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Endangered Species of Iowa


This news story was published on July 27, 2018.
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Alexis Watkins: Conservation Education Intern, Lime Creek Nature Center

A blanding’s turtle observed in Cerro Gordo County. Photo by conservation board staff.

Most of us know of at least one endangered species whether it be the Asian Elephant, the Snow Leopard, or countless others, but how many people know an endangered species from Iowa? There are several species here in Iowa that need our help. We can all make a difference and that starts with education!

There is a difference between an animal being federally endangered and being state endangered. There is also a difference between endangered and threatened. According the United States Geological Survey (USGS), “’Endangered’ means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. ‘Threatened’ means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future”. These are legal terms under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Since state and federal are not the same, species can have a differing endangered status. For a species to be federally listed as Endangered, the species habitat and population must have a status review by a reputable federal source, such as: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). State listed species are typically determined by agencies within that state. For Iowa that is the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

The Higgins’ Eye Pearly Mussel (Lampsilis higginsii) is an example of a federally listed endangered species. This mussel lives in large rivers with deep water. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and walleye are host species for larvae. Larvae are released by the female and they must attach and be taken up by the gills or fins of the host fish before the larvae can continue to develop.

The Higgins’ Eye is found in the Upper Mississippi River. Historically, this species also occurred in the Cedar, Wapsipinicon, and Iowa Rivers, however, it can no longer be found there.

Now why should we care about this little creature? This mussel is an important indicator of water quality! Higgins’ Eye Pearly Mussels only live in very clean water. The decline of river water quality corresponds to the decline of this species’ populations. Habitat alterations and host species populations also have an impact on the species’ survival.

A rusty-patched bumblebee observed near Marion, Iowa. Photo by Jim Durbin.

The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) is another federally listed endangered species. It is native in the east and parts of the Midwest of the United States. They can typically be found near or within woodlands.

The amount of available pollen is directly correlated to the population of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. This species needs flowers to be closer to its’ nesting sites, because it doesn’t forage far from the hive. Threats to this species include pathogens, habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change.

We need to protect our buzzing friends because a majority of our food can’t be grow without them! One way you can help is to plant a pollinator garden with colorful flowers with sweet nectar and pollen for these little guys. It’s pretty and the pollinators will thank you.

The federally listed Indian Bat (Myotis sodalis) is an important species because it helps control pests like mosquitoes and other small bugs that try to ruin your camping. They can eat up to half of their body weight in insects each night! This bat uses forests as summer habitat and caves for hibernation; they are native from the east coast to the Midwest.

Hibernation is essential to this species to survive the cold winter months. Bats require cool, humid caves with a temperature between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Bats store energy as fat for hibernation and if temperatures rise or if the bats are disturbed during hibernation, more energy will be used, and the bat may starve. Human disturbance is the major threat to this species. White-nose syndrome, commercialization of caves, loss of summer habitat, and pesticides are other threats.

A state listed endangered species is the Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) Blanding’s turtles are native across the Midwest and live primarily in wetlands. They are mobile and move between wetlands due to their nesting grounds being far away from water. Unfortunately, they leave behind a trail of their rather strong scent which makes them quite vulnerable to predation by foxes and raccoons. They eat mostly small animals and crayfish and occasionally plants and seeds.

Protection and reestablishment of wetland habitat would greatly help Blanding’s turtles. Elimination of commercial collection and reduction of roadside mortality would increase their survival as well.

Those are only a few of Iowa’s endangered species. For more information on endangered species and how to help them, check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website (www.fws.gov) and the Iowa DNR website (www.iowadnr.gov).

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7 Responses to Endangered Species of Iowa

  1. Avatar

    Fedupwithmorons d Reply Report comment

    July 15, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Do politicians care about animals? Then they should care that illegal aliens are involved in wildlife trafficking, a $10 billion industry that harms vulnerable animal populations and brings various endangered species closer to extinction. The most commonly trafficked endangered animal seizures into the United States are coral parrots and lizards Of the 4,968 live endangered animal seizures, 257 have been of animal species that face a threat of extinction. What other animals do illegal aliens crossing US border smuggle in? They smuggle in rare breed puppies, kittens, wild jungle cats and kittens torn from the mothers in the wild, sea turtles, baby bobcat kittens torn from mothers in wild, jungle birds, snakes, spider monkeys, praiirie pups, Iguanas, Toucans, baby Anteaters, Margays (small wildcat), etc…But yeah, go ahead and support those intelligent politicans who think there’s nothing wrong with illegal immigration.

    In May 2018, for example, three aliens crossed the border into Texas with a black duffel bag, which they abandoned when they realized there were Border Patrol agents nearby. When agents searched the bag, they discovered an UNCONSCIOUS TIGER CUB. Imagine how many other vulnerable animals are smuggled across US borders daily without anyone knowing!! Everyday in the USA, on our borders, it happens. And politicians do nothing about it. Have you ever heard Pelosi give a damn about these animals? She’s so disconnected from cause and effect reality she wouldn’t know. She’s another barricaded elite with her fenced and gated home with bodyguards carrying guns. Living in an ivory tower. Looking down at the dumb Americans who vote for people like her. Does Pelosi, AOC or any of these champions of illegal aliens care about these animals? Nope. That’s why we need an effective border wall, more mass deportations (to discourage further illegal crossing) and more border patrol officers to stop attempts to cross illegally into USA. The animals are depending on us to do something.

    Still more, Illegal aliens throw their trash in the cacti among the desert turtles. Desert Turtles have been exposed to batteries, cell phones, clothes, human food, homemade weapons, human waste, jeans, medications, radios, razors, ropes, soap, and water bottles, according to Daily Star reporter Tony Davis. In short, desert animals and plant life have been trampled and harmed by illegal aliens. But CNN won’t show that, right? Fox news doesn’t even show it. Who is speaking up for these defenseless animals!? Politicians don’t care about the animals involved in illegal immigraiton because animals don’t vote.

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    July 28, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Deer/Rodents ? Either your a car insurance company hack/subsidized farmer or maybe a idiot.

  3. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    July 28, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Better worry more about the BEE’S that are the life blood . Chemical spraying has killed most of them off – and without them human life is threatened. Or move to crazy califorinia – the land of idiots and denials.

  4. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    July 27, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    All of these species starting disappearing about the same time the state deer rodent started to over run these areas, the roads and the state. Bat lives matter !

    • Avatar

      Marty Stouffer Reply Report comment

      July 27, 2018 at 10:32 pm

      Yeah I’m sure you are right. I can’t count the number of deer I’ve seen moving Higgins’ Eye Pearly Mussels out of the way so they could live underwater.

      Maybe we a losing some of the creatures to the endangered list because of all the tiling of our wetlands so an extra or two of crop can be planted.

  5. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    July 27, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Endangered Species of Iowa

    Hard working, tax paying, voting legal citizens.
    Good paying jobs.
    Honest common sense politicians, that aren’t greedy.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      July 27, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      And teachers that aren’t LIBS. Actually, they may already be extinct in Iowa.