California red-legged frog, © Pierre-Fidenci

Odd and Endangered

When you think “endangered species,” what comes to mind? Majestic bald eagles? Adorable wolf pups? Iconic grizzly bears? If all animals in danger of becoming extinct were as charismatic as these, we would have a much easier time protecting them. A lot of funding and resources go to help the creatures that people find the most beautiful, the most interesting, the most alluring. But many less-talked about species are just as threatened – and sometimes more. So, with Valentine’s Day approaching, let’s share the love a little. Take a minute to learn about some endangered species you may not have heard of before:

Koster's Springsnail, © New Mexico Game and Fish


There are more than 100 species of springsnails native to North America, many of them unique to specific regions, and several of them are endangered. These creatures are just what their name implies – snails that live in springs or streams. Though most are just a couple millimeters long, these tiny snails can play an important role in ecosystem health by feeding on algae, cycling nutrients and more, which can benefit all of the species that rely on that habitat.

Unfortunately, many species of springsnails are declining because of threats to freshwater quality and quantity. Pollution, groundwater pumping, drought and stream diversion are destroying springsnail habitat. Invasive species also pose a threat, as do grazing livestock, which can trample the snails in shallow streams.

California Red-legged Frog

California red-legged frog, © Pierre-Fidenci

Though the rest of their bodies can be reddish-brown, olive, gray, or even orange, these frogs get their name from the red coloring on the underside of their hind legs. Once found across much of California, the species is now gone from about 70% of its historic range, and today is only found in a few places. These frogs rely on both aquatic and land habitat, making them very sensitive to impacts to their environment. Agriculture, overgrazing, mining and other forms of development have decimated the California red-legged frog’s habitat, and invasive plants, polluted water and other factors also threaten its survival.

Giant Kangaroo Rat

Giant kangaroo rat, © George Harrison/USFWS

These animals (which are more like mice than rats) hop along on their back legs, using their front limbs only for digging – and just like the kangaroo, they have long tails that they use for balance.  The giant kangaroo rat is the largest of all 20 known species of kangaroo rat, and it is found only in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

In the 20th century, as human activity began to expand in the region, the giant kangaroo rat’s population numbers began to plummet. Today more than 95% of the species’ former range has been lost as agriculture, overgrazing, mining and other threats destroyed its grassland habitat.

Ozark Cavefish

Ozark cavefish, © USFWS

Fish are a type of creature that definitely don’t receive the same star treatment as many of  their furred and feathered friends, and the Ozark cavefish – listed as threatened in 1988 – is no exception. This underground fish is perfectly adapted to its cave habitat – so well that its presence is considered an indicator of a healthy ecosystem, and its decline means that something is wrong. Groundwater pollution is a major threat to the Ozark cavefish, particularly as the human population in the Ozarks continues to expand over its fragile habitat.


American burying beetle, © USFWS Mountain Prairie

American Burying Beetle

These beetles are part of nature’s cleanup team: scavengers that feed on carrion. It may not be a glamorous job, but somebody’s got to do it – this extremely important process helps recycle nutrients and other materials back into the ecosystem.  Think of these beetles as nature’s composters!

Pesticide use and habitat loss are among the major threats that wiped out the American burying beetle from 90% of their historic range. Today, there may be fewer than 1,000 of these beetles left, found in only six states. Thanks to its listing in 1989, conservation programs are working to protect the beetle’s remaining populations and their habitat, as well as reintroduce the beetles where possible.

Eastern indigo snake

Eastern indigo snake, © US Army

The longest snake species native to the U.S. (it can reach nine feet long!) is found in the southeast, mostly in Florida and Georgia. They live in a variety of habitats, usually with some place to take refuge, like a burrow or hollowed log. In the northern part of their range, it’s actually common for these snakes to have an unlikely roommate – they depend on gopher tortoises to create underground burrows, which the two animals then live in together.

Populations of eastern indigo snakes started dropping steeply in the mid-1900s, mostly because of collectors taking them for the pet trade, causing them to be listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. Since then, habitat loss and fragmentation have become the primary threats to the eastern indigo snake, with residential, commercial and agricultural development destroying swaths of suitable habitat.

Delhi sands flower-loving fly

The very first fly to ever be listed under the Endangered Species Act, this species’ unwieldy name actually makes perfect sense: the adults feed on flower nectar, and they lives only in a very specific area of sandy soil along the eastern edge of the Los Angeles basin called Delhi series sands. Literally all the places the Delhi sands flower-loving fly can be found are on private property where development is a constant threat, which means the only thing standing between this species and extinction is the protection granted by its Endangered Species Act listing in 1993.

Delhi sands flower-loving fly, ©USFWS

18 Responses to “Odd and Endangered”



  2. Risa

    What about the endangered Amargosa vole of the Mojave desert? Quite possibly the most critically endangered species in the United States!

    • Suzie

      What are they and what do they look like? I live in the northern part of the ANTELOPE VALLEY and 15. Min. from MOJAVE. At our home recently we have been invaded by little FROGS. So much so that I said it’s like the plague of frogs from the Bible. There is hardly any water here so it puzzles me to see frogs? And no bigger then the first knuckle of my thumb.

  3. Mia

    The giraffe was not humanly killed in Norway, but in Denmark. I live her, and has been my whole life.
    The giraffe was a result of inbreed, and was therefore a danger to the population. The zoo could not keep it, and would not let it live a pure life in a too little enclosure or let it live alone. Giraffe males will fight to the death, if they can’t get away from one another.

    The giraffe is not an endangered species, but if we do not take care of the future population, it could be – this is why it was put down. The animal was studied, used in science afterwards to continue the learning of this beautiful animal. The remains was given to the lions and some to the baboons as well.

    I think the zoo did the right thing. Loving animals sometimes means making hard decisions.

    Sorry for my poor english, but I hope you get my point – otherwise you can read a whole lot more about why they did as they did, on the internet.

    Have a good day 🙂

  4. Gail

    Mia, your English grammar is not the best, but certainly your point is clear. I also saw the coverage on the cull of the giraffe and understand why it was done. It is regrettable that there was so much publicity about it, and I am sure this is a routine occurrence in zoological parks where it is important to manage the animal populations.

  5. Habib

    The addax (Addax nasomaculatus), also known as the white antelope and the screwhorn antelope, is an antelope of the genus Addax, that lives in the Sahara desert.
    The addax mainly eats grasses and leaves of any available shrubs, leguminous herbs and bushes. These animals are well-adapted to exist in their desert habitat, as they can live without water for long periods of time. Addax form herds of five to 20 members, consisting of both males and females. They are led by the oldest female. Due to its slow movements, the antelope is an easy target for its predators: humans…
    The natural habitat of the addax are arid regions, semi deserts and sandy and stony deserts.
    The addax is a critically endangered species of antelope, as classified by the IUCN. Although extremely rare in its native habitat due to unregulated hunting, it is quite common in captivity.
    The addax was once abundant in North Africa, native to Chad, Mauritania and Niger.
    the problem is that they Have been Killed in Niger ,by military troops senses to protect them.
    Appropriate measures must be taken seriously to stop the massacre, if someday we want that our small children cross Addax.

  6. Lotta Nygård Mattsson

    Gail and Mia you are so wrong. It was all for the money. There is a lot of articles with facts about this. It has nothing to do about ” danger to the population “. Zoos earn money when they show little babies. When they getting older there is no place and no money to keep them, thats why they kill them. In this case they also earned money when they cut him up, and the fact that they did this in front of children is horribly wrong. This must end and zoos must be closed down. Please learn more about this before you go out on internet and talk about things you know nothing about. I hope Danish people are not as heartless as they seem, but it will take a long time before I ever visit Denmark again. All living things on this planet must be treat with respect and not killed.

  7. Lotta Nygård Mattsson

    Robin there is not to late to sign petitions. Lok out for them at internet.Also on twitter.

  8. M.P. Marklevitz

    Just a further comment on the giraffe killing. They did not “make money” on killing him as far as I see. Also there seems to be more “outrage” among adults than among the children in attendance as evidenced by the photos. They didn’t kill the giraffe in front of the children but let them watch it being dismembered. In my experience (growing up ion a farm and as a long term field biologist) children in these situations are not usually shocked but ask valid and insightful questions about the process often much more so than the adults in attendance, It’s only in “progressive” nations where the simple processes of life and death are hidden and only presented as a custom wrapped piece of meat without any context that this outcry is manifest.

  9. J

    Excuse me? Lotta, clearly you are one who needs to learn more before you talk. Both the American burying beetle and giant kangaroo rat (possibly some of the others) on this list are being bred in zoos and being reintroduced/restored in the wild. Close down zoos? Maybe you should look more into what they do.

    Also, the giraffe has NOTHING to do with this article so why are people talking about it on here?

  10. judy johnson

    Marius the Giraffe in question was not put down in a nice way BUT SHOT IN THE HEAD & then FED TO meat eating animals. Children should not have seen ANY OF IT! Why wasn’t this young male NEUTERED? It would have been the perfect solution. WHY did this zoo allow inbreeding to begin with. THIS NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED! NO MORE SENSELESS KILLING IN ANY ZOO! PROPER MANAGEMENT PLEASE!

  11. Mia

    No, my english grammar isn’t good, and I wish I could just wright in danish.

    I do know a lot about zoos, in fact I have been working in one at one time. We didn’t have giraffes and lions, but I do know this zoo as well, in fact my cousin works there 😉

    I do love animals, but I also eat them, and I know that loving animals means making hard decisions.

    The giraffe was bred in the zoo to make sure the animals can live as natural as captivity let them. Taking away the opportunity of breeding is a wrong decision for wildlife in zoos.
    The zoo is following a breeding program, and the giraffe didn’t fit in. This meant it would need to live a life alone, if it wasn’t fed to the lions and used in science and education for the public. A life alone would not be a good life for a giraffe.
    In Denmark little children isn’t frightened for reality, in fact they are curious about it, and love learning about real life. Most children know where meat comes from, and some has even slaughtered a chicken or two.

    Why is it cruel to make sure the population in captivity is healthy?
    Why is it necessary to hide the reality of life to children?

  12. WoofBlitzer

    To MIA, thank you for setting my mind at rest. I’m glad to know the facts and reasoning behind the cull.

  13. Randi Tuck

    We should care the same for all the species I want my kids to see all of these and learn about life.

  14. SLMcgowan

    Back to the Endangered Species Act, Do you think that alot of these species will have their Habitat destroyed to the point of further extinction due to all the Fast tracking of Fracturing? DO you think there is anyway to re-strengthen the ESA against just such destruction? Case in point they are getting ready to do full scale fracking on and off shore of Humboldt Coast CA-Eel River Basin-This development will also need to expand the Historic Hwy thru the Old Growth Giant Redwoods, critical Marshlands, some of the last Wild Rivers and State/National Forests/Parks….I know that there are a lot of Endangered Species Listed there some of which like- the Humboldt Fox, the Cohoe Salmon,and others this is one of the only places they live. Not to mention that the Grey,Humpback /Whales & Orcas all migrate very close to shore there..So how do we stop this from destroying these species habitat? Is that not what the Endangered Species Act & Nat.Parks systems designed specifically to do? To hold in conservator-ship for future generations? Not for our Gov. to open up for full development of our resources to pay for the raping of our economy by wall street??

  15. Riley morse

    Why should Defenders of Wildlife have let you know what went on at a Danish zoo. This is about Wildlife zoo animals aren’t wildlife. Maybe their species are but zoo. News doesn’t really qualify.

  16. coray

    Guys stop arguing! the giraffe is dead and there is nothing we can do about it. I do know God made these creatures and wants us to take care of them. love them so they can have the gift of life tomorrow! God put us in charge of them so man up and get to work! Thanks for listening!

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