May 15th is Endangered Species Day!
The Endangered Species Act was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1973, recognizing that many plants and animals across the nation were in danger of becoming extinct. At a federal level, its purpose is to protect those species and provide a pathway to recovery for listed organisms and their associated ecosystems. In Illinois, the Department of Natural Resources identifies Species in Greatest Conservation Need, recognizing organisms that are imperiled at a state level because they have rare or declining populations, vulnerable habitat, or exhibit certain characteristics that make them vulnerable.
Here are five endangered species you may encounter in Illinois:
- The Whooping Crane (photo 1), the tallest bird in North America, is federally endangered. The last remaining natural population migrates between Alberta and Texas. An introduced population migrates from Wisconsin to Florida and can be occasionally seen during migration in Illinois.
- The interior population of Least Tern (photo 2) is listed as endangered at both the federal and state level, though the US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist it owing to population increases throughout its range.
- Species that are listed as endangered at the state-level in Illinois include the Great Plains Ratsnake (photo 3), the River Cooter (photo 4), and the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (photo 5). Those species are much more common in other states, but are rare and/or live in habitats that are especially vulnerable in Illinois.
TEN ways* you can celebrate Endangered Species Day:
- Update Your Facebook Cover Photo: Show your support for endangered species with a photo of your favorite wildlife species.
- Support wildlife conservation efforts every day by joining millions of others across the country by donating to your favorite conservation organization.
- Take a virtual tour of a national park. Even though many of us are stuck inside, we can still visit some of the country’s most beautiful places without ever leaving the couch, thanks to Google Earth’s virtual tours of 31 U.S. national parks. Take a virtual hike for Endangered Species Day and appreciate some of our most iconic wild lands.
- Watch a movie about endangered species. There are a wide variety of documentaries that do a great job of portraying the threats our endangered species face today. We particularly recommend Racing Extinction, Love and Bananas, DamNation, and Dammed to Extinction.
- Watch an episode of a TV show about wildlife. Shows like Planet Earth, Blue Planet, and Our Planet do a great job of showcasing the wonders of wildlife in our world, and many episodes are appropriate and engaging for kids and adults. Celebrate biodiversity by watching an episode of one of these shows on Endangered Species Day.
- Post to social media. Social media buzz helps raise awareness of the threats endangered species face and importance of protecting them. Use this link to follow easy instructions to Tweet about Endangered Species Day, or post on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. Just be sure to include the tag #EndangeredSpeciesDay.
- Write a letter to the editor about the Endangered Species Act. Letters to the editor raise awareness of the importance of the Endangered Species Act to the public and ensure elected officials know that we want them to continue to protect this landmark legislation. You can use this guide to write a powerful letter.
- Plant a pollinator garden in your backyard. A pollinator garden has native flowers and grasses that provide critical food and habitat for bees, butterflies, and other species. You can learn more about pollinator gardens from the Xerces Society by clicking here, and more about native plants in your region by clicking here.
- Help scientists sort, classify, and review wildlife data. Through the website Zooniverse, everyday citizens can help researchers working on large projects to manage their data. This is a great way to support scientists who are doing important research on wildlife and their habitat. Check out Zooniverse’s “Biology” projects that need citizen assistance by clicking here.
- Watch a family movie that features endangered species. For example, The Lorax, based on the famous children’s book by Dr. Seuss, is a great family-friendly film about the importance of protecting endangered trees. The Lion King and Finding Nemo also feature lots of endangered species, and could be great ways to start conversations with kids about the importance of protecting our wildlife.
(*Sources: https://www.nwf.org/ and https://www.endangered.org/)
Click here for more information on our Environmental Studies Department and Degrees.
If you have questions, feel free to connect with us and request more information!