Volume 4 • Issue 6 • June 2010

Report Those Rare Species!

Your Help is Needed

In Oklahoma, there are these things called rare species.  You hear the name or see a picture and think, “I have NEVER seen anything like this.”  Well, they do exist and could actually be close to you! 

The black-tailed prairie dog is one of these important species. Photo by Lesley B. McNeff.

Ok, so what exactly is a rare species?  Easily said, a rare species is one that is very uncommon or scarce.  But did you know that just because a species is rare, it's not always considered threatened, endangered or vulnerable.  There are those that have large numbers in particular areas and you can almost count on seeing them.  Some of these include American alligators, black-tailed prairie dogs and barn owls.

So why do species become rare?  Here are seven important reasons:

1. Changes in habitats, both on land and in water

2. Introduced and invasive species tend to compete with native species, carry disease or degrade their habitat

3. Various contaminants such as pesticides, herbicides, industrial and automobile emissions and many other things play a huge role

4. Human reduction in the number of the species due to “threat” or “poor quality”

5. Being “geographically limited”: limited in amount of land habitats

6. Vulnerable characteristics such as low rates of reproduction or requiring large home ranges

7. Disease from outside of species ranges

Yes, these are almost depressing reasons.  But they are a reminder to watch those antics you perform!  Keep your head up and an eye out for those animals and let us know when and where they are seen.

If you have information on the location of a rare animal and would like to help us build the list, please contact us. This data will help us develop important habitat mapping and look at wildlife trends.  In the end your help will actually help us in developing strategies for conserving those threatened, endangered and vulnerable species.

Written by Lesley B. Carson. Lesley is the wildlife diversity information specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Small Mussel, Fancy Name

The Lilliput

Freshwater mussels are fascinating creatures and are an important part of native ecosystems.  Mussels are filter feeders and can help improve water quality and clarity.  They can also serve as biological indicators of the environment and are strongly tied to aquatic food webs.  Freshwater mussel populations have been declining worldwide due to habitat degradation and fragmentation therefore conservation efforts are crucial for sustainability of these special invertebrates.

The lilliput mussel is known by its small size.
One of these native freshwater mussels, the lilliput (Toxolasma parvus), is common in some parts of Oklahoma and grows to only be one inch in length.  Lilliputs are mostly found in ponds or lakes but can also be noticed in pools of fast-flowing streams.  This tiny mussel relies on fish hosts such as bluegill, green sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish, and crappie for reproduction.  As part of the mussel’s complex life cycle, the female must get her larvae to attach onto the gills or fins of a fish host.  The female lilliput entices host fish to get near by using a lure mechanism that resembles two white-colored worms.

The lilliput is among one of the smallest mussels in the family Unionidae.  They can be identified first by their small size and dark brown shell and secondly by a simple touch.  This mussel has a cloth-like texture and some say it feels like wet leather.

Lilliputs are fairly common in Oklahoma and are found throughout most of state.

Written by Curtis Tackett. Curtis is the aquatic nuisance species biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Finding "Lost" Wildlife

Oh, My! What to Do?

Here are our recommendations on what to do when you find “lost” wildlife.  You might consider printing this information out and placing the article on your refrigerator to use as a quick reference.

People often find eggs or young birds in their yards during the spring and summer.  If the nest is visible, place the eggs or young birds back in the nest.  Contrary to popular belief, songbirds do not have a well-developed sense of smell and will not abandon their young if you touch them.  If you find eggs but can not find the nest, leave them alone – it is illegal to possess wild bird eggs.  Generally, the parents will re-nest.

If a partially or completely un-feathered hatchling bird is found out of the nest, put it back in the nest.  If the nest is too high or is not visible, construct an artificial nest by wiring a grocery store berry basket or other open-top container to the trunk of the same tree.  Line the basket with dry grass clippings to form a cup.  Place the chick in the nest and cover it with a couple of sheets of Kleenex.    If you find a completely feathered young bird, you can assume that it has left the nest on its own and is still under parental care.  You might wish to place the young bird on the top of a shrub away from predators. 

Mammals however are a different story.  Most young mammals that are found alone, including deer, rabbit, squirrel and raccoon are only hiding or have wandered away from the parents, which are nearby searching for food.  If you touch the young mammal, your scent may either frighten the parent away or make it easier for predators to find the animal.  The best thing to do is simply leave it alone.

Be aware that wildlife species are not always successful each year in raising young and though we believe we have an obligation to try and save young wildlife, we are limited in our ability and knowledge to raise them so that they are healthy enough to reproduce the following year.  Please keep in mind that possessing some native animals and all native birds without a permit is illegal and subject to fine. 

If you need to contact a wildlife rehabilitator please click here or contact the game warden in your area for information.

Written by Melynda Hickman. Melynda is a wildlife diversity biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Our Mission:

The WILDLIFE DIVERSITY PROGRAM monitors and manages the state's wildlife and fish species that are not hunted or fished.