Montana, “Big Sky Country” is a state characterized by towering mountain ranges and vast, flat, prairies. It’s one of the least densely populated states in the country, and has one of the top ten lowest populations of any state. This wild, northwestern state is full of animals great and small. Here, we’ll discover six animals that are endangered and living in Montana. Some of them just might surprise you!
1. Suckley’s Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus suckleyi)
Easily recognizable as a bumble bee, these humble black and yellow flying pollinators are essential for life on our planet. Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bees are Critically Endangered, with a decreasing population in Montana. They usually occupy everything from grassy prairies to dense forests, and live for up to a year. Additionally, though scientists can’t be certain what is responsible for the loss of bumble bees in recent years, they do know of a few contributing factors. These animals that are endangered and living in Montana are affected by development (industrial, residential, etc.), climate change, pollution, and disease.
2. Pallid Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus)
Found only in the Missouri River watershed, pallid sturgeon are now considered Critically Endangered. In fact, they’re regionally extinct in some sections of the lower Missouri watershed. Found in the freshwaters of Montana, these monster fish have an estimated total population of fewer than 12,000 individuals, with a continually decreasing population. These animals that are endangered and living in Montana are good indicators of a river system’s overall health. The pallid sturgeon’s primary threats come from pollution, invasive species, diseases, dams, overfishing, and mismanaged river system usage.
3. Ottoe Skipper (Hesperia ottoe)
When you think of endangered animals, you might not think of butterflies. But, the Ottoe skipper is actually one of the best known endangered species not only in Montana, but in much of the Midwest. These flying pollinators live primarily in grassy areas, they’re also known as “grass skippers”. Their population is currently on the decline, due mostly to the loss of native barren and prairie habitat to development for human use. Ottoe skippers are typically golden in color, with darker markings along the edges of their wings. Females tend to be duller and darker than males.
4. Shortface Lanx (Fisherola nuttalli)
These animals that are endangered and living in Montana might not be pretty, but they’re important nonetheless. Shortface lanxes, better known as river limpets, are a species of fresh water aquatic snail. Classified as Endangered, with a population on the downturn, these tiny river dwelling mollusks face many different threats. These include everything from development and climate change to invasive species, pollution, and aquaculture practices. Despite their common name, shortface lanxes are not limpets. In fact, they’re lung-bearing snails with flat shells that may reach half an inch in length. They’re usually red to brown, and thrive in cold, clean water.
5. Arogos Skipper (Atrytone argos)
Like the Ottoe skipper, the arogos skipper spends its life in the grasslands of the Midwest. In previous decades, this animal that is endangered and living in Montana could be found throughout the Midwest and parts of the East Coast. Today, their population has become severely restricted, with an Endangered status and a declining population. Arogos skippers have light yellow to orange wings with black borders. They’re found only in the southeastern part of Montana, when they can be found at all. Finally, these butterflies face threats from pollution, climate change, and habitat loss due to development of native prairie lands.
6. White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)
Currently listed as Vulnerable, these animals that are endangered and living in Montana occur in only a few western states. Additionally, though their population is currently stable, Montana white sturgeon are actually landlocked. They live only in restricted parts of the Kootenai River. Kootenai River white sturgeon reach a maximum weight of around 200 pounds. Further, despite their great size, they feed on small creatures, like fish and mollusks, that they suck up from the river bottom. Their primary threats come from pollution, climate change, dams, invasive species, and overfishing. It’s estimated that there are fewer than 500 individuals remaining in the wild today.
Conserving the biodiversity of our planet is one of our highest priorities. Biodiversity refers to the continued existence of a wide array of wild creatures, including everything from butterflies and bumble bees to fish and aquatic snails. Removing even one species from the environment can have drastic consequences for the ecological health of an area. That’s why it’s important to live conscientiously, and understand the environmental consequences of your actions and decisions. There are plenty of resources out there if you would like to learn more about how you can aid in wildlife conservation.
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