Earth Day is next week, which means it’s time to celebrate our planet and all of its inhabitants. We here at Chinook Book would like to raise awareness of the threatened animals living in our region and how we can help recover their numbers.
1. Southern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris nereis)
The southern sea otter may be California’s favorite otter and the face of Monterey Bay, but it was almost hunted to extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries. The fur trade took the west coast by storm when trappers discovered the playful and adorable sea otter—their excessive harvests led to a population drop in the hundreds of thousands. By 1911, there were thought to only be 1,000 - 2,000 otters left in the wild, which led to their ultimate protection. Despite this protection, the sea otters still face constant threats and the IUCN still lists them as Endangered because of their inconsistent numbers.
Why it’s threatened: vulnerable to oil spills; over-hunting during fur trade; habitat contamination and destruction; disease; killer whales
What is being done: while conservation efforts were extremely successful in the mid-to-late 20th century, oil spills during the late 20th and early 21st century led to significant losses. Conservation organizations are working to preserve their coastal habitats. In 1911, the USA signed the Treaty for the Preservation and Protection of Fur Seals, which imposed a moratorium on the harvesting of sea otters (small exceptions have been granted to indigenous groups).
What you can do: only buy seafood that is certified by Seafood Watch. Use less oil by riding your bike more.
2. Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)
The biggest threats to the northern spotted owl are deforestation, loss of habitat, and competition with the more aggressive barred owl. Despite their federal and state protection, northern spotted owl populations have been declining steadily since they were placed on the Environmental Species list in 1990.
Why it’s threatened: habitat destruction; habitat fragmentation; deforestation
What is being done: on April 13, 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) was adopted as a strategy to protect and recover the owl using 24.5 million acres of protected land over the next century. The San Francisco Bay Area Network Inventory and Monitoring Program has been monitoring northern spotted owls in California’s public natural areas since 1999 to record all information on development, nesting, disturbance, and health.
What you can do: only purchase sustainably sourced and recycled building materials for your next DIY project from one of our merchants. Wood that is harvested from natural California forests serves as shelter and protection for many wild animals, and forest destruction or fragmentation directly affects the survival rates of their residents.
3. Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
Loggerhead sea turtles have been facing extinction for decades due to reckless commercial fishing practices and intentional killings. Nine distinct populations of loggerhead sea turtles have been placed on the endangered species list.
Why it’s threatened: by catch in fishing gear; intentional killing; ocean pollution
What is being done: NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service are dedicated to protecting nesting beaches; researching and developing better fishing gear; and monitoring migratory and nesting habitats.
What you can do: only buy seafood that is certified by Seafood Watch. Additionally, to prevent creating more ocean debris, buy in bulk from one of our favorite markets.
And now for a recovery story…
4. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
National populations of USA’s mascot plummeted between 1940 and 1966 because of the toxic pesticide DDT. The United States was so obsessed with DDT in the 1940s that regular sprayings became a kind of event for kids and adults alike. In addition to its carcinogenic properties, DDT also caused the deaths of thousands of predatory birds before it was banned in 1972. After spending 42 years on the endangered species list, the bald eagle was removed by the Fish and Wildlife Service due to significant, successful population increases.
Status: LEAST CONCERN
Why it was threatened: The chemical run-off ended up in bodies of water, which would then contaminate local fish populations. DDT led to something called biomagnification, in which the concentration of the chemical increases exponentially as it climbs the food chain. Once the contaminated fish were ingested by predatory birds, DDT degraded the egg shell calcium compounds, which led to brittle eggs that broke during incubation or failed to hatch at all.
What was done: DDT was banned and the bald eagle was placed on the endangered species list for 42 years.
And spring is the perfect time to remind everyone: