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 of cat species native to the USA. After midwestern 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 Minnesota.
Status: CRITICALLY THREATENED (in Minnesota)
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 it is thought that the reintroduction of gray wolves could help increase Minnesota 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 Minnesota forests serves as shelter and protection for many wild animals, and the forest destruction or fragmentation directly affects the survival rates of their residents.
2. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
Despite being placed on the endangered species list in 1984, population models show that piping plover populations are declining by 7% annually nationally. Between 1991 and 2001, Minnesota saw a 46% drop in the local population making this species’ survival a priority.
Status: ENDANGERED (in Minnesota)
Why it’s threatened: human disturbance; habitat loss; nesting predation
What is being done: management efforts began in Duluth in 1977 and included mainly vegetation removal and predator trapping, but that did not make nesting easier—there hasn’t been successful nesting in Duluth for 25 years. In the 1980s, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources focused on removing vegetation and gull eggs; protecting nesting grounds; and shutting down human traffic during breeding season; unfortunately not much headway was made. In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service drafted and implemented a population recovery plan for the piping plover.
What you can do: decrease your contribution to plastic ocean debris and buy in bulk from one of our co-ops!
3. Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis)
The rusty patched bumble bee was the first bee native to the continental USA to be added to the endangered species list. Its numbers have decreased in 87% of its range and conservation has been challenging.
Status: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
Why it’s threatened: habitat destruction; habitat fragmentation; parasites; neonicotinoid usage; CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder); climate change
What is being done: there have been attempts to curb neonicotinoid usage, but they’re still in circulation and frequently used in intensive farming operations. Conservationists have been working to rebuild populations in captivity, but the bees are still contracting parasites and exhibiting CCD.
What you can do: buy bee-safe pesticides and bee-friendly flowers at one of these garden centers. Do not cut your dandelions—for most of spring they serve as a bee’s only source of food.
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, where 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: