Dozens of these wildlife species in NJ could be headed for extinction
The lives of more than 80 wildlife species in New Jersey are either in immediate danger or close to it.
Bobcats, bald eagles and multiple species of snake, sea turtles and birds should have a healthy presence in the Garden State, but they're struggling to survive, according to the latest endangered and threatened list from the state Division of Fish & Wildlife.
(Scroll down to see the endangered list)
The database describes endangered species as those whose prospects for survival in New Jersey are bleak "because of a loss or change in habitat, over-exploitation, predation, competition, disease, disturbance or contamination." Threatened species may become endangered if conditions around them begin to or continue to worsen.
Several species on New Jersey's list are endangered federally as well.
The piping plover, a small shorebird on both the state and national list, is considered "one of New Jersey's most endangered species," according to the division. "Without intense protection and management, it is unlikely that the piping plover would survive in New Jersey," the species description states.
Eric Stiles, president and CEO of New Jersey Audubon, said human overcrowding on the beaches is a major player in the demise of piping plovers in the Garden State.
Certain shore towns can swell to crowds of 250,000 on holiday weekends, he said. Fifty years ago, the influx of visitors was not as extreme.
"They're like camouflage," Stiles said of piping plovers. "When they're on their nest, you can walk right by them and you'd never see them."
Known to breed in northwestern New Jersey, the golden-winged warbler population status was changed from special concern to endangered in 2012. According to Stiles, New Jersey Audubon and other conservation groups are working with landowners to create "young forest" on which these birds rely.
The pesticide DDT was responsible for the dramatic decline of several bird species, including the raptors of the sky.
Nearly 50 years ago, there was just one nesting pair of bald eagles in New Jersey — in a remote forest of Cumberland County.
But charitable efforts and pioneering biologists have rebounded bald eagles from the edge of extinction. According to the state, there are more than 150 nesting pairs in New Jersey.
Peregrine falcons, which became extinct east of the Mississippi River in the 1960s, now have 20 to 25 nests in New Jersey.
From about 60 pairs in the early 1970s, ospreys in New Jersey now have more than 500 nests.
All six whale species on New Jersey's endangered list are also endangered on the national level. The same goes for sea turtles.
Bob Schoelkopf, founding director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, said the center has interaction with a number of sea turtle species following propeller hits or entanglement in commercial fishing gear.
"The fact that people call us when they do see them, and we respond quickly, means the difference between life and death for the turtles," Schoelkopf said, noting the overharvesting of eggs by other countries was what landed sea turtles on the threatened and endangered lists in the first place.
While some species have managed to find their way off the lists, such as the great blue heron and Cooper's hawk, others may be years or months away from getting added.
David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, said the population of bats has plummeted over the past decade, mainly due to a disease known as white-nose syndrome. Little brown bats and long-eared bats have been decimated the most, Wheeler said.
"That's a very scary and tenuous situation for so many reasons," he said. "Bats in New Jersey save us hundreds of millions of dollars that we would otherwise have to spend on additional pesticides and other chemical controls for our agriculture, because they eat so many insects."
Wheeler said each bat eats over 3,000 mosquito-size insects every night.
Currently, the Indiana bat is the only bat listed as endangered or threatened in New Jersey.
Visit the foundation's field guide to get an up-close look at New Jersey's most vulnerable species.
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Petaltail, gray (dragonfly)
Satyr, Mitchell's (butterfly)
Skipper, arogos (butterfly)
Skipper, Appalachian grizzled (butterfly)
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.