U.S. Wildlife Service Declares 23 Animal Species Extinct
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has declared 23 species extinct, including America's largest woodpecker and 11 species that hailed from Hawaii and Guam.
The best-known of the species to have been declared extinct is the Ivory-billed woodpecker. It was America's largest woodpecker and had been listed as endangered since 1967, although the last official sighting was in 1944. The Bachman's warbler is also on the list and has been considered endangered since 1967. It was last seen in the U.S. in 1962 and the last sighting ever was in Cuba in 1981. Both species are believed to have gone extinct from loss of forest habitat and collection.
The list also includes eight species of freshwater mussels, all from the Southeast. Freshwater mussels are some of the country's most imperiled species — and half of the world's species live in the waters of Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Georgia.
Hawaii and Guam have lost 11 species. Birds like the Kauai akialoa, the Maui akepa, and the Molokai creeper which were unique to their locations. They faced a heightened risk of extinction due to their isolation and small geographic ranges. Hawaii and the Pacific Islands are home to 650 species of plants and animals listed under the ESA, more than any other state.
The Service announced this week that it is proposing to officially remove these 23 species from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Wildlife officials warn that in addition to factors like habitat loss and invasive species, climate change could continue to exacerbate loss of endangered species across the country.
"With climate change and natural area loss pushing more and more species to the brink, now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America's wildlife," U.S. FWS Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. "We will continue to ensure that states, Tribes, private landowners, and federal agencies have the tools they need to conserve America's biodiversity and natural heritage."
Since 1970, almost 3 billion birds have been lost across North America, according to the wildlife service.
All 23 of the species declared extinct were already thought to have a slim chance of survival when they were declared endangered in the 1960s.
This week's announcement kicks off a three-month comment period before the 23 species are officially removed from the Endangered Species Act.
Only 11 species have been removed from the act since it was signed into law in 1973. Another 54 species have been delisted due to species recovery and 56 more have been downlisted from "endangered" to "threatened."