Endangered in Iowa

Progress being made, but many species in state still face extinction

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March 28, 2014 | 11:16 am

Since its enactment 40 years ago, the Endangered Species Act has helped to reverse the decline of many plant and animal species.

Especially noticeable to Iowans have been the remarkable comebacks of the bald eagle and peregrine falcon, whose recoveries have been so complete that ESA protection is no longer necessary for their survival.

Nevertheless, the list of Iowa resident plants and animals classified under the act as endangered or threatened continues to grow with the addition in January 2012 of two mussel species, the sheepnose and spectaclecase.

With the exception of mussels, other Iowa resident animal and plant species listed as endangered or threatened under the act are generally holding their own, state biologists say.

Higgins eye pearly mussel

Status: Endangered in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: 3- to 4-inch roundish, golden olive mussel that prefers deep water and moderate currents.

Habitat: The Upper Mississippi River and its larger tributaries.

Greatest threat: Siltation and invasive species.

Sheepnose mussel

Status: Endangered in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: Thick-shelled 5-inch mussel living in larger rivers and streams, usually in shallow water flowing swiftly over sand and gravel.

Habitat: Upper Mississippi and larger tributaries.

Greatest threat: Loss and degradation of habitat due to impoundments, channelization, contaminants and sedimentation.

Spectaclecase mussel

Status: Endangered in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: Large mussel with an elongated, sometimes curved shell that can attain lengths of 9 inches.

Habitat: Upper Mississippi and larger tributaries, populations fragmented and limited to short stream reaches.

Greatest threat: Loss and degradation of habitat due to impoundments, channelization, chemical contaminants, mining and sedimentation.

Topeka shiner

Status: Endangered in the U.S., threatened in Iowa.

Description: A small, stout minnow not longer than 3 inches, silvery with a dark stripe along its side.

Habitat: Small prairie (or former prairie) streams in pools containing clear, clean water.

Greatest threat: Loss of habitat through siltation and stream channelization.

Pallid sturgeon

Status: Endangered in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: A primitive fish with a dinosaur-like appearance, it has a flattened snout, long slender tail and rows of body plates instead of scales. It can attain a length of 6 feet and weight of 100 pounds.

Habitat: Large, silty rivers, primarily the Mississippi and Missouri.

Greatest threat: Impoundment of rivers.

Iowa Pleistocene snail

Status: Endangered in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: Small land snail with a tightly coiled shell about the size of a shirt button.

Habitat: Rocky slopes over entrances to caves or cracks where ice is typically permanent underground.

Greatest threat: Climate change.

Least tern

Status: Endangered in U.S. and Iowa.

Description: Swallow-like bird, the smallest of the American terns, 8 to 9 inches long, with black crown, white underside and grayish back and wings.

Iowa habitat: From late April to August, sparsely vegetated sandbars along rivers, sand and gravel pits, or lake and reservoir shorelines.

Greatest threat: Loss of habitat.

Piping plover

Status: Threatened in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: Small stocky shorebird with sand-colored upper body and orange legs.

Iowa habitat: Flat, wide, open, sandy or somewhat cobbly beach. Nesting territories often include small creeks or wetlands.

Greatest threat: Loss of habitat.

Indiana bat

Status: Endangered in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: Blackish gray bat with pink lips, from 4 to 5 inches long with a wingspan of 10 inches.

Habitat: They hibernate in cool, limestone caves or mine shafts and disperse in summer to spend their days under bridges, in old buildings and under the loose bark of dead and dying trees along forested, slow-moving streams.

Greatest threats: Commercialization of caves, loss of summer habitat, pesticides and the disease white-nose syndrome.

Eastern and Western prairie fringed orchids

Status: Threatened in the U.S., endangered in Iowa.

Description: Long-living perennial arising from a fleshy tuber up to 3 feet tall with as many as 40 white flowers per stalk.

Habitat: Moist to wet tallgrass prairie and wet sedge meadows.

Greatest threat: Loss of prairie habitat.

Northern Monkshood

Status: Threatened in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: An ice age relic noted for its blue hood-shaped flowers.

Habitat: Cold streams, mossy banks, cliffs and slopes, usually with cold air drainage nearby.

Greatest threat: Climate change.

Meadís milkweed

Status: Threatened in the U.S., endangered in Iowa.

Description: Perennial herb that may grow 2 feet tall with a single cluster of 10 to 20 greenish-cream flowers on a bent or drooping stem.

Habitat: Virgin tallgrass prairie with deep, unplowed silty loams.

Greatest threat: Loss of prairie habitat.

Prairie bush clover

Status: Threatened in the U.S. and Iowa.

Description: A member of the pea family, it has a clover-like leaf and pale pink or cream-colored flowers on an open spike.

Habitat: Dry tallgrass prairies with gravelly soil.

Greatest threat: Loss of prairie habitat.

Curated by Orlan Love, Laurie Harker, Jim Riley/The Gazette           

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