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Ecosystems - Wildlife:

Endangered Species

An endangered species is a plant or animal in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service manages this nation’s endangered species program, including developing and maintaining the federal list of endangered and threatened species.

Extinction is Forever

Extinction is a natural process. For millions of years different types of plants and animals have lived and then have become extinct. We don’t always know why a species has become extinct, but we do know that extinction can be caused by natural occurrences. Many times extinction is caused by more than one natural event, including climate change, disease, overpopulation, or competition for food.

When a species becomes extinct because of a natural process, it usually means its environment has changed, and more than likely the species will be replaced by a new, emerging one. It can be disturbing when a species becomes extinct, but we can more readily accept that loss when it comes naturally. However, most of the extinction and near extinction that is occurring today is not natural. And there has been a great increase in the rate of extinction. This increase is primarily caused by the activities of humans.

Everything has its Place

One of the most difficult tasks educators face is teaching children about the intrinsic value of each species on the face of the Earth. Presently, in the environmental field, there is a strong push to educate about the non-monetary value of each species. This is being accomplished through the teaching of environmental ethics.

One leader in the environmental ethics field, Hugh W. Nibley, states: “We have taught our children by precept and example that every living thing exists to be converted into cash, and that whatever would not yield a return should be quickly exterminated to make way for creatures that do.” Teaching environmental ethics with its emphasis on the intrinsic value of all species will have the positive effect of helping people understand the benefits of the endangered species program.

These benefits may be summarized as follows:

1. Endangered species generally serve as indicators of larger environmental problems and, when detected, allow analysis and correction of more involved problems during the pursuit of a preservation program.

2. The “Era of Endangered Species” has initiated a process of maturation within fish and wildlife agencies as they begin to consider all species in their program planning, not simply those with an obvious economic value.

3. By preventing the unnatural extinction of life forms, we automatically preserve any benefits to humans which they may possess, but which research may not yet have revealed.

4. Perhaps the most important reason for preserving endangered species is the realization that all life is connected and interdependent.

No Place to Go

Because of its variety of habitats, the Mojave Desert is home to a tremendous diversity of plants and animals. Some of these habitats are being destroyed or altered by humans. Groundwater pumping, construction of roads, agricultural pollutants, construction of large residential tracts, grazing of domestic stock, and many other factors affect the desert ecosystem and the plants and animals living there. As these habitats are destroyed, the danger of extinction increases. Today the Mojave Desert is home to many threatened and endangered species.



Amargosa southern pocket gopher, Thomomys umbrinus amargosae - C
Desert bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis nelsoni - S
Mountain lion, Felis concolor - C
Townsend’s big-eared bat, Plecotus townsendii - C

Bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus - T
California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus - E
Least Bell’s vireo, Vireo bellii pusillus - E
Mexican spotted owl, Strix occidentalis lucida - T
Yuma clapper rail, Rallus longirostris yumanensis E

Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, Uma inornata - T
Desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii - T

Lowland leopard frog, Rana yavapaiensis - C

Bonytail chub, Gila elegans - E
Colorado squawfish, Ptychocheilus lucius - E
Devil’s Hole pupfish, Cyprinodon diabolis - E
Mohave tui chub, Gila bicolor mohavensis - E
Humpback chub, Gila cypha - E
Razorback sucker, Xyrauchen texanus - E

Insects and Snails
Badwater snail, Assiminea infima - C
Devil’s Hole warm springs riffle beetle, Stenelmis calida calida - C

Bear-paw poppy, Arctomecon californica - C
Foxtail cactus, Escobaria vivipara var. alversonii - C
Eureka Valley Evening Primrose, Oenothera arita eurekensis - E
Panamint daisy, Enceliopsis covillei - C
Sticky buckwheat, Eriogonum viscidulum - C


E — Endangered T — Threatened C — Candidate S — Sensitive

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