Learning about Endangered Wildlife in Virginia

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started my rehabilitation externship at the Wildlife Center. I mostly wondered what kind of animals I’d work with;  I  realized pretty quickly that I did not know the wildlife in Virginia as well as I thought I did. Most embarrassingly, I honestly thought there were not nearly as many species of hawks as there are in Virginia. We got in every type very quickly, and I thought it was really cool to see them up close in person. This got me thinking -- if I never really saw those types of hawks and other animals just because of my lack of knowledge, what animals was I unaware of because they are endangered?  I did some research and realized I didn’t know any of the top endangered animals in their respective animal classes.

The Bog Turtle is the top of the list for endangered amphibians and reptiles in Virginia. They are a very small (about four inches long when full grown), black, semi-aquatic turtle species. They are easily identifiable by the reddish or orange spot on either side of their heads. Bog turtles prefer to live in boggy marshlands surrounded by woodlands. Humans have been greatly responsible for the endangerment of this turtle; its extremely sensitive habitat is easy to destroy and the species is very sensitive to pollution as well.


In the aviation department, the Piping Plover is at the top of the list of endangered birds in Virginia. It resembles the common Killdeer, which is commonly seen in Virginia. These birds look like tiny little fluff balls on orange stilt legs. They are a sandy white in color with a black band over their shoulders and on their foreheads. Plovers were common along the Atlantic Coast in the 19th century, but are now on the endangered species list due to being hunted for their feathers (for decoration), along with habitat destruction.

The most endangered freshwater Virginian fish is the Duskytail darter. Not much is actually known about this fish, though they prefer slow-moving streams with low amounts of silt. Clinch River and Copper Creek are the only two places populations of these fish are seen, which are located in southwestern Virginia. Darters have a sunset orange color with black splotchy stripes. They have two sets of spines along their back, one of which has black along the top back set of spines. Pollution and disease have affected this species.

The Gray Bat is one of the top three most endangered mammals in Virginia. Gray Bats can grow to 7-16 grams by the time they are adults. They are a very sensitive mammal and it is very hard for their huge colonies to find proper undisturbed habitat in which they can live and hibernate. The undisturbed hibernation is key in their survival. Gray Bats store energy during hibernation; if they are disturbed, they end up using the energy, which causes them to cause bats to leave their hibernation spot in search of food. Many bats that emerge too early in cold temperatures do not survive; tragic numbers of bats can die if disturbed.

As my time here at the Wildlife Center comes to a close, I am glad to know that I completed my externship and was able to learn as much as I have about the wildlife in Virginia and how to help them survive.

WCV Class of 2017