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. Canadian Lynx (Lynx canadensis)
The lynx is one of the rarest cat species native to the USA. After western farmers won the fight to label gray wolves as “vermin,” allowing them to be hunted into local extinction, the native population of coyotes became bolder and skyrocketed in numbers. With an increased coyote population came a decreased population of native snowshoe hares (the lynx’s main food source), thus reducing lynx numbers tenfold. Combined with the deforestation of their natural habitats for shopping centers and parking lots, Lynx canadensis has faced an uphill battle to survive in Colorado.
Status: CRITICALLY THREATENED (in Colorado)
Why it’s threatened: habitat destruction; habitat fragmentation; deforestation; over-competition
What is being done: recovery plans are limited to preventing hunting and designating conservation areas, but the reintroduction of gray wolves could help increase Colorado lynx populations.
What you can do: only purchase furniture made from sustainably sourced and farmed wood, which you can find at one of our sustainable furniture retailers. Wood that is harvested from natural Colorado forests serve as shelter and protection for many wild animals, and forest destruction or fragmentation directly affects the survival rates of their residents.
2. Whooping Crane (Grus americana)
The whooping crane was hunted to near extinction by the early 20th century—in 1941, there were only 15 individuals left on Earth. Conservationists tried to create populations in several western states using offspring, but they collapsed soon after. Eventually, the young populations that did manage to survive required humans to teach them how to migrate by using a small plane. With great success comes the risk of great failure, and on March 29, 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that one of the five whooping cranes in the Rocky Mountain population was found dead.
Why it’s threatened: over-hunting; habitat destruction
What is being done: in 1961, the Whooping Crane Conservation Association was created to protect and improve the endangered whooping crane populations—the whooping crane was added to the endangered species list in 1967. Since then, state conservationists have been studying their breeding patterns in captivity, building up captive populations to prevent total extinction. Whooping cranes have been the center of a few lawsuits in the past 10 years having to do with violations of the Endangered Species Act via negligent treatment of habitat areas and oil spills in the gulf.
What you can do: Use less oil by using riding your bike more.
3. Razorback Sucker (Xyrauchen texanus)
The razorback sucker was once a common fish in the southern Rocky Mountain region, but due to commercial fishing and dam construction, the populations plummeted to a critical level. Razorback suckers require certain temperature waters to breed, and the newly constructed dams blocked the return routes used by the fish. Colorado listed it as endangered in 1979 and in 1991 it was given full protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Status: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
Why it’s threatened: over-fishing; dam-building
What is being done: conservationists are restoring the razorback’s natural habitat as much as possible as well as building fish passages and waterway detours to allow them to return to their breeding grounds.
What you can do: only buy sustainable seafood, which can be found at 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: