Photo Credit: Steve Schaluta
West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel
- As a small, nocturnal, non-hibernating, gliding tree squirrel, they nest in both tree cavities and in dreys.
- They can become heterothermic, dropping their body temperature without becoming torpid, allowing them to wait out short intervals of bad weather.
- They don't eat seeds and nuts like most squirrels! They subsist on: fungi, lichens, buds, berries, staminate cones, and animal material, not storing anything. It's one of the most mobile mycophagist (one that eats fungi), and spends much time on the ground during foraging, where its droppings spread fungal spores positively affecting forests on a large scale.
- Timber harvest in WV has reduced red spruce <10% of its historic range in the last century damaging WVNFS habitat. Forest Service research shows that climate change will limit the return of red spruce.
- FOB helped fund field work for a research project based around the squirrel’s diet that lasted three years. The research showed that the squirrel depends on older growth forest stands for food.
- The Appalachian northern flying squirrel has the original genetic material from the last Ice Age when they moved south from Canada, making them the flying squirrel subspecies with the most genetic diversity.
- The West Virginia Northern flying squirrel is protected on the Monongahela National Forest as though it was an endangered species.
Photo Credit: U.S Fish and Wildlife Service
- This tiny minnow is an endangered species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Proposed critical habitat for the candy darter is approximately 370 linear stream miles, subdivided into 5 units, 3 of which occur in West Virginia, and the other 2 in Virginia. Much of this is in the Monongahela National Forest.
- These fish are described as a habitat specialist because they occupy stream bottom niches typically characterized by gravel-cobble substrates that are free of excessive sedimentation and embeddedness.
- Their life expectancy is 3 years. Hybridization with the closely related Variegate Darter was identified as a primary threat to the viability of candy darter populations. Other contributing threats include water temperature, sedimentation, habitat fragmentation, water chemistry, water flow, and competition with non-native species.
- Candy darter can be described as eurythermal (wide range of temperatures) and they tend to be more accepting of cooler and even sometimes warm temperatures.
Photo Credit: Kim Mitchell
Rusty Patched Bumblebee
- In 2017, the rusty patched bumble bee was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The species experienced a widespread decline, with populations plummeting by about 87% in the past two decades. It needs a recovery plan that contains site specific actions to stop threats such as pesticides and projects that wipe out its habitat including pipelines and highways.
- Their colonies have an annual cycle. In spring, solitary queens emerge to find nest sites, collect nectar and pollen from flowers and begin laying eggs, which are fertilized by sperm stored since mating the previous fall. Workers hatch from these first eggs and colonies grow as workers collect food, defend the colony, and care for young. Queens remain within the nests and continue laying eggs. In late summer, new queens and males also hatch from eggs. Males disperse to mate with new queens from other colonies. In fall, founding queens, workers and males die.
- Only new queens go into diapause (a form of hibernation) over winter - and the cycle begins again in spring.
- Nesting sites include underground and abandoned rodent cavities or clumps of grasses. For overwintering sites hibernating queens chose undisturbed soil.
- This bee is being stressed by climate change, bee diseases, land use changes and pesticides, making it face extinction. Pesticides, especially the kind called neonicotinoids, are incredibly toxic to bees and butterflies, and they're one of the main reasons the rusty patched bumblebee is now endangered.
Photo Credit: Kent Mason
Cheat Mountain Salamander
- The Cheat Mountain Salamander is federally listed as threatened.
- One of two vertebrates native only to the Mountain State, Cheat Mountain salamanders are found only on Cheat Mountain and nearby mountaintops with mixed spruce stands. One of the primary threats to the species is the loss and degradation of its high elevation wet areas with a conifer and northern hardwood forest canopy.
- These salamanders live on land in rotten logs and under rocks. They breathe through their skin which must be kept moist. They live up to 20 years and rarely venture farther than their territories, which are around 48 square feet.
- Without trees, they can't survive due to the forest canopy acting as a shield from the drying effects of the sun. Tree removal fragments its habitat.
- West Virginia Natural Heritage Program says the Cheat Mountain salamander is extremely vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change because it lives only at high elevation and requires a narrow temperature range.
- They have 5 toes on the rear of their body, and 4 toes in the front.
Photo Credit: Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Services
Virginia Big-Eared Bat
- Status: This bat, a subspecies of Townsend’s big-eared bat, is listed as federally endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The total population is probably less than 20,000 individuals.
- More Virginia big-eared bats occur in West Virginia than in any other state. One cave in the state houses over 5,360 hibernating Virginia big-eared bats, making it the largest concentration of these bats anywhere.
- If they're disturbed repeatedly throughout the winter, they can starve to death before spring arrives. Fortunately, numbers have increased since the early 1980s. This is the result of the protection of cave roosts. Critical caves are closed to human travel during the time when the bats are using the cave. Gates and fences have been built at some cave entrances.
- Populations exist in Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia
- Help: Do not go into any cave that is closed to protect endangered bats, and report anyone who enters a closed cave to your local conservation officer or call the WVDNR Operations Center at (304) 637- 0245. Report all sightings of big eared bats to Bat Report, P.O. Box 67, Elkins, WV 26241 or call (304) 637-0245
Photo Credit: Adam Chase
Saw Whet Owl
- These little nocturnal creatures Weigh 2-4 ounces, stand 7-8 inches tall, and have a wingspan of 16-18 inches. They feed mostly on small mammals, such as deer mice and voles.
- Saw-whet Owls sometimes fall victim to collisions with cars , and the mature forest habitat they favor is increasingly lost. In addition, habitat shifts caused by climate change may affect the southern range limit of this species in West Virginia in the future.
- Landowners can help this owl by allowing dead trees to remain standing to provide nest cavities. Saw-whets take readily to nest boxes, which can also be used to mitigate the loss of natural sites.
- During their breeding season (April through June) is when they are most often heard, when they are looking for mates. They nest in tree cavities, where the female does all of the incubation and brooding while the male hunts.
- Larger species of owls and hawks are known to prey upon them. Starlings and squirrels compete with them for nesting cavities and also plunder nests and kill owlets.
Photo Credit: FWS
- Partners in Flight placed this thrush on its Yellow Watch List of declining birds, noting a 60% drop in population between 1970 and 2014. The destruction and fragmentation of forests are major factors in the species' decline. They are interior Forest birds.
- They have reduced breeding success in smaller forest patches due to cowbird parasitism and nest predation from jays, crows, raccoons, and domestic cats.
- Calcium-rich materials such as snail shells are particularly important to female Wood Thrushes, which need this mineral to successfully develop a clutch of eggs. Snails have declined in forested habitats due to the effects of acid rain, perhaps another driver of population declines.
- Like all songbirds, Wood Thrushes have a Y-shaped voice box called the syrinx. During his three-part song, a male actually sings pairs of notes simultaneously, which harmonize and blend to produce ringing, ethereal tones.
- Each bird can sing unique versions of each song part, and one male can easily sing over 50 distinct songs!
Photo Credit: FWS
Running Buffalo Clover
- After thinking this plant was extinct, it was rediscovered in 1983 and is now classified as a federally endangered species. It can be found in the Fernow Experimental Forest of West Virginia near Blackwater Canyon.
- As a member of the legume family, it's the only native white clover in the eastern United States.
- Grazing buffalo (North American bison) used to maintain this clover's habitat. When the buffalo were killed off, the clover suffered dramatically.
- Clearing land for agriculture and development has led to elimination of populations, loss of habitat, and fragmentation of the clover populations that remain
- Non-native plants - Invasive non-native species, such as white clover, garlic mustard, and Japanese honeysuckle out-compete running buffalo clover for moisture, nutrients, space, and sunlight. Non-native clovers are believed to have introduced diseases and insect predators.
Photo Credit: FWS
- The disappearance of the species from many localities has prompted the effort to list it under the Endangered Species Act.
- As the state butterfly of West Virginia, the eastern population is known for its migratory journeys from the United States and Canada to central Mexico in the fall, and back in the spring.
- Milkweed is the only plant that the caterpillar can survive on.
- Populations have been impacted by several factors including habitat loss, disease, mortality from pesticides, and severe weather events, resulting in a 90% decline over the past two decades.
- To help their populations survive you can enhance habitat by planting milkweed and nectar producing native flowers.
Photo Credit: Dave Herasimtschuk
- In West Virginia hellbenders are a species of special concern and cannot be collected. Assessments are currently being made to determine if hellbenders qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
- This giant salamander of the Appalachian Mountains that can grow over 2 feet long is sometimes called “Allegheny Alligators”, “snot otters”, or “devil dogs”.
- These nocturnal beings are usually found in a cool, clear and clean creek or river with a rocky streambed. During the days they shelter under rocks.
- Many hellbenders are still killed by fishermen due to the false beliefs about venomous bites and fish predation impacts.
- Soil erosion and siltation, chemical, agricultural and acidic mine runoff, high bacteria counts, and low oxygen levels all combine to threaten stream ecosystems for a single species such as a hellbender, and eventually all the life that relies on water for survival; which is all life!
Photo Credit: Brad Wilson
Shriver's Frilly Orchid
- Shriver's Frilly Orchid at a very high risk of extinction ( critically imperiled), and listed federally as a Special Species of Concern.
- Records indicate this orchid may be endemic to the Appalachian region with a historical range from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. They are found in the Monongahela National Forest.
- You can find them flowering in mid-July to early August.
- Varieties of butterflies, day-flying moths and skippers in search of nectar pollinate this beautiful orchid.
- Their ecosystem types include forests, stream bank, and woodlands.