Updated: Mar 15, 2020
..and being thoughtful of that which is threatened.
"Losing a species of animal is like losing all the masterpieces of a great artist."
- Teddy Roosevelt
If you were asked to define what "conservation" is, what would you say? One of the first things that many people think of is the protection of endangered species. And they definitely have a point-- protecting endangered species is an important part of overall conservation efforts. But what, exactly, is an endangered species?
An endangered species is an organism with such a small population that it is in danger of dying out altogether, of going extinct. Similarly, a threatened species is an organism whose population is not quite low enough to be considered endangered yet, but who also isn't far away from that imperiled status. Oftentimes, more research is needed to determine exactly what a particular species' status is, as surveys to find the rarest organisms on the planet can be very time consuming since these organisms are few and far between.
What are some examples of threatened or endangered species? Most people are quick to list exotic animals like tigers, panda bears, and sea turtles. But what about the endangered animals (and plants too!) right here in Michigan?
Michigan threatened/endangered species
Northern long-eared bat*
Karner blue butterfly
Northern appressed clubmoss
And, sadly, many others that are too numerous to list.
*Check these guys out in the illustration above. They are just as important as their endangered tiger, panda, and sea turtle brethren.
So, what can we do to help?
The situation for many of these species may seem dire, almost hopeless. After all, the idea of losing an entire species is a very sad one. However, there are ways that we can help, even if we can't afford to donate large sums of money to animal sanctuaries or fly to exotic countries to help wash baby elephants or collect hatchling sea turtles. Here are some ideas...
1. Educate. Educate yourself on the species in your own backyard, so you can report sightings if you're ever lucky enough to find them. Learn about how we can coexist with them. For instance, did you know that Massasauga rattlesnakes are shy, wetland-loving snakes that would rather slither quickly away from humans than bite? If you find one, you needn't be afraid-- just leave it alone and it won't attack you.
It's Valentine's Day! Fall in love with some of our local Michigan threatened and endangered species in the slideshow below!
Visit our downloads page to get printable versions.
2. Spread the word. Once you know how to minimize any negative impacts you might have on the threatened/endangered animals around you, suggest that your friends and neighbors do the same. The more people who are aware of the plight of threatened/endangered species, the more people will be perfectly poised to help a threatened turtle cross the road or put up a bat box for an endangered bat.
For a fun, Valentine-centered take on helping a little-known endangered animal woo his one true love, check out the February 14, 2017 Google Doodle and play the awesome Pangolin Game:
3. Maintain good habitat. Planting native plants and trees will lead to healthier ecosystems overall that can filter stormwater runoff and that require less maintenance with pesticides/herbicides than non-native landscapes. Some plants may even be utilized directly by threatened/endangered species as food, shelter, or both. For instance, the caterpillar of the Karner blue butterfly feeds exclusively on wild blue lupine. If all the lupine in their native range is removed to plant grassy lawns instead, the butterfly will not survive. Similarly, leaving bogs and ephemeral spring wetlands in place instead of draining them provides habitat for species like the spotted turtle, which can live 100+ years when its habitat needs are met!
For the chance to win a $20 credit to GCD's 2020 Reforestation Event and improve YOUR wildlife habitat, take the quiz below and comment on this post with which endangered animal you are by next Friday, February 21, 2020!!
Conservation Success Stories
The news about threatened/endangered species isn't all doom and gloom. Sometimes, concentrated efforts by people who care can help save species from extinction. The following species' populations have increased drastically from the brink of extinction, to the extent that some have actually been taken off the threatened/endangered species list altogether!
Black Footed Ferret