After going to school in Boone for the past four years, I’ve started to consider the Appalachian mountains home. I’m not one of the most well-travelled people out there, but I still think that the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve seen the sunrises and sunsets, hiked the trails, and camped, so it feels fitting this week to do some research on the more vulnerable creatures who currently live there.
This list is of seven species of wildlife that call the Appalachian Mountains home. They are all either endangered or threatened in some way, federally, internationally, or locally. To learn more about other threatened species and how to help, visit the World Wildlife Fund website for more information.
- Bog Turtle
The Bog Turtle is the smallest turtle currently living in the United States – the largest Bog Turtle comes in at only 4.5 inches! They are listed as a threatened species federally and in North Carolina, critically endangered internationally, and endangered in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Bog Turtles live in -shockingly- bogs and enjoy muddy, swampy environments. Due to recent global climate change, they have become more threatened as their wetland habitats have dried up. Keep an eye out for Bog Turtles and the recognizable orange patch on their heads.
- Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel
This little guy has been here since the last Ice Age, can you believe it? Although now considered endangered both at state and federal levels, the Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel has been around for too long to quit now! Their name suggests that they can fly, but like other flying squirrels they actually glide in the air. They live at high altitudes in cool moist areas, and can be distinguished usually by how high up the mountain that they live. Have you spotted any of these critters yet?
- Indiana Bat
The scientific name for these guys is Myotis sodalis, and the Myotis part means “mouse ear,” which I think is so cute. Although they have Indiana in the name, they do live in Kentucky, New York, Alabama, and of course, North Carolina. They hibernate in caves for the winter and woods for the summer, and roost in dying trees in small groups.They’re currently endangered due to the lack of cave space for hibernation and White Nose Syndrome, a fungus that harms many other bat species. It may be hard to pick the Indiana Bat out from other bats, so be on the lookout for them
- Small-whorled Pogonia
Small-whorled Pogonia is a plant that reminds me a bit of a lady slipper, only more green. It’s self pollinating and works together with mycorrhizal fungi to germinate. It’s generally considered endangered, due to a restricted size of habitat. Land development and pipelines get in the way of its partnerships with fungi, and seeds are left small and vulnerable. To aid in it’s growth always be sure to stay on hiking trails and try not to step on outside vegetation.
- Appalachian Cottontail
How could I not leave the rabbit for last? He may look like the rabbit that eats all the flowers in your garden, but they are near threatened internationally and in need of conservation. Usually distinguishable by a black spot between the ears, this bunny can use your help by avoiding trapping and hunting in the Appalachian area. They enjoy brushy woodlands and eating black berries and blueberries.