Bird, fish and more, lots of endangered species in Indiana

By Joe Whitfield

Nearly 152 animals that call Indiana home have been declared endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some people may wonder how there got to be so many on Indiana’s endangered animals list.

Sad to say, but: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” (This is from a comic strip called Pogo; look it up.)

There are several different designations for animals whose future is unclear.

State endangered: Any animal species whose prospects for survival or recruitment within the state are in immediate jeopardy and are in danger of disappearing from the state.

Special concern: any animal species requiring monitoring because of known/suspected limited abundance or distribution or because of a recent change in legal status or required habitat.

Some such as the whooping crane were hunted for their feathers, but they also declined because of loss of habitat. From an estimated 15,000 to 20,000, numbers reduced to 1,400 in 1860 and down to 15 by 1941. Thanks to various methods, the population has started to rise again.

Most of the others on the list have their own stories, but the biggest problem is loss of habitat. Either by people building houses or shopping malls where they live, or by changing the nature of the streams and rivers, we are contributing to their demise.

I know there is a law that says if we destroy a wetland, we must replace it, but I can’t recall ever seeing a man-made wetland as good as what nature builds.

The endangered species lists are divided into six areas: mammals, birds, fish, mollusks, amphibians and reptiles. On this list, as of November 2015, there are a total of 152 species: 80 on the endangered list and 72 on the concern list.

We’ll start out with the endangered species and in subsequent columns we’ll hit the concern list and those listed especially for Hancock County.

First up are the mammals. It should come as no surprise, but out of the six mammals listed, three are bats: Indiana, gray and evening. The first two are also on the federally endangered list. The other three are a rabbit, squirrel and a wood rat.

Birds are the next category. This list has 26 birds listed on it, while four are also on the federal list. These four are: the whooping crane, piping plover, lest tern and dirtland’s warbler. The rest of the Indiana list includes two herons, the black- crowned night-heron and the yellow-crowned night-heron. Also making the list are the barn owl and the short-eared owl. Between the endangered and concern list, there are 49 birds listed.

For all the birders out there reading this, there is your life list. You’re welcome and lots of luck.

There are 10 fish on this list — three darters, variegate, channel and gilt. Listed also is the Hoosier cavefish, Lake Sturgeon and the pallid shiner.

The amphibians list has six listed; four of the six are salamanders: the hellbender, mole, green and red. The other two are frogs, the crawfish and plains leopard, none of which is on the federal list.

On the reptile list are 15 species. Six of these are turtles: the alligator snapping turtle, eastern mud, spotted, blanding’s, ornate box and river cooter. As a historical note, the cooter gets its name from kuta, a word for turtle in several African dialects and brought over here.

The other nine are all snakes, including three poisonous ones: the cottonmouth (these guys swam the Ohio River from Kentucky and are found only in a couple of places near the river), timber rattlesnake and the massasauga. I know we don’t like these snakes, but they still serve a purpose.

The last group is the mollusks, or mussels. On the list for Indiana there are 17 mussels listed; 14 of these are also on the federal list. This is an area that most people aren’t aware of. The loss of these is not only due to people interfering with the rivers and streams, but also due to the demand years ago, for pearl-like buttons.

Next time we’ll cover the ones of special concern, those that need monitoring so they don’t land on the endangered list.

Joe Whitfield is a naturalist and gardener for the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.