Part of my Bioregional Quiz series, a series of questions about where I live. For more information see the parent post here.
What animal or plant species have become extinct in your region?
It is apparently a lot easier to find information about local threatened and endangered species than it is to find extinct species! The only species I could find listed as extinct is the Maryland Darter, a three-inch long fish that lived in one riffle of Deer Creek. The IUCN has declared it extinct, though the US has not yet. They’ve decided it was so rarely seen in the first place that it can’t be declared extinct yet.
I know one of the big dangers to wildlife here is agricultural runoff – the Chesapeake Bay is both our watershed and our largest local wildlife area. A massive number of animals depend on/live in the Bay, so polluting the waters has a huge impact. Since I could only find one extinct species (without going into dinosaurs and ancient mammals!) I found some information about local threatened and endangered species as well.
First one of note is the Delmarva Fox Squirrel. This squirrel is actually being considered for removal from the endangered species list, as it has rebounded pretty handily, with some help. Most of its range now is privately owned forest, with owners who are committed to its preservation and have volunteered their land as area for squirrels to be relocated to. So that’s a positive note.
In 2011, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center posted a list of six major threatened/endangered species of the Chesapeake. These include the Dwarf Wedge Mussel, the Indiana Bat, the Small-Whorled Pogonia, the North Atlantic Right Whale, the Leatherback Sea Turtle, and the Puritan Tiger Beetle.
How have these species fared five years later?
The Dwarf Wedge Mussel is still endangered, most of the information I can find on it is a few years old.
The Indiana Bat is also still endangered, and I similarly can’t find much information on how the population has changed since 2011.
The Small-Whorled Pogonia is a threatened species, a terrestrial orchid found in old-growth forests. It’s already extinct in Maryland, but still exists in other states, and there is work going on to re-introduce it to Maryland.
The North Atlantic Right Whale is another endangered species. The only significant change I could find in their status since 2011 is more a possible cause of change – the Navy secured the rights to build and underground sonar training facility of the coast of Georgia, immediately adjacent to Right Whale calving grounds. Some studies have shown the whales are susceptible to being stressed by low-frequency ship noise, and it seems to be unknown what the effect will be on the whales.
The Leatherback Sea Turtle is listed as Vulnerable globally, but Endangered by the US. No real change since 2011.
The Puritan Tiger Beetle is an Endangered species with only three metapopulations – one along the Connecticut River, and one on either side of the Chesapeake Bay. Its larva only live on naturally eroding cliffs without vegetation, so floods, coast development, erosion, and erosion prevention projects can all negatively affect the population. Efforts have been made to seed a new bluff with the larva, but have failed. (Possibly due to vandalism, according to this page – interesting.)
I’ve also found a page of threatened and endangered species in Maryland, broken down by county. I’ll have to sit down with the applicable list and study it, I think. Always good to know what is rare locally!