RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTW) – Pollution, global warming and habitat destruction have put dozens of species in North Carolina at risk of extinction.
Many more are considered threatened, including the West Indian manatee, Schwintez’s sunflower and the carnivorous green pitcher plant, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The state has also taken steps to protect the Venus flytrap, which is only native to the Carolinas, with attempts to create a specialty license plate honoring the plant. The state has also created stiff penalties for poaching.
Here are 10 endangered species that can be found in North Carolina:
- Carolina northern flying squirrel
The gliding mammal can be found in the cold mountains of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. The critter has been around since the most recent ice age but has seen declining numbers.
- Humpback whale
The humpback whale’s population was cut by more than 95% before a commercial whaling moratorium was put into place in 1985. The whale is having a comeback but is still at risk of being tangled in fishing gear, being hit by boats or being injured by underwater noise.
- Red wolf
The red wolf can be found in eastern North Carolina. It’s extremely close to extinction, with only between 15 and 17 estimated to live in the wild, according to October data. There are 241 of them in captivity.
- Gray bat
The bats are unique in that their wings are attached to their ankles, not their toes. Their range is in western North Carolina, but it is limited even more by their need to hibernate in large groups inside caves. If the bats are disturbed, they waste energy and can end up leaving the cave and die. They can also drop their young when they’re scared. Their caves are at risk due to flooding, including from reservoirs.
- Sperm whale
The whales are the largest toothed whales, ranging from 15 to 45 tons and with lifespans of up to 60 years. Like other species, they were nearly decimated due to commercial whaling but are in recovery. The whales are at risk of being tangled in fishing gear, hit by boats or injured by underwater noise.
- Red-cockaded woodpecker
The red-cockaded woodpecker has been listed as endangered for more than 50 years. This is due to its habitat being destroyed – the birds like old longleaf pine trees, which only have 3% of the population it used to due to the commercial timber industry.
- Carolina heelsplitter
The freshwater mussel’s habitat is extremely limited. It only has 10 known populations, one of which is in the Pee Dee River system in North Carolina. The mussel has a trapezoid-shaped shell and can be greenish-brown or dark brown.
- Kemp’s ridley sea turtle
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the smallest sea turtle in the world. The turtles used to be common in the Gulf of Mexico and started their comeback in the 1990s. However, that growth has plateaued since 2010. The turtles are at risk of being tangled in fishing gear, hit by boats or injured by underwater noise.
- Leatherback turtle
In contrast, the leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle in the world, with adults reaching 6 feet and 1,000 pounds. The turtles don’t have scales or a hard shell – and have been that way since the dinosaurs. They are at risk of being tangled in fishing gear, hit by boats or injured by underwater noise.
- Cape Fear shiner
The freshwater fish is found in the upper Cape Fear River Basin. It’s been on the endangered list since 1987. However, it has seen gains due to breeding programs and the removal of dams. The fish is about two inches long with yellow, pointed fins.