On Friday, May 20, thousands of people throughout the United States will celebrate Endangered Species Day. It is an opportunity to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species and the everyday actions people can take to help protect our nation’s natural resources.
Each year, wildlife researchers and specialists with USDA-APHIS’ Wildlife Services (WS) program help to reduce threats to our Nation’s more vulnerable animals and habitats. In FY 2010, WS efforts assisted 131 threatened or endangered species in 36 States, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Cuba. Examples of WS work with endangered and threatened species include the following:
- Protecting Sea Turtles from Predators and Invasive Species─ One of the primary threats to endangered sea turtle reproduction in Florida is nest predation by raccoons, invasive armadillos and feral swine. Recently, WS researchers and federal, state and private sector partners reported on the effectiveness of removing nest predators from key sites to increase the survival rate of sea turtle nests and other beach dwelling threatened and endangered species. In a study in Florida, predation damage management efforts at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge resulted in more than 128,000 additional sea turtles emerging from nests compared to previous years when no predator management occurred.
- Rodent-proof Nest Box─ The puaiohi or small Kauai thrush is an endangered bird endemic to the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The sole population of about 500 birds is currently restricted to remote, high elevation areas of the Alakai Plateau. Puaiohi nest primarily on steep stream-side cliffs and their distribution and abundance are limited partly by the availability of suitable nest sites. Invasive black rats often eat nesting adults, nestlings and eggs. Unfortunately, ground-based rodent control has not been effective at reducing nest predation. WS researchers in Hawaii tested and redesigned nest boxes to find one that was resistant to rats. Field tests of a new rat-resistant nest box are currently underway to determine whether the boxes will successfully be used by wild birds.
- Reducing Plague near Black-Footed Ferrets─ WS specialists work with other federal and state agencies to dust thousands of acres of rangeland with an insecticide to combat deadly plague outbreaks in prairie dog colonies. Plague is transmitted by fleas and can kill endangered black-footed ferrets and their primary food source the prairie dog. The black-footed ferret once ranged between the Canadian and Mexican borders in the grasslands of 12 states. It has been classified as an endangered species since 1967. Due to their specialized diet of prairie dogs, maintaining suitable prairie ecosystems and prairie dog habitat is considered essential to the ferrets, which are the only native North American ferret.
Learn more about APHIS’ work with endangered species by visiting the WS website.