A List of the Endangered Species of West Virginia

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

Flag of the USA State of West Virginia
Flag of the USA State of West Virginia / gladder via Istock

With bountiful rainfall, extensive forests, and rich soil, West Virginia is home to many animals and plants.

Still, a few of them are either threatened or endangered.

Some of them are the Indiana bat, the Virginia big-eared bat, the diamond darter, and more.

We have compiled a comprehensive list of some of these endangered species and the factors threatening their existence.

Read on for more information!

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5. Indiana Bat

Indiana Bat
Indiana Bat | Adam Mann via Wikimedia Public Domain

The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) is a mouse-eared bat of medium size and is commonly found in North America.

It looks like the little brown bat, but what sets this bat apart is its pink lips, toe hair length, and feet size.

This bat species prefers to stay on agricultural land, especially crop fields, grasslands, and forests.

They also prefer old-growth forests.

Indiana bats live across the eastern United States in the summer and hibernate in clusters in the winter. 

The population of these bats has declined over the years, so much that on 11th March 1967, the Endangered Species Preservation Act listed them as endangered.

This decline resulted from pesticide use, disturbance of colonies by humans, and loss of habitat through the clearing of forests.

A hibernating Indiana bat
A hibernating Indiana bat | Dolovis via Wikimedia CC BY 2.0

Several culprits have been known to knock down and kill large clusters of bats in caves.

Some even shoot these animals for entertainment purposes, which is illegal.

Also, because Indiana bats eat insects, the pesticides used on these insects end up poisoning some of these creatures.

Their numbers started rising in the mid-1980s until the white-nose syndrome struck in 2010.

This disease killed almost 7 million bats in the United States.

Since then, conservation efforts to protect bats have included monitoring hibernating bats to protect them from intruders.

Also, because bats are largely misunderstood, more people are being educated on the importance of bats in the ecosystem.

4. Virginia Big-Eared Bat

Virginia big-eared bat in Pendleton County, WV
Virginia big-eared bat in Pendleton County, WV | U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region via Wikimedia CC BY 2.0

The Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) is an endangered medium-sized, big-eared bat popular in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

These bats live in caves throughout the year and are usually found in mountainous limestone areas.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, the residents of West Virginia started to notice a reduction in the population of these bats.

In 1976, it was estimated that only about 2500 and 3000 Virginia big-eared bats were left.

This was largely due to human disturbance in the bats’ hibernating caves.

Virginia big-eared bats are light sleepers and are easily disturbed during hibernation.

For every disruption, they use up a certain percentage of the limited nutrient in their reserves.

Cluster of Virginia big-eared bats
Cluster of Virginia big-eared bats | Hajenga Jeff via Wikimedia Public Domain

If this happens several times, they will use up a huge portion of their reserve and starve.

It was also reported that some of these bats were captured for research purposes.

Also, with people inhabiting mines and deforestation becoming popular, these bats had a low chance of survival.

As a result, they were listed as an endangered species in 1979.

To protect this species, five caves in West Virginia were dedicated as critical habitats for the birds.

The bats in these caves were monitored and closed off from human activities and anything else that could threaten them.

These steps have resulted in a 77% increase in the bat population. 

3. West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel

The West Virginia northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus) was listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1985.

As the name depicts, northern flying squirrels live in boreal habitats.

In West Virginia, they are mostly found in red spruce habitats as well as northern hardwood forests, including black cherry, sugar maple, yellow and black birch, and American beech.

You can find these forests and habitats in regions over 3000 feet in elevation.

Northern flying squirrels also live in moist forests with standing snags, downed logs, and mature trees.

The greatest threat to the West Virginia northern flying squirrel’s existence is the loss of habitat to timbering and urban development.

These activities have led to a reduction of red spruce forests in West Virginia.

This habitat loss and change might give the southern flying squirrel a hedge over the northern species. 

Still, recent surveys have revealed that northern flying squirrels are more abundant today than in 1985.

Most of these creatures are under constant protection in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.

Due to this improvement, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing the status of these squirrels from endangered to threatened.

2. Guyandotte River Crayfish

The Guyandotte River crayfish (Cambarus veteranus) is a crayfish native to West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky.

It is closely related to the Big Sandy crayfish, and both were once thought to be the same species.

Although there is no data to estimate the number of Guyandotte River crayfish that exist accurately, it has been detected that several of these crayfish have disappeared from most of the streams in the three states.

The Guyandotte River crayfish once inhabited about six stream systems of its historic habitat in West Virginia but lost more than 80% of its home, now occupying a small stream system in Wyoming County.

The major causes are sedimentation, reduced water quality, and ongoing erosion.

Therefore, the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Guyandotte River crayfish as endangered in 2016, while the Big Sandy crayfish was listed as threatened.

Conservation efforts have been put in place to protect these crustaceans, including designating more than 440 stream miles of critical habitat to sustain both species in West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky.

1. Diamond Darter

Diamond darter
Diamond darter | USFS via Wikimedia Public Domain

The diamond darter (Crystallaria cincotta) got its name from the sparkles it reflects when it comes in contact with light.

It is a species of freshwater ray-finned fish and belongs to the Percidae family.

This is another creature listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service since 2013.

This fish once dominated the Elk, Cumberland, Muskingum, and Green Rivers, which were all extensions of the Ohio River Basin between 1980 and 2005.

Several factors, including water quality issues and river alterations, have led to the diminishing population of the diamond darter.

In 2008, a survey discovered that the Elk River in West Virginia holds the few diamond darters left worldwide.

Since these fish have a small population, they are even more vulnerable to invasive species, toxic spills, habitat loss, etc.


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