Endangered Species Day: Here’s how DWR, other organizations are helping native species

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(ABC4) – Did you know that Utah is home to 18 creatures on the federal endangered species list?

May 21 marks Endangered Species Day, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, DWR, is informing Utahns about what being done to protect Utah’s endangered wildlife.

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An endangered species is defined as “any species that is at serious risk of extinction in a specific area or throughout all of its natural habitat. A threatened species is any species that is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future throughout much or all of its habitat. A species is classified as a species of greatest conservation need in the Utah Wildlife Action Plan if it is likely to undergo substantial population declines in all or part of its natural region without management intervention.”

10 of the 18 wildlife on the endangered species list in Utah are endangered, while eight are listed as threatened, according to Faith Jolley, Public Information Officer at DWR.

DWR and others have worked to prevent 20 living things from becoming endangered and threatened since 2001.

Here are three species native to Utah that have made exceptional progress over the past few years.

Colorado Pikeminnow: This fish native to the Colorado River system upstream of Lake Powell is technically a minnow, but can grow to be up to six feet long, making them the largest minnow in North America.

Photos: Courtesy of DWR

The top predator in the Colorado River Basin, these fish are toothless and swallow their prey whole. The pikeminnow appeared on the endangered species list in 1967 following the installation of dams in the Colorado River system affected their migration paths and reduced water temperatures.

Since then, several organizations’ efforts with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program have helped the pikeminnow and other endangered fish.

“Our recovery actions not only help restore this amazing fish, but they also provide Endangered Species Act compliance for more than 2,500 ongoing water development projects in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico,” DWR Aquatics Section Assistant Chief Paul Badame, says.

Monarch Butterflies: These commonly-identified butterflies known for their vibrant black, orange, and white wings, have been facing population declines since the 1980s.

Photos: Courtesy of DWR

Habitat loss, increased use of herbicides and insecticides, as well as climate change have all lead to the loss of milkweed plants, the butterflies’ food source. Fortunately, the community can help conserve these butterflies by avoiding the use of pesticides and planting milkweed.

“Participating in local community science programs like the Utah Pollinator Pursuit can help conservationists understand where and how monarchs use habitat and what time of year they are present across Utah,” USU Rare Insect Coordinator Amanda Barth says. “With a little training and a smartphone app to collect data, people can submit monarch sightings or even adopt a habitat site to monitor for monarch activity. Community engagement is essential to monarch conservation and will also help protect other pollinator species.”

Dwarf bear claw poppy: This white desert plant is found only in Washington County. It was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1979 due to habitat loss and disturbance from development and recreation.

Photos: DWR

U.S. Forest Service and Utah Valley University researchers have monitored the plant using high-precision drones in order to avoid disturbing the soil that the plants thrive in.

“This team of researchers and their use of new technology has become a ‘win-win-win’ situation by providing valuable population estimates for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and land managers, preserving habitat by not disturbing the soil, and monitoring the health of these populations of poppies with repeat imagery in multiple years over much larger areas than would ever be feasible on the ground,” USU Rare Plant Conservation Coordinator Mindy Wheeler said. “This information will enable land managers to craft more precise, realistic and effective conservation measures for the poppy and its habitat.”  

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