Endangered Species in the Field Guide

American burying beetle
Nicrophorus americanus

This brightly patterned beetle specializes in cleaning carrion from the landscape, burying dead mice, birds, and other creatures. It is endangered in our nation and in our state, and restoration efforts are under way.

Image of bachman's sparrow
Aimophila aestivalis

This large, ground-nesting sparrow is listed as Endangered in Missouri, where its historic habitat is in decline.

Image of a blanding's turtle
Emydoidea blandingii

Blanding’s turtle has an oval, moderately high-domed upper shell and a long head and neck. This medium-sized turtle is endangered in Missouri.

Color illustration of Central Mudminnow
Umbra limi

Mudminnows are a small family of only six species and are most closely related to the pikes. This is the only mudminnow that occurs in our state, and it is rare, occurring only in a few marshy locations near the Mississippi River.

Color illustration of Crystal Darter
Crystallaria asprella

This pale, very slender darter is Endangered in Missouri. Formerly known from many river drainages in the east-central and southeastern parts of our state, it apparently now lives only in the Gasconade and Black rivers.

Color illustration of Cypress Minnow
Hybognathus hayi

Missouri’s Bootheel lowlands are unlike any other place in the state, and many of the animals and plants that live there occur nowhere else within our borders. The cypress minnow, like the habitat it prefers, is in danger of vanishing from Missouri.

Photo of several decurrent false asters in bloom
Boltonia decurrens

A big river floodplain species, decurrent false aster has declined as wetlands have been drained and converted to agricultural crop production.

Image of a spotted skunk
Spilogale putorius

There are two species of skunks in Missouri, the more familiar striped skunk and the lesser-known spotted skunk. The spotted skunk has been declining drastically in recent years because of habitat loss.

Photograph of Ebonyshell freshwater mussel shell exterior view
Fusconaia ebena

At one time the most valuable shell to the commercial button industry, the ebonyshell is now classified as Endangered in Missouri and is a candidate for federal Endangered status.

elephant's ear
Elliptio crassidens

Today found only in the Meramec River, the elephantear has been classified as Endangered in Missouri and is a candidate for federal Endangered status.

Color illustration of Flathead Chub
Platygobio gracilis

This active, big-river fish formerly occurred along the entire length of the Missouri River. In the 1940s, it constituted 31 percent of all small fishes in the Missouri River! By the early 1980s, that figure was 1.1 percent. Today, it has all but vanished from our state.

Photo of a geocarpon plant showing stems and foliage
Geocarpon minimum

Geocarpon is a minute, inconspicuous plant found almost exclusively on sandstone glade outcrops. Extremely rare, it is a Species of Conservation Concern. It is related to carnations! Efforts are being made to keep this unique plant from disappearing from our state.

Etheostoma parvipinne

One of the rarest darters in our state, the endangered goldstripe has exacting habitat requirements: It needs small, shallow, shaded, spring-fed streams with clear water and a low to moderate gradient. What it doesn’t need is siltation, pollution, channel restriction and removal of the tree canopy above!

Image of a gray bat
Myotis grisescens

Gray bats are difficult to distinguish from little brown bats and Indiana bats. The key identifying feature of the gray bat is that its wing is attached to the ankle and not at the base of the toes.

Collared, grayish-tan wolf in open field
Canis lupus

The gray wolf originally ranged throughout Missouri, but with settlement the species was gradually exterminated. While there is no evidence of a breeding population in the state, wolves are listed as a protected species in Missouri, and they occasionally wander into Missouri from northern states.

Photo of a male greater prairie-chicken in courtship display
Tympanuchus cupido

This rare bird breeds in select grasslands in the spring, filling the air with their unusual booming calls. With their numbers dwindling, prairie-chickens need strong conservation support.

Illustration of a grotto sculpin, side view.
Cottus specus

A rare fish adapted cave conditions, the grotto sculpin used to be considered simply a different form of banded sculpin. It has recently been designated an endangered species under the Federal Endangered Species Act. It's found only in Perry County, Missouri.

Color illustration of Harlequin Darter-Male
Etheostoma histrio

In Missouri, this rare darter is found only in our southeastern lowlands. It lives in flowing streams and ditches with sandy bottoms among logs, sticks and other organic debris. It is State Endangered because its small numbers and limited range make it vulnerable to extirpation.

hellbender, a large brown salamander resting in gravelly streambed
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

You might think they’re ugly by human standards, but these giant amphibians are a unique part of our wildlife heritage; they direly need help, or they might become extinct within twenty years.

Image of an indiana bat
Myotis sodalis

Indiana bats summer along streams and rivers in north Missouri, raising their young under bark of certain trees. They are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Missouri.

Lake sturgeon illustration
Acipenser fulvenscens

The largest of Missouri’s three sturgeons is rare and endangered in our state. One way to identify it is by its conical (not shovel-nosed) snout. And despite its name, in our state this fish is almost always found in big rivers—not lakes.

Image of a least tern
Sternula antillarum

Originally, this water bird lived on islands, beaches and sandbars in big rivers, but as these areas have become rare, least terns have been forced to “make do” with dredge islands, dikefields, sandpits and gravel roads atop levees. Because of their habitat loss, they are now endangered.

Percina nasuta

The next time you are enjoying the waters of Table Rock Lake, remember the longnose darter, which used to inhabit the White River when it still flowed through that area. This is why it’s important to protect this Endangered darter’s few remaining streams from sedimentation and pollution.

Image of a massasauga
Sistrurus catenatus

This shy, reclusive, nonaggressive rattlesnake used to live in floodplain wetlands of the Mississippi, Missouri and Grand rivers, but as those wetlands have been drained and destroyed, the massasauga has disappeared with them. Now it is an endangered species.

Photo of Mead's milkweed flower cluster and upper stem leaves
Asclepias meadii

Mead’s milkweed, an endangered plant, once flourished in the tallgrass prairies of the Midwestern United States, including most of Missouri.

Image of a Mississippi green watersnake
Nerodia cyclopion

The Mississippi green watersnake is a medium-sized, heavy-bodied, dark-colored semiaquatic snake that was once somewhat common in southeastern Missouri. The back is dark greenish brown, and the belly is dark gray with numerous yellow half-circles.

Photo of Missouri bladderpod flowers
Physaria filiformis (formerly Lesquerella filiformis)

Missouri bladderpod is a small, yellow-flowered member of the mustard family that is found only in southwest Missouri. It gets its name from the spherical fruits or “bladders” that contain seeds.

Color illustration of Mountain Madtom
Noturus eleutherus

This small catfish is rare and endangered in Missouri. It has been recorded from only a few locations in the southeastern portion of the state.

Neosho Madtom
Noturus placidus

This endangered species is the smallest catfish in Missouri, where it lives under rocks in riffles or runs, in the clear water of Spring River in Jasper County.

Photograph of a Niangua darter
Etheostoma nianguae

Two small, jet-black spots at the base of the tail fin distinguish this small fish from the more than 30 other darters found in our state. Known from only a few tributaries of the Osage River, this dainty and colorful fish is a nationally threatened species.

Image of an Ozark cavefish
Amblyopsis rosae

This small, colorless, blind fish lives its entire life in springs, cave streams and underground waters. It has been declared Endangered in our state and as Threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Pallid sturgeon illustration
Scaphirhynchus albus

Similar to shovelnose sturgeon, but with a longer and more pointed snout. Bases of the inner barbels are weakly fringed, and the base of an inner barbel is less than half the width of the base of an outer barbel.

Closeup photo of head of peregrine falcon
Falco peregrinus

The fastest living animal, this bird can dive at speeds of up to 261 miles per hour! It is currently being reintroduced to the state in urban areas, where skyscrapers replace the cliffs it traditionally nested on.

pink mucket
Lampsilis abrupta

This endangered native mussel lives in flowing waters of large streams among gravel and cobble.

Photo of pondberry showing bark, red berries, leaves
Lindera melissifolia

Also called southern spicebush, this colony-forming shrub grows in swampy depressions in lowland forests. It is an Endangered species. In Missouri, only one population occurs, in southern Ripley County.

Etheostoma whipplei

One of the rarest darters in Missouri is part of a highly distinctive fish community living in the lower Spring River and its North Fork, in Jasper and Barton counties. Just as the landscape transitions from prairie to Ozarks, the stream character changes, there, too.

Image of running buffalo clover
Trifolium stoloniferum

Running buffalo clover spreads by sending out long, creeping runners. Now endangered, this native perennial once flourished along streams and buffalo trails throughout the grasslands of the eastern and central United States.

Notropis sabinae

Missouri’s southeastern lowlands are home to a fantastic array of plants and animals found nowhere else in the state. The Sabine shiner is one of them—in Missouri, it’s known only from a short stretch of the Black River in Butler County.

Leptodea leptodon

Rarely seen, this Endangered freshwater mussel has a thin and delicate shell that is strikingly beautiful inside.

Photograph of Sheepnose freshwater mussel shell exterior view
Plethobasus cyphyus

The sheepnose has been classified as Endangered in Missouri and is a candidate for federal Endangered status.

Epioblasma triquetra

The snuffbox has been classified as Endangered in Missouri and is a candidate for federal Endangered status. Perhaps it should also be a candidate for a new common name, since the popularity of snuff-taking is long past.

Color illustration of spring cavefish, an endangered species
Forbesichthys agassizi

This is the only cavefish in our state that has eyes, however small, and whose body is yellowish-brown or brown; our other cavefishes lack eyes entirely and are pale and nearly colorless.

Color illustration of Swamp Darter
Etheostoma fusiforme

Darters usually prefer the swift, clear waters of streams and riffles, but this darter is different. True to its name, it prefers swamps and sloughs with no current at all. Rare in our state, it’s found only in a few southeast Missouri locations.

Color illustration of Taillight Shiner
Notropis maculatus

One of the rarest Missouri minnows, the taillight shiner is known only from a few localities in Southeast Missouri—in habitats representing the last remnants of low-gradient streams and swamps that once characterized that region.

Image of a topeka shiner
Notropis topeka

Currently found in only a few Missouri streams, this endangered native minnow has declined precipitously because of environmental pollution, siltation and loss or alteration of habitat.

Deirochelys reticularia miaria

The western chicken turtle is a small-to medium-sized turtle with an oval shell and extremely long neck. It is endangered in Missouri, occurring only in the Mississippi Lowlands in the extreme southeastern part of the state.

Photo of a western prairie fringed orchid plant with flowers
Platanthera praeclara

Western prairie fringed orchid is endangered and known only from a few northwestern locations in our state. Learn about this showy native wildflower of Missouri’s western prairies, and why it’s so important to preserve our remaining tallgrass prairies.

Kinosternon flavescens flavescens

The yellow mud turtle is a small, olive to dark-colored, semiaquatic turtle restricted to west-central, northeastern, and southwestern Missouri and is an endangered species in our state.

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