Wilkes University

Endangered and Threatened Species

Wilkes University Professor Edits Book About Pennsylvania Endangered Species and Threatened Species

 Endangered Species
Information about Endangered and Threatened Species

The first comprehensive examination of Pennsylvania’s Endangered and Threatened Species in 25 years reveals that 133 threatened species merit conservation concern. Some, like the bog turtle and Indiana bat, are endangered, whereas others such as the blue winged warbler and the tundra swan, are designated as Responsibility Species, which means the state must play a key role in keeping their numbers healthy.

The 400-page book, Terrestrial Vertebrates of Pennsylvania: A Complete Guide to Species of Conservation Concern, is a comprehensive account of Endangered species and Threatened Species in Pennsylvania threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal harvesting, pollution, and new and emerging threats from white-nose syndrome, invasive species, and wind and gas energy exploitation.  It was researched by a team of 75 author-biologists, 40 photographers, and dozens of peer reviewers who collectively produced the guide to in part inform the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wildlife Action Plan.

The book’s lead editor, Wilkes University’s noted biology Professor Michael Steele, said he “hopes the effort serves to educate people of the eastern U.S. about the enormous challenges and responsibility that we have to conserve and manage these critical natural resources. This was a tremendous effort on everyone’s part.”
In his foreward to the book, Carl G. Roe, executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which commissioned the book, wrote that any wildlife enthusiast would find the reference guide an asset. “It provides critical information concerning the basic biology of these terrestrial vertebrates, the requirements for their continued sustainability and a plan for their future research and management.”
The book examines 133 species of reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals that are formally identified as Endangered species and Threatened Species in Pennsylvania. The book does not address fish. Detailed accounts of each species’ biology, the reasons for concern, and the measures needed to ensure continued survival make up most of the entries, along with photographs and detailed range maps that show just about every corner of the state is home to a species of concern. 
Some examples of  Endangered Species and Threatened Species:
•    Thirty six of the state’s 76 species of reptiles and amphibians, are designated as Species of Conservation Concern. Included are the spotted, wood and bog turtles, all considered species of greatest conservation need because of their uncertain status and evidence of population declines due to, among other concerns, habitat destruction.
•    The timber rattlesnake, which can live up to 30 years, has been listed as a species of greatest conservation need because of its steep population declines from illegal killing and collection.
•    The loggerhead shrike, a bird once seen in western Pennsylvania, “appears to be currently extirpated” from Pennsylvania.

The book also recognizes successful conservation efforts such as the Pennsylvania River Otter Reintroduction Project, which is credited with helping that species recover.
Steele co-editors are Margaret C. Brittingham, professor of wildlife resources at Pennsylvania State University; Timothy J. Maret, professor of biology at Shippensburg University; and Joseph E. Merritt, senior mammalogist with the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The book’s contributors are experts on their respective species and focus their writing on conservation priorities, research needs, management recommendations and detailed explanations for each species’ conservation status.  Terrestrial Vertebrates of Pennsylvania is valuable reference for students, conservation biologists, wildlife and land managers and naturalists. The guide was published in December 2010 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

To view video about this book and Endangered Species, please click here.
About the lead editor:
Dr. Steele is chair of the biology department at Wilkes. An internationally recognized authority on tree squirrels and oak ecology, Steele’s other research interests include aspects of behavioral ecology, evolutionary biology, plant-animal interactions and parasite-host interactions. Steele is the author or editor of four other books and more than 70 research publications. He was the primary author of a $1 million grant that Wilkes received in 2008 from the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute to expand undergraduate research opportunities. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The U.S. Fulbright Foundation, and several state agencies.