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Endangered Species

There are the 29 species that (on the LA Dept. Website) are listed federally and in LA.



The American burying beetle E, E, Nicrophorus americanus, is endangered in its entire range.  This carrion beetle (i.e., dead flesh-eating beetle) has a shiny black body with irregular patches of orange on its head, face, antennae and elytra.  It grows to about 1.5 inches as an adult.  These beetles are nocturnal and must rely on their sense of smell to find food.  They are scavengers of small dead mammals and insects.  They bury their prey, for later consumption, while cleaning the environment.  Both the male and female burying beetle cover their prey with their sticky saliva to prevent it from rotting.  The female then lays up to 30 eggs near the prey and remains nearby to feed the larvae regurgitated food when they hatch.   This is unusual behavior for insects, as most leave their babies on their own.  The larvae then burrow into the soil until they metamorphose into adults.  Burying beetles are probably going extinct due to habitat loss and lack of food. 

The inflated heelsplitter T, T, Potamilus inflatus, is threatened in its entire range.  This large freshwater mussel has a brown to black shell and can reach 5.5 inches in length.  Heelsplitters are found in flowing rivers with stable sand or silt bottoms.  They are filter feeders and sift food particles from the water.  The larval stage of this mussel is known as the glochidium and is spent as an external parasite on fish as they develop into juveniles.  Since 1976, sand and gravel mining has eliminated this species from 30% of its habitat range in the Amite River.  In other states, the need for channel alterations and flood control has contributed to their decline.

The Louisiana pearl shell T, E, Margaritifera hembeli, is a mussel with a distribution limited to the headwaters of three tributaries of the Red River in central Louisiana.  The shell of this mollusk is oblong and brown to blackish in color and about 3.9 inches long, 2 inches high and 1.2 inches wide.  They inhabit the shallow, wide areas of small sandy or gravel streams within mixed pine (loblolly)-hardwood forests.  There is no sexual dimorphism in this species (i.e., there are no differences in form of males and females).  This species is threatened due to pollution and other factors affecting water quality.  Beaver dams may also constitute a threat by changing the water flow in streams as well as clear cuts which allow erosion to occur and thus, siltation, which changes the composition of the river beds.



The pallid sturgeon E, E, Scaphirhynchus albus, is a relatively large fish that inhabits large rivers in the central United States.  This unusual fish has a distinct shovel-shaped head and a cylindrical body that tapers significantly toward the tail region.  Its dorsal surface is grayish-white and its venter is white.  The adults typically range in size from 19.5 to 31.2 inches in length and can weigh as much as 65 pounds.    The majority of the pallid sturgeon diet consists of aquatic insects and small fishes that are found on or in the substrate in the main channels of turbid rivers with a swift current and sandy bottom.  Modifications to the river systems they inhabit has significantly altered the distribution and decreased the number of individuals of this species by eliminating or changing their spawning sites. 

The gulf sturgeon T, T, Acipenser oxyrhinchus desotoi, is a large fish that is anadromous, which means it inhabits saltwater regions during their non-breeding period and migrate to any of the major rivers which empty into the Gulf of Mexico to spawn.  This unusual fish has a distinct shovel-shaped head and a cylindrical body that tapers significantly toward the tail region.  Its dorsal surface is light to dark brown and its venter is pale.  The adults typically range in size from 6 to 8 feet in length and can weigh as much as 160 pounds.    The majority of the gulf sturgeon diet consists of aquatic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, annelids and small fishes that are found on or in the substrate in the waters they inhabit.  Gulf sturgeon take between 10 and 28 years to mature, but can live up to 60 years.  They are in decline because the adults have been highly harvested for their meat and eggs (caviar).  The quality of their habitat has also been altered by the construction of dams or dredging.  This also restricts them from returning to their spawning sites.



The green sea turtle T/E, T, Chelonia mydas, is a large reptile that inhabits warm tropical waters all over the world.    They get their name from the color of their flesh, not their shells, which is usually olive to brown and sometimes black.  The length of the shell in adults is usually 2.9 to 3.9 feet in length but may get as large as 4.5 feet.  They typically weigh between 249 to 450 pounds with one recorded over 650 pounds.  Males tend to be larger than females with tails that extend beyond their shells.  Adults are primarily herbivorous, feeding on plant material, but will occasionally eat marine animals like jellyfish.  The hatchlings are carnivorous.  Green sea turtles take between 10 and 28 years to mature and the females will nest every 2 to 4 years, sometimes multiple times within one year.   Her clutch will typically consist of 100 – 200 eggs.  Females will return to the same beach where they were born, sometimes migrating thousands of miles to do so, while males will remain at sea their entire lives.  Green sea turtles are in decline because they have been heavily hunted for food.  Their sea grass bed habitat and food source has also declined due to the erosion of barrier islands.  An increase in development along beachfronts has also affected their numbers.  They can no longer be harvested in the United States, but other countries do not have the same existing laws.

The hawksbill sea turtle E, E, Eretmochelys imbricata, is a medium sized reptile that inhabits warm, shallow waters such as bays, estuaries and coral reefs in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  Their carapace usually consists of streaks of red-brown, black and/or yellow colors and is typically 2.5 –3 feet in length.  They usually weigh 100 – 165 pounds but may grow as large as 280 pounds.  Males typically have brighter pigmentation, long claws and thicker tails than the females.  They are omnivorous and feed primarily on sponges, but also eat a wide variety of plants and animals such as brown algae, mollusks, fish, crustaceans and jellyfish.  The female hawksbill sea turtle can nest every 2 to 3 years, laying several hundred eggs each time.  Biologists are unsure of their lifespan, but think that they live between 30 and 50 years.  Hawksbill sea turtles are in decline because they have been hunted for food, but primarily because their tortoise shell is highly sought.  Another reason they are in decline is because their sea grass bed habitat and food source has declined due to the erosion of barrier islands.  Coral reef communities continue to decline worldwide and this has caused a serious effect on hawksbill populations due to the loss of food.

The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle E, E, Lepidochelys kempii, is the smallest of the sea turtles and inhabits warm bays, coastal waters, estuaries, and tidal rivers of the Gulf of Mexico.  Juveniles may get into the Gulf Stream and be transported as far north as New England and Europe.  Their carapace typically varies in color and may be dark gray, brown, black or olive.  They range is size from 80 – 100 pounds and have a carapace 20 – 28 inches long, with larger individuals measuring 30 inches.  They are bottom feeders and their diet consists mainly of squid, starfish, mollusks, fish, crustaceans and jellyfish.  Females may nest every year and lay several hundred eggs each time.  They are the most endangered of the sea turtles, but one of the most commonly encountered in Louisiana.  Their nesting sites are restricted to a narrow stretch of beach in Mexico although there are some accounts of attempts in southern Texas.  The primary reason for their decline is the exploitation of their eggs.  They are also in decline due to their meat and by being caught in fishing nets. 

The leatherback sea turtle E, E, Dermochelys coriacea, is the largest of the sea turtles and inhabits the open warmer oceans and deeper waters of the Gulf.  Their carapace dorsal surface is blackish and venter is pinkish-white.  They range in size from 5.2 to 6 feet long and weigh between 790 to 1300 pounds.  Leatherback turtles are powerful swimmers, which allows them to swim in the open ocean.  There, they eat jellyfish, small crabs and fish.  The females nest every 2 to 3 years and lay several hundred eggs each time.  They go to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs.  Their decline is due to people desiring their eggs for food. Although their meat in not considered a delicacy, they have been harvested for it as well as the oils that treat timber and serves as a treatment for respiratory disease.  Their decline is also credited to their inability to digest plastics, which they swallow regularly in the open ocean. 

The loggerhead sea turtle T, T, Caretta caretta, is found in all marine environments, except in polar regions, and frequent bays, estuaries and may enter river mouths.  Loggerheads have a characteristic large head and are the largest hard-shelled turtle in the world.  The dorsal surface of their carapace is typically reddish brown with the venter being yellowish.  The adults generally average 3.6 feet in length and weigh more than 500 pounds.  Adults and juveniles feed on aquatic plants, crustaceans, mollusks, jellyfish, squid, sea urchins and fish in the shallow waters and around coral reefs.  The females nest on beaches and many, but not all, will go to the same beach year after year, laying usually 80 eggs per clutch 2-4 times in a year.  They usually nest every 2 to 3 years and lay the eggs in the flood of the spring tides.  Their decline is blamed on 3 factors: 1) erosion of the barrier islands, 2) people harvesting the eggs and meat for food, and 3) adults getting caught in fishing or shrimping nets.

The gopher tortoise T, T, Gopherus polyphemus, is found on land in soils that are very sandy and well drained typically in upland longleaf pine and mixed pine-hardwood forests in the coastal plain from South Carolina through Florida to southeastern Louisiana.  The dorsal surface of their carapace is typically brownish to grayish with the venter being yellowish.  Adult males are distinguished from females by having a prominent projection on the anterior portion of their venter.  The upper shell can range in length from 107 to 240 mm, while the venter averages 280 mm.  Adult gopher tortoises take 16 – 21 years to mature but can live 40 years or longer.  They are herbivorous and tend to feed on vegetation that is positioned close to the ground, like grasses, leaves and occasionally wild fruits and berries.  Gopher tortoises dig burrows below the surface for protection from harsh weather and predators.  Females lay an average of 6 eggs and bury them in a shallow nest toward the entrance to her burrow.  There are many reasons the gopher tortoise population is in decline: 1) mortality of eggs and hatchlings from invasive fire ants, 2) dog harassment, 3) people eating them or keeping them as pets, 4) the absence of fie, which creates a thick understory thus preventing grasses from growing, and 5) agriculture. 

The ringed map turtle T, T, Graptemys oculifera, is endemic to the Pearl and Bogue Chitto River drainages, primarily in clean systems with a moderate current, open canopy and numerous sandy nesting beaches.  Their carapace has a background color that is dark olive brown with distinct yellow to reddish rings on the scutes.  The head is also distinct with a large yellow spot behind each eye.  They are relatively small turtles with a carapace length of 8-10 cm (males) and 12-22 cm (females).  They mature at about 5 years of age and female’s produce 3-4 clutches of 5-6 eggs annually.  They primarily feed on insects, but will eat small fish and mollusks.  They are in decline because their river systems have been altered, which has decreased the number of exposed sandbars, on which they lay their eggs. 



The brown pelican E, E, Pelecanus occidentalis, are coastal birds found along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts.  They are large brown birds with a long, flat bill and distinct gular pouch, which is used to hold 2 to 3 times more than their stomach, which is about 3 gallons of water and fish.  Their diet consists mainly of fishes, but they will also eat crustaceans.  Adults are 42 to 54 inches long with a 7.9-foot wingspan.  The body plumage of male and female brown pelicans is very similar.  Adults tend to have gray-brown to silver-brown body plumage and wing feathers that are darker in color.  They tend to nest in low shrub thickets around the dunes of barrier islands.  They lay a clutch of 2 – 3 eggs.  Their decline is due to pesticide poisoning from DDT, which thins the egg shell, a decrease in nesting habitat due to barrier island erosion, and human consumption of eggs.

The bald eagle T, E, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, is a large raptor, which nests primarily in cypress swamps near open water.  They are found throughout North America where there are adequate nesting sites and open water.  The body plumage of adults is dark brown with a white head and white tail.  Adult bald eagles have bright yellow beaks, feet and eyes.  Immatures have dark brown plumage with some mottling until their fourth year and a black bill.  They also have very powerful talons, which are used to immobilize and hold prey.  Adults are typically 3.6 feet in length and their wingspan can reach 7.5 feet.  Females lay a clutch of 1 to 3 eggs each year.  Males and females tend to the nest and both hunt and feed the young.  They eat a wide variety of food including small mammals, waterfowl, and seabirds, but primarily eat fish, self-caught or stolen.  They have long lives and can live from 30 to 50 years.  Their decline is due to pesticide residues from DDT, which thins the eggshell, loss of habitat and human disruption of nesting pairs.

The whooping crane E, E, Grus americana, is a large wading bird with a long neck.  They live in the coastal prairie regions of the United States.  They stand 4.9 feet tall with a 7.5 foot wingspan and are mostly white except for some black primary feathers in its wings that are visible in flight.  They also have red on top and the sides of the head beneath the eyes.  Their flight is distincin that they fly with their neck and legs outstretched.  They mature in 4 to 5 years and females lay 2 large eggs each season.  Pairs establish lifelong partners and thus share in the incubation and feeding of the hatchlings. They have a diverse diet consisting of insects, acorns, clams, blue crabs and fish to name a few.    They are in decline due to habitat loss (wetland drainage, agriculture and human sprawl), the need for large nesting territories, and low reproductive rates.

The piping plover T/E, T/E, Charadrius melodus, is a small plover, which is a shore-inhabiting bird found on beaches and barrier islands in North America.  The piping plover is about 7 inches tall with a wingspan of 15.4 inches.  They have a white breast/rump and a light brown to sandy gray back.  They are active foragers and feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans and mollusks.  Their clutch typically includes 4 eggs and the male and female share incubation and feeding.  They are in decline due to habitat loss and human destruction of nests and young.

The interior least tern E, E, Sterna antillarum athalassos, is the smallest tern in North America and can be found breeding on sand or gravel bars of rivers or lakes.  The interior least tern is 9.5 inches tall with a wingspan of 14.7 inches.  Their plumage varies depending on the time of the year, but their tails are short and deeply forked.  They are the only adult tern with a slender yellow bill with a black tip.  Their legs and feet are yellow.  They nest in a variety of areas that are open, not vegetated but near feeding sites, like an exposed sandbar.  The females lay 2 eggs per season.  They feed primarily on small fish and crustaceans.  They are in decline due to habitat loss and unnatural changes in river hydrology.  Other factors affecting their decline may be predation, oil spills and severe weather.

The red-cockaded woodpecker E, E, Picoides borealis, is found in the southeastern United States in old growth pine forests and mixed-pine hardwood forests with little or no hardwood understory.  They are dependent on longleaf, slash, shortleaf, pond and pitch pines that are 70 years old or more.  They are 8.7 inches in total length with black and white barred back plumage and entirely white cheeks.  Red-cockaded woodpeckers are monogamous and bond throughout the year.  They nest in the brood cavity of the male, which is cleverly designed to prevent water and predators from entering.  They have one clutch with 2 to 5 eggs and both parents incubate those.  Both parents also feed the hatchlings and they develop rapidly.   They forage for food (insects) on pine trees by moving their bills to rip off loose bark, but also consume fruits.  The primary reason for  their decline is loss of habitat due to urban sprawl.  They are also in decline due to pine forests being managed with short rotations and controlled burns being suppressed, allowing hardwood midstory growth to occur.

The Bachman’s warbler E, E, Vermivora bachmanii, is a small warbler that inhabits bottomland hardwood forests and used to be found throughout the southeastern United States.  The bill is slightly curved downward.  Males are more colorful than females and have a bright yellow forehead, chin, belly and bend of the wing.  The back of their head and neck is gray and the crown and breast is black.  Females and immatures have the same pattern but are less colorful.  The total length of the Bachman’s warbler is 4.25 to 4.5 inches.  This is one of the least know birds in North America and only 40 nests have ever been recorded.  Females average 3 to 5 eggs per clutch.  Their decline is due to habitat and some suggest their inability to adapt to change.

The Attwater’s greater prairie chicken E, E, Tympanuchus cupido attwateri, is a small bird with a short, rounded dark tail.  They live on coastal prairie grasslands with tall species of grasses.  They are about 17 inches long and the males have a large orange air sac on each side of the neck.  Males can emit a “booming” sound, which is amplified by inflating the air sacs and can be hear .5 miles away.  They gather in areas with bare ground or short grass to choose a mate, called a “booming groundor lek”.  Males dance and release their noise to attract the females.  Females choose their mates and then lay usually 12 eggs during the nesting season.  They live about 2 to 3 years.  Their diet consists of small green leaves, seeds and insects.  They are in decline because of habitat loss due to farmland plowing, heavy grazing by cows, and urban sprawl. 

The Eskimo curlew E, E, Numenius borealis, is a bird that inhabits the arctic tundra and open grasslands.  They have brown feathers with white specks.  The underside of their wings is cinnamon colored.  They have long, dark green, dark brown or gray-blue legs.  They are in decline due to the conversion of native grasslands to cropland along the migration route.  They also were once heavily hunted for their meat. 

The ivory-billed woodpecker E, E, Campephilus principalis, is a bird that once lived throughout the southeastern United States.  They were thought to be extinct until one was discovered in Arkansas in 2004.  They require expansive areas of continuous forests with large trees and must have a constant supply of dead or dying trees so they can excavate cavities and forage for beetle larvae, which is their main source of diet.  They also like forests with open canopies so that they can fly unhindered.  They nest in pines, bald cypress, red maple and others.  They are the largest woodpeckers in the United States with a wingspan of 78 cm, a height of 48 to 53 cm and a weight of 450 to 570 grams.  Ivory-billed woodpeckers are predominantly black with striking white stripes in the side of the neck and white wing patches, with males having a bright red crest.  Their bill is ivory-white and their feet and legs are gray.  Their decline due to extensive logging and thus, destruction of habitat. 



The manatee E, E, Trichechus manatus, is a large, slow moving mammal adapted to live in the water.  They are capable of tolerating large changes in salinity and thus are found in tropical and subtropical marine environments, estuaries, rivers and bays.  Adults can grow to 13 feet and weigh up to 2,205 pounds.  Their bodies are robust but their heads are small.  They lack external ears and their front limbs are modified into flippers to easily move through the water.  They do not have hind limbs, but do have a large spatula-shaped tail.  They are typically found at depths of 9 to 15 feet.  They are typically either gray or brown in coloration.  Manatees are herbivores and eat a wide variety of aquatic plants.  There are many reasons for their decline including: 1) boats and barges, 2) death due to flood-control devices, 3) poaching, 4) habitat loss, 5) overharvested for meat, oil and leather, and 6) natural occurrences such as unusually cold weather and red tide blooms.

The blue whale E, E, Balaenoptera musculus, is the largest living mammal and is found in open oceans worldwide.  They are grayish blue with mottled lighter spots on the underside.  The average head-body length in adult males is 25 meters and in adult females is 27 meters.  The longest confirmed specimen was 33.5 meters and the heaviest was 190,000 kilograms.  Very little is known about the mating behavior of blue whales, but the gestation period is 11 to 12 months long.  Young are born in warm waters and are only 7-8 meters long.  Females reach sexual maturity at about 5 years of age and young are reared every 2 to 3 years after that.  Females care extensively for the young, while males do not contribute at all.  It is estimated that they can live as long as 110 years.  Blue whales can aggregate in large groups, but are more commonly found living solitarily or in groups of 3 to 4 individuals. Their diet primarily consists of krill, but they will also eat small fish.  The reason for the decline of the blue whale is overharvesting.

The finback whale E, E, Balaenoptera physalus, has a global distribution in marine waters, but is not common in tropical or polar seas with ice.  Their dorsum is brownish gray and their venter is white.   Finback whales are the second largest mammal (blue whales are the largest) growing to an average of 19 to 20 meters in length, but can be as long as 24 meters.  They are thought to be monogamous and produce as many as 6 calves, which take 12 months to arrive.  Females usually reach maturity between 6 and 7 years and produce one calf every 2 to 3 years thereafter.  New calves are typically 6.5 meters in length and weigh 1800 kilograms.  They typically travel in groups of 6 to 7 individuals but migrating groups have been reported to include 300 individuals.  Their diet consists of a variety of pelagic animals, like crustaceans, squid and fish.  Their decline is due to them being heavily hunted for their blubber, oil and baleen.

The Sei whale E, E, Balaenoptera borealis, is large and found in all oceans and adjoining seas except tropical and polar regions.  They are typically found in coastal and off shore waters.  Most Sei whales measure between 12.2 and 15.2 meters long, with the largest specimen reaching 20 meters in length.  The body is typically dark gray with irregular white markings ventrally.  They typically reach sexual maturity at 10 years of age and may live as long as 74 years.  Gestation periods usually last 10.5 to 12 months and females give birth to one calf every other year.  Groups of 2 to 5 individuals are typically observed but the number may grow to the thousands when food is abundant.  Sei whales are among the fastest whales swimming at speeds up to 50 kilometers per hour.  Their diet consists of copepods, amphipods, euphausiids and small fish.  Their decline is due to overharvesting.

The sperm whale E, E, Physeter macrocephalus, is found in deep marine waters and is known for its characteristically large head, which makes up 25 – 30% of the total length of its body.  Its body is a steel-gray color with some blotches on the belly and sides.  While most male sperm whales reach about 18 meters in length there have been some reports of them reaching 20 meters, although those individuals are rare.  Females are much smaller typically reaching 12 meters in length.  They tend to travel in groups of up to 30 females and calves, with one or several bachelor males; although groups of 1,000 individuals have been reported.  Females produce 1 (rarely 2) calves every 4 years.  Their diet consists of primarily squid, but they also eat fish and crustaceans.  Their decline is due to overharvesting.

The Louisiana black bear T, T, Ursus americanus luteolus, is primarily found in large tracts of heavily wooded areas adjacent to the Atchafalaya Basin.  These areas include cypress swamps, bottomland forests, coastal flatwoods, marshes and sugarcane fields.  They are large and bulky and easily recognizable.  Their head is large with small eyes and a broad nose pad.  Their tail is short and inconspicuous.  The fur is usually black and a white patch may be present on the lower throat and chest.  The range in size from 4.5 to 6.5 feet long and weigh from 120 to 400 pounds.  Adult males are larger than adult females.  During the winter months, they hibernate in large hollow logs and large tree cavities.  They can live up to 30 years.  Black bears typically live in solitary, but females will rear their young cubs until they are 9 months old.  Females may give birth to 1 to 5 cubs (usually 2) every other year.  Their diet consists of vegetation, insects and fruits.  They will eat nuts high in carbohydrates and fats, such as acorns or pecans, to gain weight for the winter.  They are in decline due to habitat loss due to agriculture and poaching.

The Florida panther E, E, Felis concolor coryi, is a large, long-tailed cat with a great deal of color variation.  They are pale brown on the upper parts and dull white on the under parts.  The tail tip, back of the ears and sides of the nose are dark brown or blackish.  They are found in the southeastern United States in large remote tracts of land with adequate prey and low levels of disturbance.  Their habitat is typically heavily vegetated.  The average length of a male panther is 2.13 meters and a female is 1.83 meters from nose to tail. Males typically weigh 48 to 67 kilograms while females weigh 30 to 45 kilograms.  Males become sexually mature by age 3 while females reach sexual maturation between ages 2 and 3.  Their litters consist of 1 to 3 kittens and gestation period is between 90 and 95 days.  They become independent after 1.5 years and females breed every other year.  Florida panthers are solitary and adults are rarely seen together, except during the breeding season.  They are predatory carnivores and primarily eat white-tailed deer.  They also eat rabbits, raccoon, armadillo, birds and wild hogs.  They stalk and pounce their prey and then drag their kill to a concealed place where they will spend 3 to 4 days.  They are in decline due to habitat loss and poaching.