Do you want to learn more about the Most Endangered Animals in Kansas?
The wildlife you can find in Kansas is diverse and abundant. Although a landlocked state, Kansas’ positioning within the Great Plains makes it a unique ecosystem teeming with wildlife. The many rivers flowing through the state are also partly responsible for this abundance of wildlife.
In its bid to make more people appreciate its wildlife, the state of Kansas has recognized some of these animals. Owing to this recognition, the American bison is the official state animal of Kansas. Similarly, the sunflower state recognizes a state bird (western meadowlark), reptile (ornate box turtle), and amphibian (barred tiger salamander).
Due to its central location among the contingent United States, Kansas has a unique assortment of ecosystems suitable for animal life. Consequently, the habitats it provides for animals include forests, wetlands, shortgrass, and tallgrass prairie grasslands.
These habitats are populated by common animals, like bobcats, coyotes, cougars, deer, antelopes, prairie dogs, squirrels, beavers, and otters. Birds of different species, such as pelicans, swans, wild turkeys, herons, owls, hawks, and eagles, also flourish in Kansas. Not to mention the numerous fish and reptilian wildlife.
What Makes the Endangered Animals in Kansas Threatened?
Despite such a wide fauna gallery, there are still quite a few endangered animals in Kansas. The threat to these animals doesn’t go beyond the usual suspects; disease, habitat loss, poaching, and environmental pollution.
Human activities such as logging and agricultural land conversion pose many of these hazards. Others, such as wildfires and river poisoning, are also caused by the deliberate or careless actions of humans.
Getting familiar with some of these endangered animals in Kansas is a bonafide way to make people care about them. In turn, this hopefully generates the responsibility the world needs from individuals to keep these amazing creatures from going extinct.
In this article, we’ll identify sixteen of the most endangered animals in Kansas and the primary threats to their declining population.
The Most Endangered Animals In Kansas
15. Northern Long-Eared Bat
Only found in North America, this bat species is easily distinguished from other bats by its long ears. They are small creatures weighing 5-8 grams and measuring an average of 8.6cm.
Unlike some bat species, northern long-eared bats have unique echolocation calls that are quieter, making them suited for foraging in forests.
Although found in over 35 states, long-eared bats are still considered endangered. The primary cause of their population reduction is white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that affects North American bats. This disease has no cure and has reduced the historical range of long-eared bats by at least thirty percent.
Consequently, the reduction in bat populations holds severe ecological and economic ramifications. It means these voracious insectivores eat fewer insects, causing an increase in crop damage from insect pests.
14. American Burying Beetle
Also known as the giant carrion beetle, the American burying beetle is a carnivorous insect endemic to North America. These insects live and feed exclusively on decaying animal carcasses and also require carrion to reproduce. Interestingly, they have the unique distinction of being one of the few insect genera that exhibit parental care.
Usually, the male beetle finds a suitable carcass, like a decaying rodent, sometimes having to defend it from other beetles. Then he attracts a mate, and they both bury the carcass before mating commences. Afterward, the female lays her eggs, both parents watch after the brood till larvae hatch and provide food till pupation.
Of the endangered animals in Kansas, American burying beetles have been classified as critically endangered since 1989. As a result, they now appear in less than ten percent of what used to be their historic range. The large decline in the species’ population has been attributed to habitat loss, degradation, and lack of genetic variation.
13. Black-Footed Ferret
The black-footed ferret, also known as the prairie dog hunter, is a mustelid found across the American Midwest. They earn their nickname from their almost exclusive appetite for prairie dogs, with approximately 90% of their diet featuring these rodents.
Besides feeding on them, black-footed ferrets use prairie dog burrows to raise offspring, avoid predators, and keep warm. As a result, the decline in prairie dog populations has negatively impacted their survival.
These mammals were once considered extinct In 1979, but a residual population was discovered in Wyoming in 1981. This discovery has helped conservationists give the black-footed ferret a second chance.
In this light, a captive breeding program was launched by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service [US FWS]. The program has considerably brought up ferret populations, but they are still considered endangered.
12. Whooping Cranes
Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America and one of the only two crane species found in the region. They can grow as tall as 5ft3in, with wingspans up to 7ft7in. They are omnivorous wading birds found along shores and wetlands hunting fish, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects, and plants.
Although these birds live for up to 24 years in the wild [a long lifespan for a bird], they have been pushed to the brink of extinction by habitat loss and unregulated hunting. By 1941, the wild population of whooping cranes was barely above twenty, and the captive population was just two.
However, conservation efforts have increased their numbers to over 800 individuals in the wild. Many of these birds migrate through Kansas all year round. Therefore the USFWS designated the Cheyenne bottoms, a wetland, as critical habitat for these endangered animals in Kansas.
11. Pallid Sturgeon
The pallid sturgeon is one of the largest freshwater species in North America. It weighs up to 39kg and can grow up to 60 inches. Usually, its favorite habitat are the waters of the Missouri and lower Mississippi River.
Pallid sturgeons have been reported to live to 100 years, and like most long-living species, they reach sexual maturity late. They don’t spawn eggs till they are fifteen years old, and even then, the spawning is infrequent. This has probably contributed to their reduced population, as enough new generations don’t arise to replace the dying ones.
However, their critically endangered status can be attributed to damming of spawning areas and the use of their eggs as caviar.
The pallid sturgeon is the first fish specie in the Missouri River to be classified as endangered. It has been listed as an endangered specie by the USFWS since 1990. Restoration efforts have included rearing them in hatcheries and enforcing laws banning their capture.
10. Gray Bat
Gray bats are an insectivorous microbat species native to North America. Unlike other bats who may breed and hibernate in manmade structures, gray bats are cave-dependent. Therefore, you will typically find them in limestone karst areas. During winter, they hibernate in caves in the southeastern US, but their range goes west to Oklahoma and Kansas during summer.
Gray bats can live up to seventeen years in the wild, but only about half survive to maturity. Although there used to be a time when these mammals flourished across their range, now gray bat colonies only hibernate in about fifteen caves throughout the USA.
They are considered a vulnerable species by the IUCN and have been protected by the USFWS under the Endangered Species Act since 1976.
Threats to their survival include; cave flooding and commercialization, deforestation, pesticides, and the now familiar white-nose syndrome.
9. Neosho Madtom
Catfish are notable for their hardy nature in spite of unstable environmental conditions. But the United States has listed the Neosho madtom as a threatened species since 1996. Why has this species’ population not seen an increase since then?
That’s because habitat destruction by dam construction, dredging of gravels, and pollution from factory farming have made it difficult.
These nocturnal animals are steadfast in their habitat choice and prefer clear shallow waters with loose gravel bottoms. Here, they can hide under the rocks during the day and spawn their eggs under stones when ready to reproduce.
The best thing this lot can do without favorable conditions is try to manage. These animals were once abundant in the Neosho and Cottonwood Rivers, which both provide habitat for other endangered animals in Kansas.
8. Red Knot
The Red Knot is a mid-sized migratory shorebird with a circumpolar distribution. They breed around the North Pole but move south to coastal areas as far as South America when not breeding.
They enjoy feeding on crustaceans like the horseshoe crab but eat other arthropods, mollusks, and larvae they can find.
Due to their migratory habits, climate change has greatly affected these species. Their nesting sites are victims to rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and increasing arctic temperatures. Since 2014, red knots have been listed as endangered animals in Kansas and all over the United States.
7. Timber Rattlesnake
Rattlesnakes are popular all over the Americas, and the characteristic rattle at their tail’s end sets them apart visually. However, much of the geographic range of the timber rattlesnake has been drastically reduced.
Endemic to North America, this pit viper is now locally extinct in Canada and many U.S. states. Compared to other American rattlesnakes, like the massasauga or prairie rattlesnake, found all over the country, timber rattlesnakes are rare endangered animals in Kansas you’ll find almost nowhere else.
Although venomous, these snakes are known for their mild disposition. They will lay motionless when approached in an attempt to camouflage themselves and will only bite when threatened.
If or when they do, bites can be deadly as they are known to dispense high amounts of venom. Their long fangs make this high venom yield possible, but quick intervention with antivenom is easily effective against it.
6. Topeka Shiner
The Topeka Shiner is a minnow freshwater fish that doesn’t grow more than one to two inches. Their name comes from the famed region, which they are found, Topeka, Kansas, and their shiny silver color.
Topeka shiners are perhaps the smallest of any species of endangered animals in Kansas. These fish favour prairie streams with clear water and cold temperatures as habitat. Hence, they are distributed in the Mississippi River basin from southern Minnesota to southern Kansas.
The Topeka shiner is endangered mainly because of the reduction in water quality around its habitat. Rural and urban waste has increasingly made the rivers murkier and warmer. As such, they have been listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service since 1998.
5. Piping Plover
Piping plovers are small shorebirds the size of sparrows. Although they primarily feed and nest along coastal and gravel beaches throughout North America, they are recurrent migrants passing through Kansan wetlands during the migratory season.
These birds are distinct for their sand-colored plumage, which makes them blend into sandy beach habitats. In addition to this, their short burst movement patterns make them almost imperceptible when standing still on beaches.
The piping plover has been considered endangered in Canada since 1985. Recently, the USFWS and state agencies have increased conservation efforts like barricading nesting sites and educating the public on their status. Still, this specie is under regular threats from climate change as coastal sea levels rise and inland wetland habitats flood.
4. Southern Flying Squirrel
Commonly known as the assapan, the southern flying squirrel is one of the three flying squirrel species endemic to North America. Similar to other flying squirrels, these mammals are nocturnal and have gliding membranes that help them glide through the air.
In deciduous and mixed wood forests, southern flying squirrels are native to the eastern part of the United States. In these parts, they nest together in woodpecker holes and natural wood cavities to preserve warmth.
Although this specie is still prominent in some parts of the Midwest, they are considered endangered animals in Kansas. The reason for this may be attributed to the species’ low breeding rate [two to five offspring every year or so]. Another reason is the rate at which they are preyed upon by nocturnal predators, like snakes, bobcats, owls, and raccoons.
3. Eastern Spotted Skunk
Eastern spotted skunks are small and slender relative to other skunk species. They are distinct for their fur’s unique broken stripe which gives them a spotted appearance.
Unlike other skunk species, the eastern spotted skunk is more active and agile. They favor habitats along prairie grasslands and upland forest edges, where they mainly come out at night.
When threatened, they perform an elaborate handstand pose before spraying their assailant with their foul-smelling fluid.
Even though these animals are adaptable and quickly acclimatizing to human settlements and farmland encroachment, their numbers have recently sharply declined, especially in Midwestern states like Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri.
2. Ornate Box Turtle
The Great Plains is not famed for its turtle population, but the ornate box turtle is endemic to this region. Perhaps this is why it has been named the state reptile in two Midwestern states, Kansas and Nebraska.
These turtles are relatively small, measuring 4-6 inches at maturity, and they have yellow-black coloration that distinguishes them.
Similar to all turtles, they are exothermic, with body temperatures adjusting to ambient temperature. Their reproduction is also affected by temperature as new hatchling sexes are determined by environmental temperature fluctuations.
They are designated as endangered animals in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. This is primarily due to intrinsic factors that cause gender imbalance in populations and reproduction bottlenecks. Also important is the role humans play in habitat destruction, pesticide use, and land conversion.
The least tern is a migratory seabird that breeds in North America but winters in Central and South America. When migrating inland, they are found near salt flats, salt marshes, and riverbeds but prefer coastal waters during winter.
Besides the fact that they are a transient specie in Kansas and have numerous subspecies all over America, these birds are regarded as endangered animals in Kansas. This is due to the destruction of colonies and predation by wild animals, like coyotes, herons, bobcats, owls, and hawks.
1. American Bison
Another symbolic animal, American bison, are not just the state animal of Kansas but the national animal of the USA. It is also the official state mammal in Oklahoma and Wyoming. Certainly, this shows the ecological and cultural impact this bovine species has had on our country.
In the 18th century, about 60 million American bison roamed all of North America from Alaska down South to Mexico. But by 1889, humans had reduced them to less than a thousand individuals.
Consequently, conservation efforts have increased their numbers to roughly 31,000 as of 2019, which is still a small population.
American bison are culturally significant to indigenous people, but years of commercial hunting and slaughter have rendered them near extinct. Now, they are listed as endangered animals in Kansas and other states along the Great Plains where they are found.
Also have a look at our other endangered animals stories.