Given that it’s the largest state in the contiguous United States, there are a number of threatened and endangered animals in Texas. From bivalves to mammals, Texas not only has plenty of endemic species but tons of unique creatures thanks to its proximity to the sea. Plus, Texas plays host to a number of climates and environments, given just how large it is!
In this article, we’ll go over only a few of the most endangered animals in Texas. We’ll discuss some of the reasons why they are currently threatened, whether it be species or environmentally-related. Plus, we’ll even give you some information surrounding these animals and what makes them very much worth protecting. Let’s dive in!
Endangered Animals in Texas
According to the IUCN Red List of threatened animal species, there are nearly 30 different endangered or critically endangered animals found in the state of Texas. There are even more found within the threatened category, but we’ll be focusing on some animals that are endangered and extremely special, some of which are only found in the state of Texas!
Endemic to one specific part of Texas, the Georgetown salamander is a critically endangered species due to habitat loss and the pollution of local waterways. Also known as the San Gabriel Springs salamander, this aquatic little guy doesn’t grow larger than 3 inches. It has only been observed in freshwater springs located in and around Lake Georgetown. Unfortunately, the development of this manmade reservoir as well as housing in the surrounding area has limited the population of Georgetown salamanders. Only one minimal population is found in a protected area, close to the Edwards Plateau.
Another species endemic to Texas, the Houston toad is special for a number of reasons. For one, it was the first amphibious species to join the federally recognized endangered species list back in 1970. While efforts have been made to protect this toad, it is estimated that there are far less than 5,000 of them left in the wild. However, they are an important species not only for local ecosystems but also for the pharmaceutical industry as a whole.
The Houston toad secretes toxins that assist with a number of neurological and immunological disorders, including the herpes virus. Plus, these toxins have been studied and appear to offer more pain relief than the average dose of morphine! Due to habitat loss and environmental factors such as drought, the Houston toad is critically endangered. However, the Houston Zoo has a comprehensive breeding program for the species, and many Texas counties are part of an agreement that protects these toads in their limited habitats.
Amber Comet Firefly
Classified as Pyractomena vexillaria, the amber comet firefly has not had a confirmed sighting in Texas since the 1940s. While it may still be living in the state today, habitat loss in both Texas and Mexico has much to do with the species dwindling as a whole. The amber comet firefly produces a beautiful amber flash as its name suggests. As with many types of fireflies, the endangered nature of this species is also likely caused by light pollution from our outside lights at night.
Cagle’s Map Turtle
Intricate and beautiful, the Cagle’s map turtle is endangered in Texas. It has an extremely limited endemic range in the state. Found in the San Marcos, Guadalupe, and San Antonio Rivers, this turtle is one of the smallest map turtles. Males are much smaller than females, though even female Cagle’s map turtles reach less than 10 inches long. Habitat loss and pollution are likely why this species is so limited, but they are also occasionally sold as pets.
Wheeler’s Pearly Mussel
First identified in Arkansas, the Wheeler’s pearly mussel is a type of river mussel endangered in Texas. Also known as the Ouachita rock pocketbook, this particular bivalve doesn’t have a stable population anywhere in the United States, save Oklahoma. It is less than five inches long and has a beautiful, shiny black shell. Pollution is likely the cause of this species’ decline, though few studies have been performed.
Devil’s River Minnow
Classified as Dionda diaboli, the Devil’s River minnow lives in northern parts of Mexico and southern parts of Texas. This little fish only reaches 2 inches or less in length and has intricate criss-cross scales along its body. While it was classified as a vulnerable species back in 1999, the Devil’s River minnow still has zero protective measures or advisories put into place to protect it. Many conservationists believe this to be unfair, given that pollutants and a loss of habitat are the main reasons why the Devil’s River minnow population can’t stabilize.
Honorable Mention—More Endangered Animals of Texas
Black-Capped Vireo—The black-capped vireo is a small migratory songbird found in the shrubby woodlands and mesquite savannahs of Texas. It has a white eye ring, a gray back, and a black cap on its head. This species is endangered in Texas due to habitat destruction, as well as invasive species that compete for resources.
Golden-Cheeked Warbler—The golden-cheeked warbler is a small songbird with a distinct black and white striped face, a yellow chest, and bright golden cheek patches. This species is endangered in Texas due to loss of suitable habitat caused by urbanization, fire suppression, and other human activities.
Texas Horned Lizard—The Texas horned lizard is a small reptile found in dry, open grassland and prairie habitats in Texas. It has a flattened body, short legs, and a head covered in spiny scales. This species is endangered in Texas due to the destruction of its habitats, as well as competition with invasive species.
Texas Kangaroo Rat—The Texas kangaroo rat is a small rodent found in dry, open grasslands and prairies in Texas. It has a large head, large hind legs, and a long, tufted tail. This species is endangered in Texas due to agricultural farming to feed livestock, destroying its habitat.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Nick Fox/Shutterstock.com
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