image

Photograph by Joe Mac Hudspeth, Jr. · www.southernfocus.com

Magazine


Top 5 Extirpated or Extinct Animals of Mississippi

image

Mississippi has 85 species and subspecies of plants and animals that are officially recognized as endangered. These species are part of the rich biological diversity of our state and losing any plant or animal to extinction or extirpation is a tremendous loss. Below are some of the animals no longer found in Mississippi due to extinction or extirpation.

  1. Passenger PigeonEctopistes migratorius, The Passenger Pigeon was a pigeon native to North America. Famous for its epic migrations, that would “darken the sky”. Passenger Pigeon populations are believed to once number in the billions. Similar in appearance to Mourning Doves, the last wild Passenger Pigeon is believed to have been shot in 1901.
  2. Red Wolf Canis rufus. The Red Wolf, is a canid native to the southeast. The Red Wolf is slightly larger than a Coyote but smaller than a Gray Wolf. Hybridization with Coyotes, habitat loss, and overly aggressive predator control led to the extirpation of the Red Wolf in most of its native range. Currently less than 100 remain in North Carolina.
  3. Ivory Billed Woodpecker - Campephilus principalis – The Ivory Billed Woodpecker is one of the largest woodpecker species in the world. In 2005 researchers with Cornell University published research and evidence of a sighting in the White River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. Several sightings have been reported since, the latest in 2017 along the Pearl River has attracted attention but not been confirmed.
  4. Florida PantherPuma concolor – The Florida Panther once roamed the large virgin tracts of timber that covered most of Mississippi. Habitat loss across the southeast has pushed the Florida Panther into smaller and smaller areas. As of 2017 it was estimated that 250 wild Florida Panthers roamed the southeast. Most of these were located in south Florida.
  5. The Carolina Parakeet - Conuropsis carolinensis was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. It was found from southern New York and Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico, and lived in old forests along rivers. The last known wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County, Florida, in 1904.

It was once believed that there were so many Passenger Pigeons that they were an inexhaustible resource. The extirpation and eventual extinction of the Passenger Pigeon was a catalyst that helped jump start conservation efforts in the early 20th century. The Bald Eagle, American Alligator and Louisiana Black Bear are examples in Mississippi of how conservation and enhancement of habitat can lead to the recovery of a species.