Community can do its part to help save endangered or threatened species

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 27, 2018

From fish, amphibians and reptiles, to birds and mammals, there are several state and federally endangered and threatened animal species that live in Pearl River County.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services website, an endangered species is one in danger of becoming extinct, while a threatened species is any that will probably become endangered in the near future.

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According to an MDWFS article, many of these species are on the decline because of habitat changes. As industry progresses, more roads are built and buildings are constructed over habitats that were ideal breeding or feeding grounds. In addition, the article states the decline of wildfires as well as the introduction of invasive species has led to changes in the terrain, which are often unsuitable for these species.

The Dusky Gopher Frog is an endangered species, which has been found in Pearl River County.  The MDWFS article states that adult frogs typically live in droughty, sandy uplands but will occasionally travel to pools to breed. They have been on the decline because of overdevelopment of roadways and invasive plant species like cogon grass and tallow trees, the article states. 

Red-cockaded woodpeckers are another endangered species found locally. These birds are usually small, with a black head and back and white cheek patches, the article states. These birds prefer to build their nests in large pine trees. Because pine trees are often cut down before they mature, the woodpeckers lost a large portion of their nesting habitats.

While many of these species require scientific and governmental intervention for survival, there are steps that can be taken by Pearl River County residents.

Mississippi State University Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith said the first thing to do is to be well educated on the endangered and threatened species in the area. If a person is out hunting or fishing, it is good to know which species are protected so they can be avoided.

For instance, Smith said Louisiana Black Bears are a federally protected species. If a person is out hunting and shoots a bear, either on purpose or on accident, that action could lead to serious consequences. Smith said hunters should be sure of what they are shooting before pulling the trigger.

Smith also said if a wild animal is found sick or injured, the local MDWFS can be contacted and they will send someone to retrieve the animal.

The World Wildlife Foundation states on its website that there are several important ways the public can help. Recycling and cutting down on power usage, buying sustainable seafood and not purchasing souvenirs made from endangered species are all ways to help, the website states.

Dr. Matt Roberts, research coordinator for the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, said if one of these species is seen, the best policy is to observe and leave it alone.

“Appreciate it for being there, but let it be,” Roberts said.

He said if a threatened or endangered animal is accidentally captured, it is imperative to immediately release it back into the wild.

Roberts said the museum’s researchers are interested in the precise location of endangered and threatened species locally. He said if one of these animals is seen, note the exact location, either by landmark or by GPS, and call the museum to report the sighting. Roberts said it also helps if a photo is provided with the report so the animal’s identity can be confirmed. However, he stressed that photos should only be taken if there is not a risk of harming or disturbing the animal.

Roberts said if people are interested in helping in a more hands-on way, they can call the museum and volunteer to conduct surveys alongside scientists in the field. While survey teams do not travel to Pearl River County on a regular basis, Roberts said they do occasionally make trips to the area, so volunteers can ask for a schedule.

For information about sightings, or to ask about volunteering, Roberts can be contacted at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science at 601-576-6062.