7 of the Most Endangered Species in Texas
Texas is not only one of the largest states in the United States, but thanks to its unique geological features and diverse landscapes – replete with swamps, grasslands, grasslands and deserts – it is also home to a wealth of wildlife. and varied. But like most countries in the world, the Lone Star State has faced a significant loss of biodiversity, largely due to human activity and urban development, leading to the loss of their habitats by many species. Currently, nearly 150 species are listed as threatened and another 74 as endangered. One of the state’s most well-known and endemic animals, the ivory-billed woodpecker, was even recently declared extinct by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is undeniable that time is running out to protect and restore the species essential to the constitution of the ecosystem. These are just seven of the most endangered species in Texas.
Endangered Species in Texas
This iconic spotted wildcat was once widely distributed throughout North, Central and South America. Today, they are found only in certain parts of Texas, with less than 25 individuals left in the wild. The largest remaining population of ocelots in the United States is found in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in the state. Habitat loss due to logging activities and the illegal fur and pet trade have been major drivers of the species’ dramatic decline. Although animal trade and imports have been banned in many parts of the world, they can still be found in local markets in Central and South America. Other threats to the species include increased risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions when ocelots make their way through the land to feed and mate.
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles
The smallest but most endangered species of sea turtle in the world, Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle is found only on the shores and waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it often nests on the beaches of the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas. There the sea turtles feed mainly on crabs and may occasionally eat fish, sea jellies and molluscs. Despite some positive trends in population growth between 1997 and 2009 where the number increased by 12 to 19% per year, the species is again in decline. This could be attributed to higher mortality rates from bycatch in commercial fishing, ongoing environmental degradation and marine pollution in the species’ critical habitats in the Gulf of Mexico – notably the tidal black of Deepwater Horizon. Some estimates place only about 55 females nesting in Texas each year.
Photo credit: USFWS
Golden cheeked warbler
There is only one place in the world where the golden-cheeked warbler is found, and that is in central Texas oak and juniper forests. It is also the only bird species whose breeding range is confined to the Lone Star State. As its name suggests, the bird is easily identified by its bright yellow cheeks, contrasting with its black throat and back. Since 1990, the warbler has been protected under the Endangered Species Act due to threats such as habitat loss for logging and livestock grazing. The species depends on the dense tree canopy for feeding on a variety of insects, as well as for nesting, and as habitat fragmentation for urban development continues to grow, so does for nesting predators such as blue jays and brown-headed cowbirds. The warbler population has dropped about 25% in 28 years, with about 27,000 individuals remaining in Texas.
Native only to North America, the Whooping Crane is known for its striking white plumage, black-tipped features and red cap, as well as being the region’s largest bird species – measuring over five feet high. The bird was once on the verge of extinction after years of rampant and unregulated hunting for their meat and feathers and the loss of wetland habitats for agriculture and oil and gas exploration, which led to the disappearance of less than 20 birds in 1942. The core of the migrating herd is in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. After decades of dedicated conservation efforts, population numbers have recovered to more than 800 people since February 2020.
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Texas Horned Lizard
Also known as the “horned toad”, the Texas horned lizard is a uniquely flat-bodied reptile with many prominent spikes extending from its head as well as smaller ones along its spine. The lizard ranges from the south-central United States to northern Mexico, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico, especially in dry habitats with little or no vegetation cover. Horned lizard populations are slowly disappearing despite legislation protecting the species; prior to 1967, the lizard was widely exported in the pet trade. Scientists have noted that the species can be found in half of its historic range, probably due to habitat modification. This includes urban and roadside developments where Horned Lizards tend to bask on paved roads and are often killed by heavy traffic.
Texas kangaroo rat
The Texas kangaroo rat is a rare nocturnal animal species that lives in underground dens at the base or roots of a small mesquite tree, and is found primarily in the north central Texas region. Like most other endangered species in Texas, threats such as habitat loss as well as plant monocultures, which lead to plants becoming too dense or overgrazing, have impacted the population. of the animal. The four-toed rodent is currently listed as “threatened” by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but is not under the protection of federal law.
Black bears were overharvested for many years due to sport hunting—particularly prevalent in Texas—predator control and habitat modification, and have since become a rarity in the state. But thanks to conservation efforts over the past two decades, including the implementation of laws prohibiting hunting and killing of the animal as well as research into their food sources and population ecology, the black bear is slowly making a comeback. Today, the only active breeding grounds are in West Texas, but there have been more black bear sightings across the state, which are said to be “young transient males seeking to establish a new home range and find a mate”. While these are positive signs of species recovery, many threats remain; over 95% of Texas land is privately owned, posing a risk of human-bear conflict, as state residents are permitted to shoot bears if they are “defending their property”.