

American burying beetle photo

The vibrant American burying beetle is currently Critically Endangered and is the largest carrion beetle in North America. At night, beetle pairs will locate a suitable carcass and then cooperate to bury it in the soil, thus protecting their find from competition with other species. One of the major causes of this species’ decline is the fragmentation of available habitat, a global threat to many species.

Curious creatures

Photo of a group of black-footed ferrets at burrow

Once classified as Extinct in the Wild, the black-footed ferret is one of the world’s rarest mammals and the only ferret native to North America. Today, following concerted conservation efforts, reintroduced black-footed ferret populations exist in eight western states and Chihuahua. While this is a fantastic conservation success story, wild ferret populations remain small, and conservation will need to continue if this species’ future is to be secured.

Happy chappy

Photo of a California tiger salamander

Due to the low numbers of this species in the wild and its nocturnal habits, the California tiger salamander is a rarely seen amphibian. This species prefers to spend most of its life underground, often in the burrows of California ground squirrels. With its range now reduced to less than 50 percent of its original historical extent, conservation action is necessary to ensure the future of this Vulnerable species.

Tallest on Earth

Coast redwood photo

Coast redwood forests once stretched along the coast from Santa Cruz to Oregon in the USA. Around 90 to 95 percent of old growth forest has since been logged due to its extensive use in construction, and the remainder is now almost entirely in parks and reserves. This Vulnerable species is one of tallest trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet (115.5 m) in height.

Colourful desert-dweller

Photo of gila monster bathing in sun

The Near Threatened Gila monster is the largest lizard in the United States, and one of the few species of venomous lizard in the world. With their venomous bite and elusive nature, these lizards have inspired many myths over the centuries. However, much of the bushland of the Gila monster’s habitat has been cleared for agriculture and remaining populations are isolated in habitat fragments.

Critically Endangered crayfish

Delaware County Cave crayfish photo

The Delaware County cave crayfish is known from just three caves which occur in a very small area of Delaware County, within the Neosho River watershed. Its biggest threat is the disposal of untreated animal wastes from surrounding hog farms and poultry houses which are seeping into the groundwater. Measures have been put in place in an attempt to reduce the impact of groundwater pollution, however nothing has been done to improve the water quality of the Neshos river. More conservation work needs to be done in order to save this species from extinction.

Aquatic predator

Giant garter snake photo

The giant garter snake lives a highly aquatic lifestyle, rarely being found away from water, where it is an active hunter, foraging mainly for fish and amphibians. Unfortunately this species has been lost from much of its former range as a result of the loss, fragmentation and degradation of its wetland habitats. The total population of the giant garter snake is currently unknown, but its declining range makes the species increasingly vulnerable to extinction.

Butter wouldn’t melt

Giant kangaroo rat photo

This adorable giant kangaroo rat is endemic to the San Joaquin Valley in California. Population numbers have plummeted during the 20th Century, mainly as a result of habitat loss as desert areas were converted to agriculture. Luckily, a Recovery Plan has been developed in an effort to secure the future survival of this species, and populations are protected within the Carrizo Plan Natural Heritage Reserve.

From another time

Alligator snapping turtle photo

One of the largest freshwater turtles in the world, the alligator snapping turtle is a prehistoric-looking species with a reputation as the ‘dinosaur of the turtle world’. It is another endemic species to the USA and there has been a major decline in numbers as a result of over-collection by a major soup manufacturing company and over-harvesting for their meat in many states.

Get involved

These are just a few examples of the endangered species on our planet. If you can spread the word and show your support through facebook or twitter or just speak to your friends about it – every little bit helps to raise awareness. If you are in the USA, take a look at the Stop Extinction website to get more ideas of what you can do and what events are running near you.

Rebecca Sennett, ARKive Media Researcher