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History of Wildlife Management | What is a Fish | Fish Identification Key | Fish Species of WV | Bird Species of WV | Mammal Species of WV | Threatened And Endangered Species | Animal Tracks | Habitat Issues | Seasons and Bag Limits | Hunting Regulations | Fishing Regulations


Threatened and Endangered Wildlife


Fifteen West Virginia animals are in need of attention to increase critically low populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has designated these species as "threatened" or "endangered." These designations stem from the provisions of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. The USFWS, USDA Forest Service, USDI National Park Service, and Wildlife Resources Section (WRS) of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources are the agencies directly involved with the protection and recovery of these species in West Virginia. West Virginia has no State endangered species legislation; therefore, the only species listed as threatened or endangered in the State are those listed as such by the Federal government.


ENDANGERED SPECIES
An endangered species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a portion of its range. Its population level is so critically low and/or its habitat is so degraded that immediate action must be taken to avoid the loss of the species. Twelve West Virginia animals have been designated as "endangered."

Peregrine Falcon
This bird once nested in West Virginia and throughout much of the United States and Canada. The peregrine's decline in the 1940s and 1950s and total elimination in Eastern North America were due primarily to the widespread use of DDT and related pesticides. These chemicals interfered with eggshell production and severely reduced nesting success. Since the use of DDT was restricted in the early 1970s, captive breeding and reintroduction of peregrines by Federal, State, and private wildlife agencies have made a good start in the reestablishment of peregrine falcons.

In a cooperative project between the WRS and the Monongahela National Forest, 53 young falcons were released in the Mountain State between 1987 and 1990. Breeding pairs in the State produced chicks in 1991 and 1992. This was the first successful nesting of this species in the State since the late 1940s. No breeding pairs have been observed since 1992. Sightings of adult or juvenile peregrine falcons should be reported to the WRS's Nongame Wildlife and Natural Heritage Program at (304) 637-0245.

Virginia Big-eared Bat
This bat is a subspecies of the Townsend's big-eared bat, an inhabitant of the Western United States. This disjunct subspecies is found in small, scattered populations in Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia, with over half the known population found in West Virginia. These bats require caves for rearing their young in summer and for hibernation in winter. Surveys conducted by WRS biologists monitor known summer and winter populations and search for additional colonies. Eleven major summer colonies, totaling about 6,200 adult females of this species, have been found in West Virginia. Nearly 7,500 Virginia big-eared bats of both sexes have been located hibernating in the State's caves.

Indiana Bat
The Indiana bat is found primarily in the Midwest, with major populations in Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky. West Virginia's colonies total 11,600 Indiana bats. The Indiana bat rears its young outside caves in the summer, usually under the loose bark of trees. Like the big-eared bat, it hibernates in caves in the winter and must not be disturbed during this critical period. WRS biologists monitor known populations and search for additional colonies.

In winter, hibernating bats of all species greatly reduce their heart and respiratory rates to conserve fat (stored energy) reserves. Any disturbance that causes the bats to stir or fly about may deplete their energy reserves and make them unable to survive the winter. For this reason, most of the caves that harbor colonies of endangered bats have been gated or fenced to prohibit entry by humans during critical periods. A survey in 1991 located the first endangered gray bat in the Mountain State; however, no additional gray bats have been observed. All bats in West Virginia eat insects. This is why they are most often seen at dusk, when flying insects are most active. Thus, bats help control insect populations. Like all mammals, bats sometimes carry rabies; occurrences are uncommon and bites to humans are very rare. Bats are the only mammals that truly fly, and although all bats have eyes, they can travel and locate insects in the dark by means of a sonar (echolocation) system.

Eastern Cougar
This subspecies, or race, of cougar was once found throughout the Eastern United States, but was essentially exterminated by the late 1800s. The WRS receives dozens of cougar reports each year from all over the State. However, these may be likened to UFO sightings: some can be easily explained and disproved, while others seem to be reliable. Still, we have no indisputable proof that eastern cougars exist in West Virginia. It is likely that western cougars illegally released in the State are the source of many sightings.

Northern Flying Squirrel
While many West Virginians are familiar with flying squirrels, most are not aware that there are actually two species in the State: the common southern flying squirrel and the very rare northern flying squirrel. Northern flying squirrels may be distinguished by their slightly larger size and belly hairs, which are gray at the base and white at the tips.

Although the northern flying squirrel is common and widespread in the Northern States and Canada, it has become extremely scarce in the southern Appalachians and has been listed as endangered in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. In West Virginia, this squirrel is found only in the high mountains, generally above 3,300 feet in elevation. It prefers red spruce and mature northern hardwood (beech, birch, sugar maple, and cherry) forests and feeds primarily on lichens, fungi, and seeds.

Freshwater Mussels
Six species of freshwater mussels that occur in West Virginia are listed as endangered. Five of these occur in large rivers and are known from the Ohio, Elk, or Kanawha rivers in West Virginia: pink mucket pearly mussel, tuberculed-blossom pearly mussel, fanshell, clubshell, and northern riffleshell. The clubshell has also been found in moderate-sized streams. The James spinymussel occurs in small headwater tributaries of the James River. Freshwater mussels are important indicators of water quality; most species cannot tolerate reductions in dissolved oxygen or increases in pollutants, acidity, or siltation. Healthy mussel populations are indicative of good water quality.


THREATENED SPECIES
A threatened species is one that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range if measures are not taken to improve the status. Three animal species in West Virginia are listed as "threatened" by the Federal government.

Bald Eagle
Historically, the bald eagle was not known to nest in West Virginia, though migrants were frequently seen in the spring and fall. In 1981, the first reported nest for this bird, our National Symbol, was found in Hardy County. Bald eagles, like many birds of prey, declined during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, but are now mounting a gradual comeback largely because of bans on the use of DDT and related pesticides and increased protection. Because bald eagle populations are recovering well, this species was recently "downlisted" from endangered to threatened status.

The bald eagle's primary food is fish, so they are most often seen in the vicinity of our larger rivers and lakes. The WRS monitors the State's six eagle nests and searches for additional nests with the hope that this magnificent bird will continue to expand its range further into West Virginia. Sightings of eagle pairs, especially in spring and summer, should be reported to the Nongame Wildlife and Natural Heritage Program.

Flat-spired Three-toothed Land Snail
This mollusk has a big name for such a little animal. Currently known from only 26 locations within a small area of Monongalia and Preston Counties, this species is found nowhere else in the world. This extremely rare snail was not discovered until 1933. The WRS is currently conducting studies to learn more about the life history of this snail and to determine its distributional range.

Cheat Mountain Salamander
Known from just five counties in West Virginia, the Cheat Mountain salamander is the only amphibian in the State to be listed as threatened or endangered. The species was first discovered on White Top Mountain in Randolph County. The Cheat Mountain salamander is restricted to cool, moist forests, usually in habitats containing red spruce in areas over 3,150 feet in elevation.

This salamander attains a length of 4 inches and has a dark back sprinkled with brassy or silvery flecks. The belly and throat are a uniform dark gray. These small amphibians may live to be 10 years of age. Like all woodland salamanders, the Cheat Mountain salamander does not posses lungs, but must "breathe" through its skin and the lining of the mouth and throat. The food of these animals consists of mites, small insects, and other small woodland invertebrates.


PROTECTION
All threatened and endangered species are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and violation of this act is a Federal offense punishable by fines of up to $20,000 and up to 1 year imprisonment. Bald eagles are also protected under State eagle protection legislation.

Not all of the State's threatened and endangered species are animals. Four federally endangered plants are found in the State: shale barren rock cress, running buffalo clover, harperella, and northeastern bulrush. There are two federally threatened species: Virginia spiraea and small whorled pogonia.

Reference:
Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in West Virginia. Division of Natural Resources. 1999.



History of Wildlife Management | What is a Fish | Fish Identification Key | Fish Species of WV | Bird Species of WV | Mammal Species of WV | Threatened And Endangered Species | Animal Tracks | Habitat Issues | Seasons and Bag Limits | Hunting Regulations | Fishing Regulations