The candy darter, a small colorful fish found only in West Virginia, has been added to the Endangered Species list by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The candy darter gets its name from its bright red stripes, and is found in the Bluestone, Greenbrier, Gauley and New Rivers. It was first documented in 1931 in Pocahontas County. The species has been threatened by the introduction of the variegated darter and by habitat degradation.
Sedimentation, increasing water temperatures, habitat fragmentation and other environmental factors have contributed to the decline in candy darter population, although hybridization with the variegate darter is usually identified as the leading threat. This listing will create a larger mandate to protect the candy darter’s habitat, including controlling activities that contribute to erosion and sedimentation in the area surrounding occupied waterways. This could impact the proposed Big Rock timber project, which includes timbering in a watershed occupied by the candy darter, although what exact impact the listing decision will have remains to be seen.
Congrats to our friends at the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, who were part of the petition to list the candy darter, along with Appalachian Voices and the Center for Biological Diversity.