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States with the most endangered species

  • States with the most endangered species

    For most Americans the term “endangered species” probably brings to mind large, adorable animals that live very far away, like pandas and elephants. This makes the problem of species extinction seem distant, but it actually hits close to home: The United States is full of endangered species. Not all of them are animals—there are many fascinating and unique plant species important to their ecosystems that are at risk of disappearing. And not all the animals are large and conventionally attractive: freshwater mussels, tiny fish, and insects are included among the species that have been designated as in need of protection. Many are found in extremely-limited places and perhaps always have been: for example, a pupfish that only lives in a single hot spring in Nevada. Others were once more widespread, but have declined in number over time. Some of these decreases go far back in history, for example, a small oak in Texas that was common over 10,000 years ago when the state’s climate was much wetter. However, most population declines are much more recent, and largely the result of human activity.

    To determine the states with the most endangered species, Stacker consulted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)’s Endangered Species database. States are ranked according to the total number of species (animals and plants) with endangered or threatened classifications that live within their borders. One to three notable species are also listed for each state; “notable species” refers to those which are either endemic to three or less states or which are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Species classifications are up to date as of January 2020.

    The USFWS defines endangered as a species that is “at the brink of extinction now” while one that is threatened as “likely to be at the brink in the near future.” The IUCN terms are defined as follows: critically endangered species face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild; endangered face a very high risk; and vulnerable are at high risk. One featured species is described on each slide.

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  • #50. Vermont

    - Total endangered species: 6
    - Notable species:
    --- Jesup's milk-vetch (scientific name: Astragalus robbinsii var. jesupi)
    --- Dwarf wedgemussel (scientific name: Alasmidonta heterodon, IUCN category: vulnerable)

    The dwarf wedgemussel is a tiny freshwater mollusk, only one and a half inches long, that lives in streams and rivers. It spends the larval part of its life cycle in the gills of fish. Once found all along the East Coast from Canada to North Carolina, its population has declined in large part due to habitat loss and pollution.


  • #47. Alaska (tie)

    - Total endangered species: 8
    - Notable species:
    --- Eskimo curlew (scientific name: Numenius borealis, IUCN category: critically endangered)
    --- Steller's Eider (scientific name: Polysticta stelleri, IUCN category: vulnerable)
    --- Polar bear (scientific name: Ursus maritimus, IUCN category: vulnerable)

    While the Eskimo curlew has not officially been declared extinct, there hasn’t been a sighting of this bird since 1963. They once bred in Canada and wintered in South America, but were the victim of habitat degradation, overhunting, and the extinction of one of their important food sources: the Rocky Mountain locust.


  • #47. North Dakota (tie)

    - Total endangered species: 8
    - Notable species:
    --- Whooping crane (scientific name: Grus americana, IUCN category: endangered)
    --- Poweshiek skipperling (scientific name: Oarisma poweshiek)

    The Poweshiek skipperling is a small butterfly native to the North American tallgrass prairie. Its last official sighting in North Dakota was in 2001 and it’s now found only at a few sites in Canada, Wisconsin and Michigan. Zoos, including the Minnesota Zoo, are breeding them in captivity, in hopes of saving the species.


  • #47. Rhode Island (tie)

    - Total endangered species: 8
    - Notable species:
    --- Sandplain gerardia (scientific name: Agalinis acuta)

    The Sandplain gerardia, with brilliant pink flowers that bloom in August and September, grows in dry sandy soils from Massachusetts to Maryland. It has lost habitat to development and to trees and shrubs whose growth was formerly kept in check by fire. By 1988, the only population in Rhode Island was in a historic cemetery, but conservation efforts in the early 2000s created two additional sites where it now grows.



  • #46. Delaware

    - Total endangered species: 11
    - Notable species:
    --- Canby's dropwort (scientific name: Oxypolis canbyi)
    --- Swamp pink (scientific name: Helonias bullata)

    Canby’s dropwort is a flowering perennial that grows in a variety of coastal habitats but prefers areas that stay wet most of the year, so the species has been negatively affected by the loss and degradation of wetlands. It blooms from mid-July through September, and is critical to the reproduction of the black swallowtail butterfly. The butterflies lay their eggs on the plants, which then serve as food for the caterpillars and a place for them to cocoon.

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  • #42. Connecticut (tie)

    - Total endangered species: 12
    - Notable species:
    --- Puritan tiger beetle (scientific name: Cicindela puritana, IUCN category: endangered)
    --- Dwarf wedgemussel (scientific name: Alasmidonta heterodon, IUCN category: vulnerable)
    --- Small whorled pogonia (scientific name: Isotria medeoloides, IUCN category: vulnerable)

    The Puritan tiger beetle is found in only two widely-separated locations: the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and along the Connecticut River in New England, but primarily in Connecticut. They’re threatened by the loss of their very-specialized habitat of sandy beaches along rivers, which have been affected by human use, including damming, flood control, and recreation. As their name suggests, tiger beetles are fast runners and aggressive predators on smaller insects.


  • #42. Maine (tie)

    - Total endangered species: 12
    - Notable species:
    --- Furbish lousewort (scientific name: Pedicularis furbishiae, IUCN category: endangered)

    The Furbish lousewort grows along the Saint John River, which forms the border between Maine and Canada. It prefers north and northwest facing slopes, and requires a habitat that is regularly disturbed by the natural movement of the river. It was actually declared extinct in 1975 and then rediscovered the following year, and is threatened by human destruction of its specialized habitat.


  • #42. Nebraska (tie)

    - Total endangered species: 12
    - Notable species:
    --- Salt Creek Tiger beetle (scientific name: Cicindela nevadica lincolniana)
    --- Blowout penstemon (scientific name: Penstemon haydenii)

    The blowout penstemon is named for the habitat it grows in: blowouts are bare areas where the wind has eroded channels and deposited sand. Thought to be extinct in 1940, the plant was rediscovered in 1968 and over the last 20 years has been the subject of conservation efforts. Transplanted seedlings have increased the population, but its specialized habitat is threatened by a range of human factors, including livestock grazing and recreational use.


  • #42. New Hampshire (tie)

    - Total endangered species: 12
    - Notable species:
    --- Jesup's milk-vetch (scientific name: Astragalus robbinsii var. jesupi)

    Jesup's milk-vetch is found in only three areas along the Connecticut River in New England. It thrives in a challenging habitat of rocky outcrops that are icy in the winter, flood in the spring, and have wide temperature swings in the summer. It’s threatened by competition from invasive plant species and at risk from increasingly limited genetic diversity caused by the effect of climate change on its reproductive cycle.

  • #41. South Dakota

    - Total endangered species: 14
    - Notable species:
    --- Black-footed ferret (scientific name: Mustela nigripes, IUCN category: endangered)
    --- Western prairie fringed Orchid (scientific name: Platanthera praeclara, IUCN category: endangered)

    The Black-footed ferret was once abundant across the grasslands of North America along with its main prey, the prairie dog. In 1986, what were believed to be the last 18 individuals were taken into captivity for a breeding program that has successfully reintroduced over 4,000 animals. However, they are still endangered by destruction and fragmentation of their habitat, disease, and declining prairie dog populations.

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