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Kentucky’s Biodiversity is in Danger

Due to a wide variety of factors, mostly pertaining to human activity, Kentucky’s biodiversity is drastically declining. Continue reading to learn about the most endangered animals in the state of Kentucky!

We live in a vast world, sharing our lands, air, and seas with numerous other creatures of different species and origins. However, have you ever thought about the different species that could be in danger of going extinct? 

the most endangered animals in kentucky

Take Kentucky for example, it’s a city known for its culture, coal, state parks, and fried chicken. This same city, however, is also home to some of the world’s endangered creatures.

So, in today’s article, we’re going to look at the different endangered animals in Kentucky. To do so, we’ll discuss each species and the different endangered animals belonging to the species. This will allow us to discuss numerous endangered animals in Kentucky with minimum fuss.

So, let’s get started.

What Are The Endangered Animals In Kentucky? 

When we look at data from, we discover that there are 78 endangered species. Most importantly, a whopping 74 of these species are animals. So, what are these animals? How many of them can you find grazing the lands, diving deep in the oceans, or soaring in the skies?

Endangered Mammals in Kentucky

1. Allegheny Woodrat

Allegheny Woodrat

Firstly, we have a small, herbivorous rodent that resembles the brown rat and is similar in size to the squirrel. The Woodrat possesses long whiskers and has a knack for food rich in fungi. However, widespread deforestation, elimination of dispersal and travel corridors, and parasite infestation are the main threats to the Allegheny Woodrat’s population.

Ultimately, just over 100,000 of these creatures remain currently.

2. Appalachian Cottontail

Appalachian Cottontail

Next on our list of endangered animals in Kentucky is the Appalachian Cottontail, also known as the Wood Rabbit. Members of this species are similar to the eastern cottontails but with several variations. For instance, these wood rabbits are smaller, posses yellowish brown fur, and have a black patch between the ears.

The Appalachian Cottontail’s habitat is limited to the upland areas of the states. As a result, their existence is under threat. 

3. Gray Bat

Gray Bat

Another mammal on our list of endangered animals in Kentucky is the Gray Bat. Previously, this species dominated the caves of the southeastern United States, but now they merely reside in 15 different caves. 

During the mid-20th century, the population of these bats declined severely because of human disturbance. Subsequently, there was a drop from 2 million bats to 1.6 million in the early 1980s, just right after they were listed as endangered in 1976.

Other bats listed as endangered animals in Kentucky include the Indiana Bat and Townsend’s Big-eared bat.

Endangered Fish in Kentucky

Moving on from the land mammals, we take a deep dive into the seas of Kentucky to have a look at the fish currently in danger of going extinct.

4. Alabama Shad

Firstly, we have a member of the Clupeid fish endemic to the United States. Members of this species breed in medium to large-flowing rivers of the Mississippi River drainage to the Suwannee River.

In addition, this group of fishes has been listed as endangered as a result of the many locks and dams blocking access to river-spawning grounds. 

5. Ashy Darter

Another group of fish listed as endangered animals in Kentucky is the ashy darter. These freshwater, ray-finned fishes reside in shallow pools with languid currents. It has been stated that the decline in the population of ashy darters is a result of human-induced causes.

6. Duckbill Cat

In the same vein, the American paddlefish, commonly known as the duckbill cat, is another species of ray-finned fish currently under threat of extinction. Secondly, these fish are referred to as freshwater sharks due to their caudal fin resembling that of sharks.

However, with the rise of overfishing, habitat destruction, poaching, and pollution, we’ve seen a massive decline in the population of the duckbill cat.

7. Eastern Sand Darter

This ray-finned fish can be found in sandy shoals in lakes and sandy-bottomed streams during the summer and spring. In addition, they feed on black fly larvae and zooplankton. There are, however, factors that have contributed to the decline of this species’ population. 

Siltation and building of dams for instance, contribute to the alteration of habitats. In the end, these fish can’t thrive for long if their habitat continues to be disrupted.

8. Palezone Shiner

Reaching the last endangered fish species on our list, we have a species once described as one of the most jeopardized in the United States. The 6cm-lengthed minnow makes it to this list because of increased currents and degradation of its habitat. Other causes include coal mining and the building of reservoirs.

Other fish listed as endangered animals in Kentucky include Mountain Blackside Dace, Northern Cavefish, Pallid Sturgeon, Relict Darter, Sand Sturgeon, Southern Cavefish, and the Sturgeon Chub.

Endangered Birds in Kentucky

We’ve wandered the lands and swam across the seas so far. And now, we will soar above these regions to discover the feathery creatures in danger of extinction. 

9. Bachman’s Sparrow

Bachman’s Sparrow

You can find these birds in open pine forests, and they’re primarily non-migratory residents of this habitat. Moreover, they also build domed nests on the ground near a clump of grass where they lay their eggs.

Meanwhile, persistent habitat loss and degradation constitute the main factors responsible for the decline in the population of this species. 

10. Bachman’s Wood Warbler

Bachman’s Wood Warbler

We have our first animal to be reportedly extinct. The passerine migratory bird was known for breeding in swampy blackberry and cane thickets. However, as time went on, clear-cutting replaced selective logging and as a result, sightings of this species reduced. In 1988 the last observation of this species in Louisiana was reported, and it is now deemed extinct.

11. Buff-Breasted Sandpiper

Buff-Breasted Sandpiper

As the name suggests, this bird species has a buff face and underparts in its plumages. In addition to its facial features, this species has a short bill and yellow legs.

These birds feed on small invertebrates such as insects for example. There are reports of this species hybridizing with the white-rumpled or Baird’s sandpiper.

12. Golden-winged Warbler

Golden-winged Warbler

Features of this species include a long and slender bill, extensive white on the tail, and a wingspan of 20cm. Meanwhile, this species of bird also faces population threats such as habitat loss and competition with other species, for example, the blue-winged warbler. 

13. Greater Prairie-Chicken

Greater Prairie-Chicken

In this paragraph, we’ll discuss the Greater Prairie-Chicken and the reasons for its endangerment. Firstly, this species is light weighted and has a 30 inches wingspan. Secondly, members of this species possess strong vertical bars, a buff-white pattern covering their bodies, and they exhibit sexual dimorphism. Moreover, their population decline comes as a result of habitat loss.

Likewise, there are other birds listed as endangered animals in Kentucky. They include Henslow’s Sparrow, Least Tern, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Red-Headed Woodpecker, Rusty Blackbird, and Whooping Crane.

Endangered Amphibians in Kentucky

14. Crawfish Frog

Firstly, the Crawfish frog gets its name due to its inhabitation of crayfish burrows. It has golden or black circles all over its body. But most importantly, there are several factors threatening the existence of this species.

These factors include habitat loss, diseases (especially chytridiomycosis), and competition from anurans. In the end, all these factors have caused this species has been listed as one of the endangered animals in Kentucky.

15. Green Salamander

Green Salamander

In this paragraph, we discuss a lungless salamander that’s known for its small size, flat body, and the only salamander known for having green markings. In addition, the green salamander is habitat-specific and as a result, it is particularly vulnerable to a decline in population caused by habitat destruction.

The two other amphibians listed as endangered animals in Kentucky are Hellbender and Streamside Salamander.

Endangered Crustaceans in Kentucky

16. Kentucky Cave Shrimp

Our first crustacean on the list of endangered animals in Kentucky is the Kentucky cave shrimp. The shell of this shrimp is non-pigmented, and the species is nearly transparent. Also, this species is exclusive to underground streams of caves.

Furthermore, this species feeds on sediments washed into the caves it inhabits. Their population is primarily declining due to contamination of groundwater running into its habitat. Therefore, the inadequate sewage treatment facilities in nearby communities and the entry of contaminants are major threats to the Kentucky cave shrimp.

In addition to the Kentucky cave shrimp, numerous crustaceans have been listed as endangered animals in Kentucky. These include Big Sandy Crayfish, Big South Fork Crayfish, Bluegrass Crayfish, Bousfield’s Amphipod, Clifton Cave Isopod, Species Of The Orconectes Group, and Valley Flame Crayfish.

Endangered Reptiles in Kentucky

17. Alligator Snapping Turtle

YouTube video

Going further in our list of endangered animals, we have a species of turtle with a twist. The jaws of this turtle, for instance, are incredibly powerful. In addition to its powerful jaws, the alligator snapping turtle has ridges on its shell, which are similar to the skin of an alligator.

Suppose you’re wondering why such a powerful animal has been listed as endangered in several states, especially in Kentucky. In that case, there are various reasons causing this. Firstly, one reason is the increased collection of this species for the illegal exotic pet trade. Secondly, this species faces habitat destruction, and finally, alligator snapping turtles have been overharvested for their meat.

18. Kirtland’s Snake

The little red snake is the second reptile listed as a threatened species in Kentucky. You can find this species in areas like the forest, grasslands, and wetlands (like swamps and marshes). Their diet typically includes earthworms, minnows, salamanders, frogs, and toads. 

Endangered Snails in Kentucky

the most endangered animals in kentucky

Subsequently, some species of snails are considered endangered animals in Kentucky. Moreover, not much information is given about the reason for their population reduction. However, habitat loss has been cited as a possible cause. 

Moreover, most of the snails on this list are characterized by their operculum and aquatic gastropod mollusk. These species include:

  • Armigerous River Snail
  • Domed Ancylid
  • Mainstream River Snail
  • Muddy Rocksnail
  • Rugged Hornsnail
  • Shortspire Hornsnail
  • Telescope Hornsnail
  • Varicose Rocksnail

Endangered Clams in Kentucky

the most endangered animals in kentucky

In this section, we’ll be looking at the last group of species that have declined massively in population and as a result, have now been listed as endangered animals in Kentucky.

19. Cat’s paw Pearlymussel

Known as cat’s paw for short, this clam species is common in freshwater bodies and is native to shallow habitats. Also, there are two subspecies under the catspaw: The Purple Cat’s paw Pearlymussel and the White Cat’s paw Pearlymussel.

Because this clam species thrives in shallow, gravely riffle zones, and oxygen-rich habitats, the destruction of these habitats has caused a decrease in its population. As a result, the catspaw population significantly declined. 

20. Cracking Pearlymussel

In this paragraph, we discuss another freshwater pearlymussel on the brink of extinction. The cracking pearlymussel has a thin, fairly weak shell that measures up to 2.7 inches. Its coloring typically varies from yellow to brown.

Furthermore, members of this species spend their time buried under the sand or mud, lying deep in the bottom of rivers. However, due to various human disturbances, for instance, the building of dams, farming, and logging, the habitats of these sea creatures are growing increasingly disrupted.

21. Cumberland Elktoe

And now, we take a look at a different snail species also included in the list of endangered animals in Kentucky. 

Located in southeast Kentucky, the Cumberland Elktoe is known for its shiny, smooth, and thin shell. In addition to its shell, the habitats of this species pertain to medium-sized rivers, sometimes extending into headwater streams. 

And just like the cracking pearlymussel, the habitats of the Cumberland Elktoe are threatened by human disturbances. In addition, poisoning by agricultural and industrial wastes, as well as silting by erosion, has resulted in a population decline.

Many more species of snails are currently enlisted as Kentucky’s endangered animals. They include:

  • Clubshell
  • Cumberland bean pearlymussel
  • Cumberland Combshell
  • Dromedary pearlymussel
  • Fanshell
  • Fat pocketbook
  • Littlewing pearlymussel
  • Orangefoot pimpleback pearlymussel
  • Oyster mussel
  • Pink mucket pearlymussel
  • Pink ring musselrough rockshell
  • Rough pigtoe
  • Scaleshell mussel
  • Tennessee clubshell
  • Tubercled blossom pearlymussel
  • White wartyback pearlymussel
  • Winged mapleleaf
  • Yellow blossom pearlymussel

Conclusion on the most endangered animals in Kentucky

the most endangered animals in kentucky

As earlier stated, the world we live in is a vast place. Many species are sharing this earth with us, and in the same vein, there are numerous species at risk of not doing so anymore – primarily due to human activities and interference. In the end, it’s up to us to assist in wildlife conservation, most importantly if you live in Kentucky. 

Thank you for reading this article! Kentucky is sadly not the only state in the U.S. that houses a wide variety of endangered animals, head over and learn about the Most Endangered Animals in Minnesota.

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