Kansas Wildlife Refuge

Why are some species rare?

There are over 20,000 species of nongame wildlife in Kansas. Using survey and research information to track the occurrence, trends and range decline, about 60 species are deemed rare enough to be listed as threatened or endangered. Some species, such as the cave salamander, are rare due to their specialized adaptations to unique habitats. Big river chubs (large minnows) have become rare due to changes brought about by humans. Species like the green frog are on the periphery of their range and rare in Kansas but more plentiful in neighboring states.

As we increasingly alter the landscape, generalist species like raccoons and crows, which are well adapted to humans, tend to increase in numbers. Meanwhile, specialist species like salamanders and bats become fewer and more disconnected. These isolated populations are more vulnerable to local extinction by natural events such as droughts, floods, hailstorms and human-caused factors such as pollution, habitat changes and exotic species introductions. The listing of a species as threatened or endangered is an attempt to ensure rare species continue to be a functioning component of the ecosystem.

 

 

How are rare species protected?

Rare species protection was implemented with the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Act of 1975. This act provided the state authority to define and list endangered and threatened species. Endangered species are any species of wildlife whose continued existence as a viable component of the state's wild fauna is determined to be in jeopardy. Threatened species are any species of wildlife that appear likely, within the foreseeable future, to become an endangered species. These designations protect the animal from commercial or personal possession. The law also gives authority to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism to review projects requiring a state or federal permit or those funded by tax revenues. This process is designed to safeguard listed wildlife. Some species, including rare plants, are also U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed and protected by federal law, the Endangered Species Act of 1973. With the exception of plants, for which the state grants no protective status, the same species listed under the federal Act are also listed under state law.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

THE GRAY BAT

The Gray Myotis is almost totally cave dwelling and occupies a limited geographic range in limestone cave regions of the southeastern U.S. In Kansas, the only known populations are dependent on storm sewers within the Cherokee Plain region in the southeast corner of the state. 

Why should we protect them?

There are a variety of reasons, ranging from spiritual to utilitarian, that people value rare wildlife. The federal Endangered Species Act recognizes that “endangered species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of aesthetic, ecological, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people.” All these species play a role in the proper functioning of the food web. Some are excellent indicators of environmental health. For instance, most of the freshwater mussels are barometers of water quality because they are immobile filter feeders that cannot escape pollution, require specific fish hosts for their larvae (glochidia) and live for several decades.

Simply knowing rare wildlife will continue to exist as part of our natural heritage is enough for many people to support their conservation. Research conducted by Kansas State University found that over 95 percent of Kansans surveyed support listing of rare species.

Recovery plans continue to be developed for listed species. The objectives of these plans are to guide research and management aimed at enhancing the listed species' population. The ultimate goal is to be able to remove the species from their threatened or endangered status.