It’s a day of reckoning for the ivory-billed woodpecker and roughly two dozen other species of wildlife that are about to be declared extinct in a proposal issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A total of 22 animals (and one plant)—including the Bachman’s warbler songbird and 10 other birds, two freshwater fish, 11 mussels, and one bat—are scheduled to be removed from the endangered species list owing to their suspected or confirmed disappearance. This is a move that comes often as a result of humans altering their natural habitats via farming, damming, or logging.
Eleven of the species hail from Hawaii and Guam, where non-native species like pigs and deer have decimated populations. Climate change is also playing a large role. Birds, for example, may be exposed to avian malaria from mosquitoes because warmer temperatures at higher elevations have put them at risk.
Most all of them were considered extinct prior to the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. While it means they likely couldn’t benefit from conservation, the announcement serves as a stark warning about the importance of future efforts. If confirmed, the 23 listings will join 11 species that have been declared extinct since the Act was first passed. (Fifty-four species have been removed from the Endangered Species list due to their recovery in that same timeframe, while another 56 moved from endangered to threatened.)
To be declared extinct, a species has typically gone decades without a confirmed sighting. The ivory-billed woodpecker, for example, was last seen in the 1940s, though unconfirmed reports have persisted into the 21st century. The woodpecker, the largest known in the United States, saw its numbers dwindle as logging companies razed areas where it was known to be found.
Here's the complete list:
Birds: Bachman’s warbler, Ivory-billed woodpecker, Bridled white-eye, Kauai akialoa, Kauai nukupuu, Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, Large Kauai thrush, Maui ākepa, Maui nukupuʻu, Molokai creeper, Po`ouli
Mussels: Flat pigtoe mussel, Green-blossom pearly mussel, Southern acornshell mussel, Stirrupshell mussel, Tubercled-blossom pearly mussel, Turgid-blossom pearly mussel, Upland combshell mussel, Yellow-blossom pearly mussel
Fish: San Marcos gambusia, Scioto madtom
Bat: Little Mariana fruit bat
Plant: Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis
Not all experts agree with every entry on the proposal, with some saying it might be premature to remove the woodpecker from the list. The Fish and Wildlife Service will take public input and comments on the announcement through December.