Located in the Western United States, Utah is a landlocked state with a total area of 84,899 sq mi (219,887 km2).
The state is the 13th-largest in the US by land area and is famous for its extensive natural landscape and diversity. Utah features dunes, arid deserts, pine forests, mountain valleys, etc.
These distinct regions are home to many species, and the rocky mountain elk is the state’s official animal.
Although Utah’s open landscape is home to many animals, the state still features five national parks and several state parks that help conserve certain animals.
The reason for this is that some animals currently face endangerment threats in the state, and the government and other experts are fighting to preserve the existence of the affected animals in the state.
This article focuses on some of the endangered species in Utah.
Here are a few of them:
6. Colorado Pikeminnow
Also called the Colorado squawfish, the Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius) is a freshwater fish species native to the Colorado River Basin in North America.
One of the states where this species inhabits is Utah.
The Colorado pikeminnow was always significant to Native American tribes in the region, who have long relied on the fish for food, medicine, and cultural practices.
However, this species’ population in Utah faces several endangerment threats.
Colorado pikeminnows are large fish, typically growing up to three feet and weighing up to 10 pounds.
Their body is long and cylindrical, with a pointed snout and a big mouth full of pointy teeth.
These fish have abdomens with a golden or yellowish tinge, while their scales are dark brown or green.
In Utah, they prefer to inhabit slow-flowing rivers and streams.
One of the primary threats the Colorado pikeminnow population in Utah faces is habitat loss and fragmentation.
Some of the human activities that cause this habitat loss include water diversion and dam construction.
Asides from habitat loss, the Colorado pikeminnow also faces threats from non-native species, such as the predatory smallmouth bass.
The Endangered Species Act lists the fish as endangered, and various conservation measures are in place to help ensure its survival.
These include habitat restoration projects, fish passage improvements, and removing non-native species.
5. Humpback Chub
The humpback chub (Gila cypha) is a unique fish species native to the Colorado River system in the Western United States, including Utah.
It is a member of the Cyprinidae family, which includes other well-known species, such as carp and minnows.
Humpback chubs are typically found in deep, swift rivers with rocky bottoms and are known to inhabit the Green, Yampa, and Colorado Rivers in Utah.
As the name implies, the humpback chub has a distinct hump on its back.
This species has a streamlined body with large curved fins.
The hump on its back is noticeable between its head and dorsal fin, and experts believe that this hump helps the fish maintain balance in swift waters by directing water flow over the body.
The fish’s back is typically a mix between olive and gray, its sides are silver, and its underbelly is almost white.
Due to the construction of Glen Canyon Dam, which has altered the Colorado River’s usual flow and resulted in the loss of vital habitat, the humpback chubs in Utah are especially at risk.
One of the efforts underway to protect this fish population in Utah is the Humpback Chub Working Group, a collaborative effort involving government agencies, NGOs, and academic institutions.
This group focuses on habitat restoration and removing non-native species that compete with the humpback chub for resources.
4. Kanab Ambersnail
Scientific name Oxyloma haydeni kanabense, the Kanab ambersnail is a small, terrestrial snail species found in the Colorado Plateau in the Western United States, including parts of Utah.
The snail is named after the town of Kanab, located in southern Utah.
However, according to the Endangered Species Act, this species faces threats that can lead to extinction in some parts, including Utah.
The Kanab ambersnail belongs to the Succineidae family and has a lightly colored shell.
As its name implies, this snail’s exterior has an “amber” color, but only when empty.
When alive, the body is a mix between gray and amber or yellow and amber.
This snail is tiny, and adults are not even as long as an inch.
The Kanab ambersnail’s habitat shrinks more by the day because of urbanization and agriculture.
These habitats are also threatened by invasive species competing with the snails for food and resources.
Efforts are underway to preserve these snails, including creating protected areas.
The government and other concerned organizations are also working to restore degraded habitats.
3. Mexican Spotted Owl
The Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) is a subspecies of the spotted owl found in the Western United States and Mexico.
Medium-sized Mexican spotted owls are usually found in forested environments, especially in the southwest of the United States.
They inhabit the southern region of Utah, in places like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Zion National Park.
This species is one of the giant owls in North America, as only four other species weigh more.
They feature sexual dimorphism, as females weigh more than males on average.
Similar in appearance, male and female Mexico spotted owls are dark, with sporadic brown and white patches on the belly, back, and head.
The spots give the impression of being lighter since they are larger than those of other spotted owls.
Mexican spotted owls have dark eyes, unlike most owl species.
Many slender white bands are used to distinguish their dark tail.
Due to increased oil and gas drilling and urban development, which can destroy nesting grounds and fragment habitats, this owl population in Utah is especially at risk.
However, the government and other organizations have underway efforts to preserve Utah’s Mexican spotted owl population.
These efforts include controlling non-native species competing with the owls for resources, restoring degraded habitats, etc.
2. Virgin River Chub
The Virgin River chub (Gila seminuda) is a fish species native to the Virgin River and its tributaries in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada.
This fish falls under the Cyprinidae family, which includes other well-known species, such as carp and minnows. In Utah, the Virgin River chub suffers the risks of endangerment and extinction in some parts.
Like other species in its family, the Virgin River chub is a small fish, typically growing to around six inches in length.
This fish is famous for its distinct silver and black skin, and its back, breast, and part of its belly are covered with tiny scales.
Although this species is native to the Virgin River, some populations also inhabit the Muddy River.
One of the primary reasons for the endangerment of the Virgin River chub is habitat loss and fragmentation.
The species prefers deep, slow-moving pools with a vegetative cover, but development and other human activities have altered the river’s flow, leading to the loss of these habitats.
Another serious threat to the survival of Virgin River chubs is pollution.
The water quality of the river system is altered by chemicals and poisons introduced by runoff from urban and agricultural areas, which harms the chub’s habitat.
The woundfin (Plagopterus argentissimus) is a small, minnow-like fish endemic to the Virgin River basin in Utah and Arizona, USA.
It is one of the rarest fish species in North America, and its population has declined for decades.
The woundfin’s endangered status is due to habitat loss, water pollution, and invasive species.
The woundfin is a small, slender fish with a long snout, flattened head, and belly.
The skin is scaleless and leathery, which makes it shine in the water.
The woundfin’s shiny skin and slender body make it famous among people.
This fish’s body length averages three inches, and its dorsal fin is pointed sharp.
As mentioned, the primary reasons for this species’ endangerment are habitat loss, water pollution, and invasive species.
The Virgin River basin has been heavily modified over the past century, with dams, diversions, and water withdrawals altering the river’s flow and changing the physical environment.
Human activities around the river have also caused pollution, killing organisms and vegetation in the river and reducing the food source of the woundfin.