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  • Theora Steward

Endangered Animals of Oregon

By Addison Soder, Maddie Nelson, and Theora Steward

Oregon is a lush and beautiful state. With rushing rivers and majestic mountains, this area is the perfect home for many different species of animals. From whales to desert foxes, this state is permeated with amazing and wondrous creatures, but many of these animals are starting to rapidly disappear from our ecosystems. 


Climate change and habitat loss affect many of the incredible animals here. Due to deforestation, many forest habitats have shrunk in size. With many creatures popping up on the endangered/threatened list, we have to start taking more action. 


The fate of our creatures is on the line and, at this point, it is up to us to save them. 

Reptiles 

Many different amphibians and reptiles love the lakes and rivers of Oregon. Newts, frogs, and turtles can be found in many different areas of the state as well as different types of snakes. 


Some of these animals are in danger, though. Reptiles, including loggerhead sea turtles, Western Painted turtles, Northern Sagebrush lizards, Western Rattlesnakes, and California Mountain Kingsnakes are of these few. 


The Western Rattlesnake is one of these reptiles that have been either threatened or are endangered. The main cause for this would be habitat loss. Often found in dry areas with low or sparse vegetation, and the ill-treatment of humans can decrease or wipe out populations. Being that rattlesnakes try very hard to avoid human or other animal confrontations, they will often warn those approaching them with the loud rattle of their tail. Most of these rattlesnakes are not found under 7,000 ft of elevation in Oregon.


Another endangered or threatened reptile is the Northwest Pond Turtle. These small creatures are often found in marshes, streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. These turtles are threatened or endangered due to habitat loss, change of potential nesting areas, invasive species, and road mortality. Nesting loss can be caused by animal intervention or invasive plants. In the Cascades, the Northwest Pond Turtle are found below the elevation of 6,000 ft. 


There are many ways to help these beautiful animals. For example, if you see a turtle (whether or not it’s a Northwest Pond Turtle or Western Painted Turtle) help it across the road so that it doesn’t get crushed.  We can help the Western Rattlesnake population by spreading correct information so that they do not get killed in cold blood. This means telling those around you that rattlesnakes are not aggressive and tend to shy away from people and other types of confrontations. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone too.

Birds                                                                                                                                                 _

Oregon’s beaches and forests are the perfect place for some quality bird watching. With nearly 500 species, Oregon is home to amazing and majestic birds. Research done by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says that there are 8 bird species that are either threatened or endangered, some of which are natives only found in Oregon and the surrounding states. 


Snowy plovers, little birds found on the Oregon coast, are an example of this. They are found in California, Oregon, and Washington. This species is threatened due to excessive beach use, which promotes nest abandonment and creates the reduction of nesting opportunities. This water bird also has low breeding success due to disturbance, predation, and inclement weather. Helping these small birds relies largely on supporting plover protection and habitat restoration. 


Another shore bird that is classified as either threatened or endangered is the California Brown Pelican. Research and studies conducted by the Oregon Conservation Strategy Species says that this large bird inhabits rocky, sandy, or vegetated islands. It also explains that they rely on nearshore, pelagic, and estuarine habitat for foraging and use offshore and inaccessible islands and rocks for nesting and roosting. These pelicans are highly vulnerable to oil spills and over-fishing. 


Helping these species as well as others is of top priority. They are both in danger because of human disturbance and over-fishing. With their food sources shrinking and their breeding success plummeting, both of these species are in dire need of assistance. 

Fish                                                                                                                                                   _

With an abundant supply of lakes, rivers, oceans, and streams, fish are common in this area. Many species, including trout and some types of salmon, are very regularly seen in Oregon’s waterways and are of no concern. 

Other species, like the Lower Columbia River Chinook Salmon, Pacific Lamprey, and the Lost River Suckers are either endangered or threatened.  


The Lower Columbia River Chinook Salmon is currently threatened, due to competition with other species of fish for space and food. These fish are commonly found in the Columbia River, but also other rivers as well.   


Pacific Lamprey are presently ‘at risk’ because of blocked passage barriers when they migrate from different bodies of water. With that being the main reason for their extinction status, climate change, predators not native to the area, and poor habitat conditions are also reasons for their population decline. Some hatcheries try to prevent the diminish of the Lamprey population, mostly by making Lamprey fish ladders to make the travel between bodies of water easier for them.


The Lost River Sucker is labeled as endangered, partly owing to the fact that humans introduced non-native species to the area in which they live. After non-native species were introduced, Lost River Suckers were prone to uncooperative relationships with them, or in other words, they had negative interactions with human introduced species. Water quality is also a factor of their downfall. Added together, all the endangerment factors sum up to an undesirable future for Lost River suckers. 


“Never a dull moment,” Mrs. Kelly Coates, Resource Director for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, said after being asked about her field of work. Ms. Coates gets to work with fish as a part of her job, and mentioned how one of the best things the public can do to help the endangerment problem is stay educated, and keep the great outdoors clean. 


All these fish are important to the habitat that other animals live in. If an animal species goes extinct, it could be lethal to other animals in the area. Humans have to be mindful of the way that they are treating these crucial animals, and those with the power to help, must.  

Mammals                                                                                                                                          _

One of the largest of the animal families, mammals, are some of the most regularly seen endangered animals. Oregonian mammals are beautifully unique, some of which are only native to this area and the states around it. 

Seventeen of these species are either federally threatened or endangered. These include the Pacific Marten, Grey Whale, Fin Whale, Kit Fox, and the Wolverine. 


In the late 1700’s, fur trading was a major source of income for pioneers. The Oregon Encyclopedia says that, “Europeans and, later, Canadians and Americans, hunted and trapped furs”. Beavers, otters, racoons, deer, and bears were all primary targets due to their thick fur pelts. The constant hunt for these species diminished their populations tremendously. 


One of these species of concern, at the moment, are Kit Foxes. These small desert mammals are mainly nocturnal and inhabit deserts and semiarid regions. 


Although they are a rare sight, they inhabit a wide area, most of the western part of the United States. They have a low population and are threatened by local predation, habitat loss, and vehicle collisions, explains the Oregon Conservation Strategy Species organization. 


This species is currently being radio tagged and GPS collared to help future scientists track these mammals. The Kit Fox monitoring project works to help track Kit Foxes for further conservation actions. 


Another species of mammal lives in the opposite ecosystem, yet is similarly threatened. The Steller Sea Lions live near or in the oceans of Oregon. In surveys taken by the Oregon Conservation organization, it was found that Steller Sea Lions were observed in 10 sites along the Oregon Coast.


This large ocean mammal is gregarious, meaning that they form in large groups called herds or rafts. These rafts can include from hundreds to thousands of individuals. Sea Lions usually group together for breeding season and are usually seen lying on sandy beaches. 


This large aquatic mammal is threatened by human disturbance during pupping (a baby sea lion is called a pup) and diseases spread by dogs and other human introduced animals. They also have low productivity, so their populations are low. By watching for population increases and decreases, the general public can help fill scientific data gaps. Both of these species, although they live in opposite ecosystems, have many different problems and threats.  By helping to educate people about these problems, we can try to further boost conservation efforts.

Overview                                                                                                                                          _

Oregon is full of wondrous wildlife. Its amazing climate makes this area the perfect place for animals. Although some of these species are abundant and thrive here, others are not doing so well. Their populations are quickly vanishing due to many problems, natural and man-made. 


These issues can be amended though. By reducing human interaction and disturbance, the public can help increase population. When people restrict human access to nesting areas, they can increase the probability of breeding. Contacting and assisting conservation groups can also help to protect these valuable creatures. 


By doing all that we can to spread awareness, physically help, and educate others about this cause, we can better ensure the future of our valuable Oregonian species.

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