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Threatened & Endangered Species

“Species information taken from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service web pages (, except for Bog Turtle, Massasauga Rattlesnake, Golden-Winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Indiana Bat, and Northern Long-eared Bat.”

Threatened Species

Bog Turtle
Listing Status: Threatened

bog turtleThe bog turtle offsite link image    , American’s smallest turtle, is federally listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Bog turtles depend upon an open, sunny, spring fed wetlands with scattered dry areas, and can be an indicator of water quality and wetland function. The greatest threats to bog turtles include habitat degradation and fragmentation from land conversion, habitat succession due to invasive exotic and native plants, and illegal trade and collecting.

Private landowners own the majority of remaining bog turtle habitat; good livestock grazing management has helped to conserve bog turtle habitat, demonstrating the important role that agriculture can play in conservation.

To learn more visit our Bog Turtle Conservation page...

Bat, Northern Long-eared 
Listing Status: Threatened                                                 

longearedbat-usfws-bannerThe northern long-eared bat, a medium-sized brown bat, was federally listed as threatened in 2015. Northern long-eared bats rely on caves, mines, and other structures as hibernaculum in the winter months, and are associated with forested areas and trees in the summer months. The greatest threat to northern long-eared bats is White-Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that weakens and kills the bats during hibernation.

Protection of hibernacula and proper management of forest lands are key to the long-term survival of the northern long-eared bat.

To learn more, visit our Bat Conservation page…

Pogonia, Small Whorled 
Listing Status: Threatened 

small whorled pogonia                           

The small whorled pogonia is a threatened species. The small whorled pogonia is a member of the orchid family. It usually has a single grayish-green stem that grows about 10 inches tall when in flower and about 14 inches when bearing fruit. The primary threat to the small whorled pogonia is the past and continuing loss of populations when their habitat is developed for urban expansion. Some forestry practices eliminate habitat. Also, habitat may be degraded or individual plants lost because of recreational activities and trampling.


Listing Status: Threatened 

rabbitsfoot mussel photoThe rabbitsfoot is a freshwater mussel found in rivers and streams in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that it has been lost from about 64 percent of its historical range. While 51 of 140 historical populations are still present, only 11 populations are viable. Most of the existing rabbitsfoot populations are marginal to small and isolated.

Rabbitsfoot mussels prefer shallow areas with sand and gravel along the bank and next to shoals, which provide a refuge in fast-moving rivers. Most freshwater mussels live burrowed in mixed mud, sand, and gravel at the bottom of rivers and streams. Some are adapted to the quiet water and muddy depths of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs.

Massasauga Rattlesnake
Listing Status: Threatened 

massasauga photoThe massasauga rattlesnake, a relatively small and well-camouflaged rattlesnake, is very uncommon and rarely seen in Pennsylvania.  It has been listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1998, because of habitat loss and persecution by humans.

Massasauga rattlesnakes are closely linked to wetlands and the areas around them, spending virtually all their time in wetlands and upland habitats near them hunting rodents and other small prey.  Many people fear or kill them simply because they are poisonous snakes, however, massasaugas are extremely secretive and rarely interact with humans at all.  In addition, they are surprisingly docile and the few recorded bites by massasaugas have never caused a fatality in Pennsylvania.  Massasaugas prefer to avoid humans whenever possible, and if given enough habitat and privacy, would rarely  conflict with humans.

To learn more visit our Massasauga Rattlesnake Conservation page...


Endangered Species

Bat, Indiana
Listing Status: Endangered

Indiana bat photo (USFWS)
The Indiana bat, a small, gray-brown bat, was listed as an endangered species in 1967.  It feeds almost exclusively on flying insects and like all bats plays a vital role in controlling insects in Pennsylvania.  Indiana bats rely on mines and caves for hibernacula, and prefer forested areas that have trees with loose bark or cavities for summertime roosts.  Already suffering large population declines, Indiana bats have become even more endangered because of White-Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that weakens and kills the bats during hibernation.

Protection of hibernacula and proper management of forest lands are key to the long-term survival of the Indiana bat.

To learn more, visit our Bat Conservation page…


Bean, Rayed     
Listing Status: Endangered                 

Rayed Bean photo
The rayed bean is a freshwater mussel that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed as an endangered species.

Dams: Dams affect both upstream and downstream mussel populations by disrupting natural river flow patterns, scouring river bottoms, changing water temperatures, and eliminating habitat. Adapted to living in flowing water, the rayed bean cannot survive in the still water impounded behind dams.

The rayed bean also depends on host fish as a means to move upstream. Because dams block fish passage, mussels are also prevented from moving upstream, which isolates upstream mussel populations from downstream populations, leading to small unstable populations more likely to die out.


Bulrush, Northern 
Listing Status: Endangered 

northern bulrush photo
The northeastern bulrush grows in wet areas – small wetlands, sinkhole ponds or wet depressions with seasonally fluctuating water levels. It may be found at the water’s edge, in deep water or in just a few inches of water, and during dry spells there may be no water visible where the plant is growing. Northeastern bulrush appears to have adapted to regularly changing water levels, which may have given it an advantage over less tolerant plant species. But habitat alterations that make a site consistently drier or wetter could make life impossible for northeastern bulrush. Activities such as filling or ditching in a wetland can destroy or degrade this species’ habitat and pose a threat.




Listing Status: Endangered 

clubshell photoThe Clubshell mussel prefers clean, loose sand and gravel in medium to small rivers and streams. This mussel will bury itself in the bottom substrate to depths of up to four inches.

The clubshell was once found from Michigan to Alabama, and from Illinois to West Virginia. Extirpated from Alabama, Illinois and Tennessee, it occurs today in portions of only 12 streams. Reasons for its decline in the upper Ohio and Wabasha watersheds have been principally due to pollution from agricultural run-off and industrial wastes, and extensive impoundments for navigation. These are thought to be also responsible for its decline elsewhere as well.

An added threat now is the zebra mussel, a fast spreading exotic species accidentally introduced in ballast water from the Caspian Sea area. These tiny mussels reproduce in enormous numbers which tend to cover and suffocate native mussels.

Mussel, Sheepnose 
Listing Status: Endangered

sheepnose mussel photo

The sheepnose is a medium-sized mussel that grows to about 5 inches in length. It lives in larger rivers and streams where it is usually found in shallow areas with moderate to swift currents flowing over coarse sand and gravel.

Dams: Dams affect both upstream and downstream mussel populations by disrupting seasonal flow patterns, scouring river bottoms, changing water temperatures and eliminating river habitat. Large rivers throughout most of the sheepnose mussel’s range have been dammed, leaving short, isolated patches of habitat below dams.

The sheepnose depends on fish to move upstream. Dams that block fish movement also prevent mussels from moving upstream. Upstream mussels become isolated from downstream populations, leading to small, unstable populations that are more likely to die out.


Mussel, Snuffbox 
Listing Status: Endangered

snuffbox mussel photoThe snuffbox is a small, triangular freshwater mussel that is found in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. It lives in small to medium-sized creeks in areas with a swift current, although it is also found in Lake Erie and some larger rivers.

What threatens the snuffbox mussel?
Dams: Dams affect both upstream and downstream mussel populations by disrupting natural river flow patterns, scouring river bottoms, changing water temperatures, and The logperch is a host fish for snuffbox mussels. In this photo, a logperch approached the female mussel, which then snapped shut. Oftentimes, the mussel will snap closed on a fish’s head or snout, ensuring that glochidia are released into the fish’s gills. eliminating habitat. Adapted to living in flowing water, the snuffbox cannot survive in the lakes or slow water created by dams. Snuffbox mussels depend on host fish to move upstream. Because dams block fish passage, they also prevent mussels from moving upstream, isolating downstream mussels from upstream populations. This fragmentation leads to small, unstable populations that easily die out.

Pollution: Adult mussels, because they are sedentary (meaning that they tend to stay in one place), are easily harmed by toxins and poor water quality caused by pollution. Pollution may come from specific, identifiable sources such as accidental spills, factory discharges, sewage treatment plants and solid waste disposal sites or from diffuse sources like runoff from cultivated fields, pastures, cattle feedlots, poultry farms, mines, construction sites, private wastewater discharges, and roads. Contaminants may directly kill mussels, but they may also reduce water quality, affect the ability of surviving mussels to have young, or result in lower numbers or disappearance of host fish.

Sedimentation: Although sedimentation is a natural process, poor land use practices, dredging, impoundments, intensive timber harvesting, heavy recreational use, and other activities accelerate erosion and increase sedimentation. Sediment that blankets a river bottom can suffocate mussels. Accelerated sedimentation may also reduce feeding and respiratory ability for snuffbox mussels, leading to decreased growth, reproduction, and survival.

Nonnative Species: The invasion of the nonnative zebra mussel into the U.S. poses a serious threat. Zebra mussels proliferate in such high numbers that they use up foodresources and attach to native mussel shells in such large numbers that the native mussel cannot eat or breath. Another invasive species, the round goby, is a nonnative fish species that may displace native host fish species, thus reducing the ability of the snuffbox to reproduce.

Plover, Piping
Listing Status: Endangered

Piping plover photoThe piping plover in the Great Lakes area is an endangered species. Endangered species are animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct

Why is the Piping Plover Endangered?
Habitat Loss or Degradation - Many of the coastal beaches traditionally used by piping plovers for nesting have been lost to commercial, residential, and recreational developments. Through the use of dams or other water control structures, humans are able to raise and lower the water levels of many lakes and rivers of plover inland nest sites. Too much water in the spring floods the plovers' nests. Too little water over a long period of time allows grasses and other vegetation to grow on the prime nesting beaches, making these sites unsuitable for successful nesting.


Riffleshell, Northern
Listing Status: Endangered

northern riffleshellThis mussel is found in a wide variety of streams from large to small. It buries itself in bottoms of firmly packed sand or gravel with its feeding siphons exposed.

Why It's Endangered: Dams and reservoirs have flooded most of this mussel's habitat, reducing its gravel and sand habitat and probably affecting the distribution of its fish hosts. Reservoirs act as barriers that isolate upstream populations from downstream ones.

Erosion caused by strip mining, logging and farming adds silt to many rivers, which can clog the mussel's feeding siphons and even smother it. Other threats include pollution from agricultural and industrial runoff. These chemicals and toxic metals become concentrated in the body tissues of such filter-feeding mussels as the northern riffleshell, eventually poisoning it to death.

Zebra mussels, an exotic (non-native) species which is spreading rapidly throughout the eastern U.S., also pose a threat. By attaching in great numbers to native mussels such as the northern riffleshell, zebra mussels suffocate and kill the native species.

Sturgeon, Shortnose
Listing Status: Endangered

shortnose sturgeon photoThe shortnose sturgeon, and its larger cousin, the Atlantic sturgeon, are the only two sturgeon species on the Atlantic Coast. Unlike the Atlantic sturgeon that frequents the Atlantic Ocean and its larger estuaries, the shortnose sturgeon primarily lives in larger rivers from Florida to New Brunswick, Canada, and rarely venture into the ocean. Both species are very similar in appearance, but the shortnose is the smaller of the two species. Shortnose sturgeon can grow up to 4 feet in length and about 25 pounds in weight, while the larger Atlantic sturgeon may reach up to 14 feet in length and weigh more than 600 pounds.

The shortnose sturgeon is only one of many sturgeon throughout the world that are in threatened or an endangered status. In the United States, the shortnose sturgeon is protected by the Endangered Species Act, which provides increased protection against habitat loss and prohibits harvest. Since the shortnose sturgeon was listed as an endangered species, populations have increased in some rivers, signaling the start of a long-awaited recovery.


Wedgemussel, Dwarf
Listing Status: Endangered

dwarf wedgemussel photoThe dwarf wedgemussel is a federally endangered freshwater mussel.

Primary threats fall into two major but overlapping categories relating to the quality and quantity of habitat:

(1) habitat loss and fragmentation, and

(2) altered natural river processes. Specifically, loss of riparian buffers, loss of floodplains, altered channel processes and sediment transport, altered hydrology, bank erosion, and dams may have all contributed to current conditions in the upper Connecticut River and continue to threaten critical habitats and impede recovery.






Last updated:  May 24, 2021