Tennessee’s Recently Extirpated Wildlife

Imagine if Tennessee had recently lost its very last black bear. Imagine if the bald eagle hadn’t been seen here in 30 years. Imagine if someone still alive today had hunted the very last white-tailed deer in the state. People would talk about it, wouldn’t they? There would have been news articles, high-profile breeding programs, and massive stretches of habitat protected and secured and celebrated.

It gets a lot of attention when large, beautiful animals vanish, and that’s a good thing, because it has led to many cases of successful conservation and recovery. Unfortunately, smaller and more ordinary-looking animals don’t have the same attention focused on them. It’s hard to get anyone to care about a little brown bird with the same enthusiasm that they might have for a tiger.

The red-cockaded woodpecker, dusky gopher frog, Bachman’s sparrow, and snowshoe hare aren’t yet extinct on a global level, but habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and climate change here in Tennessee have destroyed their homes so that they can no longer thrive here.

At the rate things are going, we are also expected to lose our spotted skunks, cave salamanders, and slender glass lizards as well. Unfortunately, little funding or attention are being focused on any of these delicate animals.

Please remember that not all endangered animals are big and beautiful. It’s sometimes the smallest and least noticeable animals that need us most. Please do your part to protect animals and their habitats, so that we might one day see these little souls in our state again.

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