PA Endangered-Threatened Species

Indiana Bat ---Danielle von Waldow

The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) is a medium-sized mouse-eared bat native to North America. It lives primarily in eastern and midwestern states and in parts of the south of the US. The Indiana bat is gray, black, or chestnut in colour and is 1.2–2 inches and weighs about 1/4 an ounce. It is similar in appearance to the more common little brown bat but is distinguished by its feet size, toe hair length, pink lips and a keel on the ca;car.
Indiana bats live in hardwood forests and hardwood-pine forests. It is common old-growth forest as well as agricultural land like croplands and old fields. Overall, the bats mostly live in forest, crop fields, and grasslands. As an insectivore, the bat will eat both terrestrial and aquatic flying insects like moths, beetles, and mosquitoes.. The Indiana bat is listed as an endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It has had serious population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the 10 years, based on direct observation and a decline on its extent of occurrence. The Indiana bat spends summer months living throughout the eastern United States. During winter, however, they cluster together and hibernate in only a few caves. Since about 1975, the population of Indiana bats has declined by about 50 percent. The Indiana bat lives in caves only in winter; but, there are few caves that provide the conditions necessary for hibernation. Stable, low temperatures are required to allow the bats to reduce their metabolic rates and conserve fat reserves. These bats hibernate in large, tight clusters which may contain thousands of individuals. Indiana bats feed entirely on night flying insects, and a colony of bats can consume thousands of insects each night. Reasons for the bat's decline include disturbance of colonies by human beings, pesticide use and loss of summer habitat resulting from the clearing of forest cover. Populations throughout the species' range are also threatened by the spread of white nose syndrome. Additionally, Indiana bat mortality due to wind turbines has been confirmed, even resulting in a December 2009 injunction against a West Virginia wind farm. In recognition of Indiana bats’ declining status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed them as endangered in 1967. Closure of caves and other protective measures for hibernacula have been crucial to Indiana bat recovery. Bats are important because they eat pesky insects like mosquitos.

Eastern Puma/Cougar--Anna Siegfried
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Eastern cougars have long slender bodies with very long tails. They have broad, round heads with erect, short, rounded ears. The adult puma’s fur is primarily one color, a red-brown or gray-brown. Their muzzle, chin, and belly are a creamy white. Kittens are paler in color than adults and have dark spots. Pumas are the largest wildcat in North America. Adult males average 8 feet in length including their tale, and females average up to 6 feet in length. A cougar’s weight varies from 100-200 pounds. Despite their weight, pumas can jump as high as 15 feet and as far out as 40 feet. They can also swim and climb trees just as well. There is no fixed breeding season, and the females produce 2-4 kittens. They can live for 12-18 years. A female’s home range covers 5-20 square miles while the males cover 25 or more square miles. Pumas mark their territories with scratches and urine. Mountain lions actively avoid other cats except when mating. Both male and female defend their home territory. Cougars are solitary, territorial hunters that prey on deer, elk, domestic livestock, and any smaller animals such as mice, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, and porcupines. They prefer deer meat, and need to kill at least one deer per week. To increase their hunting chances, pumas usually kill the old, sick, or weak individuals. the predator makes a kill it will bury its prey and leave it and come back to feed when hungry. Cougars are very good at adapting to a wide range of habitats. They can be found in mountain terrain, hardwood forests, deserts, and even tidal marshes. There have been sites of pumas in lower Canada to parts of eastern U.S and South America. To this day pumas are on the critically endangered list. Mountain lions are endangered primarily because of habitat loss and poaching. They don’t have any natural predators except humans. The issue between humans and cougars is that human territories overlap with pumas’ territories. Because of this overlap cougars are purposely hunted for game or for protecting livestock. This overlap of territories is also limiting the living spaces for cougars. Also, the deforestation of their habitat lessens the population of deer for the cougars to eat. They are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because the ESA lists them as critically endangered. The government has responded to the diminishing cougar species by sponsoring several research and survey projects. There is a recovery plan in process by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If researchers find cougars their goal is to organize an advisory committee at each location of the founded cougar(s) and to provide temporary protection, habitat management, and public education.

Northern Riffleshell Mussel---Vinay Viswanathan
The Northern Riffleshell (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana) are small pearly mussels that may live up to an approximate 15 years of age. They are most active from April to June, and during other times they remain gravid. They live in water that flows swiftly and contains high quantities of oxygen. They prefer “riffle and run” areas with coarse sediment. They are found mainly in the Ohio River valley, with populations, currently found in only Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, stretching from the Green River in Kentucky to Detroit and Black Rivers, as well as tributaries of Lake Erie, in Michigan. Within Pennsylvania, it is found in the LeBoeuf Creek and the Allegheny River. They are in danger of extinction due to a variety of factors: chiefly, dams and reservoirs have caused habitat fragmentation to occur and have isolated various groups of Epioblasma torulosa rangiana and have reduced its habitats, Erosion from industry has increased silt levels and runoff which clog the Northern Riffleshell’s feeding siphons, and the non-native, invasive Zebra Mussel has caused increase competition for food and also clings onto the shell of the Northern Riffleshell, limiting motion and feeding for the latter. Relocation projects are underway to move the mussel to areas which formerly contained the creature but still have ideal conditions for it. Recently, in the Allegheny River a bridge construction project threatened local Northern Riffleshell populations, so the Pennsylvania and Ohio state governments moved the population there to the Big Darby Creek in Ohio, where the Riffleshells will live under safer, better conditions.

Bog Turtle- Sam Scarpino

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The bog turtle can be found in many areas throughout the eastern United States including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The bog turtle is the smallest species of turtle in North America averaging a length of four inches and weighing about 4 ounces when fully grown. They have a black head with yellow-orange spots on the side of their heads. A group of bog turtles normally lives in a colony of up to 20 near a body of water. Because they are semiaquatic, they occupy both water and land areas. However, they prefer to live in areas with both dry areas and wet areas. One main reason for the bog turtles decline in population is the alteration in their natural habitat. Much of the land that bog turtles live in has been turned into residential areas or other forms of development. This modification in their natural environment has reportedly been responsible for the decrease in 80 percent of colonies within the past 30 years. Another cause of decline is illegal collecting. Many poachers will collect them and export them elsewhere to gain a profit. The final cause of endangerment is the invasion of non-native plant species, specifically the purple loosestrife, reed canary grass, and reeds. These plants are thought to hinder the movement of the turtle due to the plants growing in a thick manner. One effort to protect the bog turtles was the inclusion of the bog turtle on the list of endangered species in the United States Endangered Species Act in 1997. This makes it illegal to disturb or remove a bog turtle from its natural habitat. The US Fish and Wildlife Service have recently announced a plan of action to help maintain the turtle population.

Allegheny woodrat-Kristen Walczak
The Allegheny woodrat is a species of the "pack rat." This particular species is a medium sized rodent growing from 15 to 17 inches of length, with 7 or eight of those inches being the tail. They are usually brown in color with white under the belly and feet. The Allegheny woodrat prefers rocky outcrops associated with mountain ridges such as cliffs, caves, talus slopes, and even mines in Pennsylvania. Other areas in which this rat is found includes Maryland, and West Virginia. These rats mostly consume plant materials like buds, leaves, stems, fruits, seeds, acorns and other nuts. They store their food in caches and eat about five percent of their body weight a day. There are many predators for this rat which include: owls, skunks, weasels, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, large snakes, and even humans. The Allegheny woodrat is considered endangered in some states, but only threatened in Pennsylvania. The reason for the rats declining population is not known for sure. However, it is suggested that there are a number of different factors involved.The first is a parasite, the raccoon roundworm, which is almost always fatal to the Woodrat.The raccoon has thrived in the traditional woodrat habitat, increasing infection by the parasite, which enters the woodrat because it eats the plant and seed material in the raccoon's feces. Another possible cause is severe defoliation of American chestnuts due to chestnut blight and oak trees being invaded by Gypsy moths which lower the availability of nuts for the rat. Predation by Great Horned Owls has also been cited. Lastly, increased human encroachment causes fragmentation and destruction of the woodrat's habitat.Currently, Pennsylvania is conducting a 3 year study in an attempt to shed light on the daily and seasonal movements of woodrats, identify high quality woodrat habitat, and learn whether providing food caches can boost a population.

Cracking Pearlymussel-Hannah Wilhelm

Bald Eagle--Emily Schmitt
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The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of theUnited States, and northern Mexico. It is found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting. The adult Bald Eagle is mainly brown with a white head and tail. The sexes are identical in plumage, but females are larger than males. The beak is large and hooked. The plumage of the immature is brown. Bald Eagles are not actually bald, the name derives from the older meaning of the word, "white headed”. The average lifespan of Bald Eagles in the wild is around 20 years, with the oldest living to be about 30. In captivity, they often live somewhat longer. The Bald Eagle prefers habitats near seacoasts, rivers, large lakes, oceans, and other large bodies of open water with an abundance of fish. The Bald Eagle requires old growth and mature stands coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting. Selected trees must have good visibility, an open structure, and proximity to prey, but the height or species of tree is not as important as an abundance of comparatively large trees surrounding the body of water. Forests used for nesting should have a canopy cover of no more than 60 percent, and no less than 20 percent, and be in close proximity to water.DDT especially affected Bald Eagles, like many birds of prey, due to biomagnification. DDT itself was not lethal to the adult bird, but it interfered with the bird's calcium metabolism, making the bird either sterile or unable to lay healthy eggs. Female eagles laid eggs that were too brittle to withstand the weight of a brooding adult, making it nearly impossible for the eggs to hatch. It is estimated that in the early 18th century, the Bald Eagle population was 300,000–500,000, but by the 1950s there were only 412 nesting pairs in the 48 states of the US. Other factors in Bald Eagle population reductions were a widespread loss of suitable habitat, as well as both legal and illegal shooting. The species was first protected in the U.S. and Canada by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty, later extended to all of North America. The 1940 Bald Eagle Protection Act in the U.S., which protected the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, prohibited commercial trapping and killing of the birds. The Bald Eagle was declared an endangered species in the U.S. in 1967. Also in 1972, DDT was banned in the United States. DDT was completely banned in Canada in 1989, though its use had been highly restricted since the late 1970s. With regulations in place and DDT banned, the eagle population rebounded. The Bald Eagle can be found in growing concentrations throughout the United States and Canada, particularly near large bodies of water.

Pink Mucket- Jenny Godwin
The pink mucket is a rounded, slightly elongate mussel with a thick, inflated, and smooth shell, which is usually reddish-brown in color. It can be found on the bottoms of various bodies of water thoughout Pennsylvania, such as rivers and tributaries. It requires a stable, undisturbed habitat and a sufficient population of fish hosts in order to survive. It is typically found in water one inch to five feet in depth. This mussel buries itself in the sand or gravel, with only the edge of its shell and its feeding siphons exposed. The mussel can live up to fifty years, but it rarely reaches this age now. It has been federally endangered species since the year 1976. The construction of dams has been detrimental to the Pink Mucket population. Dams and reservoirs have flooded most of this mussel's habitat, reducing its gravel and sand habitat and probably affecting the distribution of its fish hosts. Erosion that is caused by strip mining, logging and farming adds silt to many rivers, which can clog the mussel's feeding siphons and even bury it completely. Other threats include pollution from agricultural and industrial runoff. These chemicals and toxic metals become concentrated in the body tissues of mussels, eventually poisoning it to death. The government is reconizing how water pollution affects the mussels, so new regulations are limiting the runoff factories can release into rivers and lakes. Also, scientists are moving populations of mussels to other areas in the event that a dam is going to be built in a particular river that is known to have large populations of mussels. This way, the mussels will be able to thrive and live in much better conditions.

Piping Plover- Carleton Gibson
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The Piping Plover is a sand colored coastal bird that is no bigger than the size of your hand. It is native to beaches along the Atlantic Coast and on the shores of the Great Lakes. They are often very difficult to notice because of their small size and ability to blend in with the sand at the beach. Unless the bird is migrating, it is highly unlikely to ever see one outside of a beach. They typically head south for the winter to the Gulf of Mexico. They are not big eaters and stick to worms, mollusks, and insects. Piping Plovers will typically establish their nests in the middle of the sand at the beach which can be a problem because of the lack of seclusion. Conservationists will aid the Piping Plovers by putting a mesh cage over the nests so predators and people do not disturb the hatching of future populations. Crows, racoons, and foxes are the main threat to eat the eggs of these birds. When they are grown up, their main defense mechanism is their ability to blend in with the beach and be unspotted by predators. Piping Plovers are listed as Threatened across the United States. However, Pennsylvania and other states in the Great Lakes region have increased their status to Endangered. The first signs of a diminishing population occured in the early 1900s when their feathers became a hot item to add to women's clothing. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 helped put a stop to this. The second main reason for the decline in numbers is due to rapid coastal development such as building hotels, lake houses, and beach houses right in the middle of the habitat of these birds. The government has set up critical nesting habitats to rejunivate the populations and protect the birds while they are in breeding season. We have seen great success with these efforts and the population of Piping Plovers has continued to increase since 1991. Currently there is an estimated 6,400 birds in the United States which is great compared to the several dozen that were estimated to exist during WWII.

Short-Eared Owl-Hannah Wilhelm


The Short-eared Owl is a light brown bird with dark patches and has black rings that surround its eyes. Its tiny ears that are perched on top of the owl's head are the most distinguishable characteristics of the animal, hence its name. It is about 13-17 inches tall, about the size of a crow, and has a wing span of up to 44 inches. The large, crescent-shaped patches on the underside of the Short-eared Owl's wings are very noticeable in flight. They are found mainly in Pennsylvania because of their prey, meadow mice. The Short-eared Owl can feast on small sized birds as well. The sight and hearing of this species are exceptional, helping the bird locate prey under snow or grass. This species nests on the ground, a trait not normal for most owls. Nesting occurs in May or June, with the female owl staying home while the male goes out and gets food. This contributes to the difficulty in searching for this animal.
In Pennsylvania, the reclaimed strip mines make an excellent home for the Short-eared Owl. In September-October, some owls will migrate to the Southern United States while some, depending on the severity of the winter, stay in their location. This species will hunt at dusk or at dawn, making them more visible to predators than other owl species. The reason these species are decreasing is because of destruction of habitat; the strip mines, marshes, grass fields, and pastures have been lost to development or agricultural practices. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the short-eared owl a Migratory Nongame Bird of Management Concern in the Northeast in 1992. In order to increase the size of this species, permits for construction have been denied if they are subject to building on areas where the Short-eared Owl live. For example, the Philadelphia National Airport is not allowed to expand its airways because they will destroy their habitat.

Kirtland Snake- Anna Meenen


Kirtland's snake grows to just over two feet. The keeled upper- body scales are gray to reddish-brown, with two rows of small, diffuse dark blotches along the midline, and a row of larger dark blotches alongside these. The head is darker with a whitish chin, throat and some scales around the mouth. The belly is red with a row of black spots along each margin. A faint stripe is sometimes visible along the middle of the back. The small, narrow head (scarcely wider than the neck) is black or dark brown above, occasionally with some light mottling, while the labial scales and the chin and throat are a contrasting white, cream, or yellow. Kirtland’s Snakes are usually found in damp habitats, often in the vicinity of streams, ditches, marshes, or ponds, but they are not truly aquatic. Open grassy habitats such as wet prairies, wet meadows, lens, swales, and pastures are preferred; they also occur in swampy woodlands, particularly in the unglaciated (southern edge) of its range. When threatened (especially when suddenly exposed), a Kirtland’s Snake can flatten its body to a remarkable degree and remain stiff and immobile. Upon further disturbance or if touched, it may violently writhe its body and attempt to hide its head, or suddenly dart into cover.
Earthworms are the preferred food for this species, although slugs and perhaps terrestrial leeches are also eaten. Captives reportedly have consumed these food items as well as chopped fish but refused to eat small frogs, toads, and salamanders. Kirtland’s Snake certainly lost the vast majority of its original habitat as the wet grasslands of the "prairie peninsula" were converted to agricultural use, beginning early in the nineteenth century. This species is now largely restricted to isolated colonies, often surrounded by intensively farmed or developed lands that offer little or no opportunity for dispersal or genetic interchange. This snake has been able to thrive in vacant grassy habitats in and near some large cities; however, these places are extremely vulnerable to development, and many urban sites for Clonophis have completely disappeared in recent years. An additional problem is that these attractive and harmless little snakes are coveted by some reptile hobbyists, and surviving urban populations are often discovered and heavily exploited by collectors.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has declared a "no-open season" for endangered species like the Kirkland snake that prohibits possession of the amphibian when fishing.

Eastern Spadefoot - Chris Beaulieu
The Eastern Spadefoot is a large toad that can range from 1 and 1/2 inches to 3 inches. It varies in a tan coloration or a yellow-ish brown. It has yellow eyes and a spade-like shape on the back of their foot that is used to digging. They are found throughout eastern United Sates.It is most abundant in the Coastal Plains and it is often found in scattered populations but they aren't find in higher elevations in ares like the Appalachian Mountains. It prefers dry habitats with sandy soil and they often remain buried beneath the soil even in agricultural and suburban areas. They can successfully breed in bodies of water without fish and even in large puddles. Eastern Spadefoots are explosives breeders and can lay up to 2,500 eggs at a time. They are rather sporadic breeders. Whenever it rains, they emerge from the underground to congregate around the wetlands. Although as a whole the Eastern Spadefoot population is not threatened, their numbers have significantly decreased in northern areas like Pennsylvania. One of the main reasons for their decline in the northern regions is due to the destruction of wetlands for suburban use. Water pollutions and changes in the chemistry also inhibit the spadefoot from breeding so frequently. In 2011 Pennsylvania added the Eastern Spadefoot to their list of endangered species. Last June they created an initial five year blueprint plan to lead to the the near-term and long-term safety of this toad. Their goal is to maintain the extent of their population and increase and improve the local habitats that they already inhabit.

Troy Baltutat- Dwarf WedgeMussel
This is a rare species found solely in North America's Atlantic Coast streams and rivers of various sizes and moderate current. The dwarf wedge mussel's current range extends from New Hampshire to North Carolina. The dwarf wedge mussel is federally-listed as endangered, and state-listed as endangered, in New Jersey, New york, Pennsylvania, and others.
This mussel may be found in small creeks to deep rivers in stable habitat with substrates ranging from mixed sand, pebble and gravel, to clay and silty sand. In the southern portion of its range, it is often found buried under logs or root mats in shallow water, where in the northern portion of its range, it may be found in firm substrates of mixed sand, gravel or cobble, or embedded in clay banks in water depths of a few inches to greater than 20 feet. Agricultural run-off has been identified as a significant threat to dwarf wedgemussel populations in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland and North Carolina. In 2001, more than 25 dwarf wedgemussels and hundreds of other mussels (including state-listed species) were killed in the Mill River, Massachusetts, by waste run-off from a small farm. Many states have now regulated shoreline production to help conserve habitats. Other states have relocated various wedge mussel populations to other areas with less or no production. Little riverine habitats adjacent to populations are protected other than by state shoreline protection regulations or local land use regulations. Development of adjacent uplands continues to be a significant and pervasive threat to southern populations.

Peregrine Falcon- Steve Machi
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Peregrines are mid-sized birds of prey, 15 to 22 inches in length, with a wingspan of more than three feet. Adults have dark-bluish-gray upper parts and wings; undersides are whitish, broken by horizontal blue-gray bars. Young birds up to two years old are dark brown (rather than gray) on their wings and back with vertical brown streaks against a pale chest. Their head has a dark "helmet" pattern that is more pronounced in adults. Like all falcons, the peregrine has long pointed wings and rapid, steady wing beats in flight. An adult peregrine can reach a speed of more than 200 miles per hour in a vertical dive called a stoop; in level flight they average about 60 miles per hour. In Pennsylvania, most peregrines are currently nesting on buildings and bridges. Power plant smokestacks also are used, and native cliff nest sites are being reoccupied. Their catastrophic decline and extirpation has been attributed chiefly to pesticides – particularly DDT. Prior to federal protection, they were subject to egg collecting and shooting, but they withstood these pressures for centuries until DDT became widespread. With population growth following their recovery, new threats are being identified, in part because of the close association with human structures. A frequent cause of mortality, primarily to young, is airplane strikes in which it is believed the bird hits the plane. Reflective glass also kills many peregrines, as it does numerous migratory birds. Peregrine falcons have enjoyed extraordinary management attention, including federal endangered species status (but have since been delisted), active reintroduction, nest-site improvement, protection at urban nest sites, and adjustments to bridge and building maintenance schedules to avoid disturbance at critical times. Conservation includes annual surveys for new nest sites, protection of known nest sites from disturbance, reduction of hazards at nest sites to in-crease survival of young peregrines, and promotion of public support.