Preliminary Review of Florida’s Threatened Wildlife Under Way

By: FWC Release
By: FWC Release

FWC Release --

The preliminary findings of biological status reviews on listed species reveal success stories for some of Florida’s most vulnerable species. Although work is still under way, in early November, experts appointed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) began to review the information and data received on 61 state-listed species against Florida’s listing criteria. The groups found that several species may no longer be at risk of extinction and may not need to be listed.

“We hope these preliminary findings will result in the discovery that our conservation measures in the past decade have had measurable, beneficial impacts on wildlife in Florida,” said Dr. Elsa Haubold, who heads up the FWC’s threatened-species listing process team.

Ten currently listed mammals have undergone the preliminary status reviews, and initial results indicate that five species do not meet listing criteria. These species include the Florida black bear, chipmunk, Florida mouse, Homosassa shrew and Sherman’s fox squirrel. Four of 21 currently state-listed birds also do not meet the criteria: limpkin, brown pelican, snowy egret and white ibis.

The biological status review groups found that the following bird and mammal species met at least one of the listing criteria: American oystercatcher, least tern, little blue heron, reddish egret, roseate spoonbill, tricolored heron, osprey, southeastern American kestrel, white-crowned pigeon, Florida sandhill crane, Marian’s marsh wren, Scott’s seaside sparrow, Wakulla seaside sparrow, Worthington’s marsh wren, black skimmer, snowy plover, burrowing owl, Everglades mink, Florida bonneted bat, Sanibel Island rice rat, Sherman’s short-tailed shrew and Big Cypress fox squirrel.

Haubold cautions this is only the first step in the careful process of studying the status of these species. After all 61 species receive the scrutiny of the biological status review teams, composed of recognized experts and led by an FWC staff member, the reports will be sent for review to national and international experts for each wildlife species. However, before the Commission removes any species from the list, a management plan will have to be written and approved. One goal of the management plans is to ensure the species never reaches a high risk of extinction again, which would result in the need to re-list the species.

The reviews in Florida are still under way for many of the remaining 61 species, and the preliminary findings will be available sometime in early December. The Commission could consider staff recommendations as early as April.

“This is a huge effort on the part of the teams, and the process is working very well,” Haubold said. “But this does not mean our work is done – far from it. We still have lots to do to ensure no species ever goes extinct in Florida.”

One of the species reviewed was the Florida black bear, which is currently listed as threatened in Florida. The biological review group found black bear numbers have increased and the population is not in decline. However, before any change in status is made, several steps must be completed, including developing a management plan that ensures the species will continue to thrive in the future. The FWC is currently accepting public and stakeholder input on the draft bear-management plan to make sure it contains the best possible objectives and strategies to conserve Florida black bears.

“When a species is delisted – no longer in danger of extinction – it is truly a reason to celebrate,” Haubold said. “It means Florida’s past efforts to increase protected and well-managed habitat, educate the public and manage the population have resulted in the very best possible scenario: a species brought back from a high risk of extinction.”

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