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Conservation Groups Helping Midwest Animal Species

The smooth green snake is a tiny nonvenomous snake found in Indiana. It's getting extra attention from conservation groups in the Midwest because its habitat is threatened. (Chicago Wilderness)
The smooth green snake is a tiny nonvenomous snake found in Indiana. It's getting extra attention from conservation groups in the Midwest because its habitat is threatened. (Chicago Wilderness)
February 8, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – Twelve animal species that call the Midwest home are being championed by Chicago Wilderness, which is made up of more than 200 conservation groups in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Scientists, educators and ecologists spent months deciding which would be added to the list.

Suzanne Malec-McKenna, director of Chicago Wilderness, says the group selected species that are rare or threatened and would benefit by some extra attention.

Now a five-year plan will be put together. She says one example is the red-headed woodpecker.

"Conservancy Indiana and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore are signing on as the Indiana leader to look at oak ecosystems, and the red-headed woodpecker has declined dramatically and requires healthy oak woodlands for it to continue to survive," she states.

Other species on the list include the blue-spotted salamander, the bobolink, Henslow's sparrow, the little brown bat and the smooth green snake.

Seth Magle is the director of Urban Wildlife at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. He hatches eggs from the smooth green snake and then releases them back into forest preserves and grasslands. The snakes are a struggling species because their habitat has been destroyed by development.

"A lot of these sites have been lost over time, and now actually a lot of them are being restored or kind of recreated,” Magle states. “But these snakes are so small their ability to disperse is really very limited, so in many cases they need our help."

Magle says the little brown bat was chosen because it's at risk from a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome.

He says that disease hasn't hit the Midwest hard yet but it's likely to.

"We just want a sense of how are they going to do, how are they going to persist in the face of that disease,” he states. “How can we help them, we hope, to make a full recovery from that disease."

Others on the list include the regal fritillary butterfly, the ellipse mussel, Blanding's turtle, the rusty patched bumble bee and the monarch butterfly.


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN