AUSTIN (KXAN) — Defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, endangered species are plants and animals that have become so rare that they are at risk of extinction. A species is considered “threatened” if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. As of last year (2022), there were more than 1,300 species listed as endangered or threatened in the United States.
Meteorologist Kristen Currie spoke with Lily Velez, head of Special Reports at Veterinarians.org, to find out where Texas ranks among other states when it comes to endangered animals and what animals within our state are of most concern.
Below is a transcript of their conversation. (Note: edits have been made for clarity)
Kristen Currie, KXAN News: There’s a new report that’s giving us an idea of how Texas ranks in the United States when it comes to endangered animals. Lily, talk to me about this study.
Lily Velez, Veterinarians.org: What we did is we contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and used their database to get an idea of how states were ranking in terms of endangered species. We wanted to take a look at how states ranked in terms of animal species, specifically. We saw the number of animal species that each state had, in terms of whether it is an endemic species, which means that it’s native to the state, or whether it’s simply an animal where its natural home range occurs within the state. We did the calculations and tallied up a ranking to determine how states ranked. Texas ranked number four in terms of endangered animals.
Currie: Number four. Obviously, not a list that we’re super proud to be on. What other states were in the top 5?
Velez: So California tops the list with 74 endangered animals. We also see Tennessee at 66, Alabama at 64, Texas at 51. And then Virginia rounds out the top five at 41.
Currie: Which state has the least amount?
Velez: So the least amount actually comes from Vermont. Vermont only has two endangered animals listed.
Currie: Now obviously being here in Austin, Texas is our focus. What endangered animals floated to the top as most concerning?
Velez: One of the biggest concerns with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is the whooping crane. There’s actually only a few hundred left of this particular animal. Now whooping cranes make their winter habitat on the Gulf Coast of Texas, so Texas is a part of its natural range. The whooping crane, unfortunately, is one of the animals that is a high priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Also, as many people know, different turtle species. Almost all of them, six out of seven of them, are endangered species. So we’re seeing the Green Sea Turtle, the Leatherback Sea Turtle, and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, these are also turtles that have their natural range that occur within Texas. But we also see animals such as the Mexican Spotted Owl, the Mexican Wolf, the Ocelot, which is a spotted wild cat, and the West Indian Manatee. Those are all animals that are high concern within Texas.
Currie: Now it makes your heart hurt a little bit – is there anything we can do as the public to help these endangered animals and not fall within that that top five states with the most endangered species?
Velez: Absolutely. So one of the biggest things that people can do is simply to educate themselves and spread awareness about this. Researching these animals, learning more about their habitats, learning more about different ways that we can help not make such a negative impact on their habitats. And that kind of goes into the second tip, which is just reducing our carbon footprint. So that can be simply reducing the amount of waste that can bleed out into their habitats, focusing on more sustainable practices, even conserving energy can all help to impact these animals in a positive way. Taking up practices like recycling, helping to clean up beaches, joining conservation efforts, or beach cleanups all along the coast ways, cleaning up parks and reserves…. are all simple things we can do.