Endangered Species in Michigan

Piping plover in background
Piping plover in background | Source

Chances are you that you know a little bit about various endangered species. And, of course you’re (more than likely) familiar with pandas, tigers, and sea turtles. What you might not know is that there are endangered species living in every US State! Each individual state has a number of species that are slowly dying out in their region.

If you want to help endangered species, you can really make a huge impression right in your own backyard.

It’s a great idea to learn which plants and animals on the endangered species list live in your state. Some of them are actually pretty cool (and totally worth saving!)

If you live in Michigan, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a list of a few endangered species that live right here in Michigan (and a little bit of info about each one.) After learning about each plant and animal, you can get a start on working out a solution for the species that live in your area.

The shoreline of the Great Lakes provides a home to Pitcher’s thistle
The shoreline of the Great Lakes provides a home to Pitcher’s thistle

Canada Lynx

The Canada lynx is on the “threatened list.” This small breed of wild cat has silver-ish brown fur, sometimes with black highlights and is said to resemble a bobcat. While located mostly in Canada, they are known to make forays into some of the more northern states, such as Michigan and Washington. Their numbers have dwindled due to trapping for their fur, which is thick and warm.

These timid cats mostly feed on small animals and, like most cats, are primarily nocturnal. That said, there have been daytime sightings of these beautiful cats.

Canada Lynx kittens
Canada Lynx kittens | Source

Piping Plover

This bird is mostly found along the shores of Lakes Michigan and Superior and the Atlantic coastline. Because these little birds will lay eggs in the sandy beach environments, their nesting places are being destroyed by many a beach goer.

Conservation efforts have helped to improve the number of nesting pairs and the range in which sightings of piping plovers have been confirmed. Some beaches have been permanently set aside just for the plovers and are off limits to humans at all.

Pitcher's Thistle

This plant, also known as ‘dune thistle, grows exclusively along the shoreline of Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. Before it flowers, it usually resembles a cluster of silvery leaves. Its flowering form is a stem with several branches with cream or pink colored flowers at the end of the branches and leaf axils.

The leaves have spines near the base and at the tips of the lobes. Real estate development in these areas is causing the destruction of these plants and their natural environments.

The range of the Indiana bat population.
The range of the Indiana bat population. | Source

Indiana Bat

Like many bats, the Indiana bat tends to gather in trees, caves, barns, and other readily available protected places.

These bats live in large colonies, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands. While these colonies seem kind of large for an endangered species, it’s important to note that the Indiana bat population has declined by a whopping 50% in just the past decade.

With over half of the population of Indiana bats living in the state of Indiana, it’s easy to guess where they got their name. Other colonies exist throughout southern Michigan and in many eastern US states. Because they are found mostly in the Midwest, their decline can be blamed, in some part, to the conservation efforts of humans. That’s right, our wind turbines, which are trying to conserve energy and get it from renewable sources, have a massive effect on the lives of these tiny bats.

You can help these bats by building a bat house. They’ll pay you back for the help, too! Bats eat a ton of insects, so they’re a great defense against mosquitoes!

Mitchell's Satyr Butterfly
Mitchell's Satyr Butterfly | Source
Copperbelly water snake
Copperbelly water snake | Source

Mitchell's Satyr Butterfly

This butterfly has a 1 3/4″ wingspan and a rich brown color with orange-rimmed black circular "eye" spots on the wings.

They favor wetlands called fens, where nutrients are scarce and mostly supplied by carbonate-rich ground water from seeps and springs. The caterpillars feed on grass-like plants called sedges. It is unknown what, if anything, the adults feed on.

Full List of Michigan's Endangered & Threatened Species

American hart's tongue fern
Canada lynx
Clubshell
Copperbelly water snake
Dwarf lake iris
Eastern massasauga
Eastern prairie fringed orchid
Gray Wolf
Hine's emerald dragonfly
Houghton's goldenrod
Hungerford's crawling water beetle
Indiana bat
Karner blue butterfly
Kirtland's warbler
Lakeside daisy
Michigan monkey-flower
Mitchell's satyr butterfly
Northern long-eared bat
Northern riffleshell
Piping plover
Pitcher's thistle
Poweshiek Skipperling
Rayed Bean
Rufa Red knot
Small whorled pogonia
Snuffbox

Copperbelly Water Snake

This snake has a dark colored back and a bright orange-red underbelly. They favor low-lying swamps and other calm bodies of water. They hibernate over the winter in upland woods.

There are a number of reasons owing to their decline, such as loss of habitat and collection. Due to their rarity and lovely coloring, they are often picked up by snake collectors.

Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle

Nearly all of the little bugs known as Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetles live in one singular location, the eastern branch of the Maple River in Michigan. These little bugs are the most endangered species in Michigan and hold the distinction of being the only endangered species specifically limited to Michigan.

These tiny little bugs are characterized by the irregular dark markings on their otherwise yellow-brown bodies. They also have large coxal plates on their hind legs, a feature distinct to them. Though they have wings, there has not yet been a recorded flight from one of these tiny creatures.

Gray Wolf

Perhaps one of the most well-known endangered species is that of the Gray or timber wolf. These dog like animals have been researched and studied for years and have been the subjects of many stories and novels throughout the ages.

Despite the new celebrity status of these wolves, their numbers continue to decline. In some areas, they are seen as a menace, hunting small livestock and generally causing distress. For this reason they are often hunted.

Gray wolves are often larger and heavier than their coyote cousins and, despite the name, are not exclusively gray. They can range in color from black all the way to white. They have dense, course, fluffy fur and tend to get even fluffier in winter months. Due to their interactions with humans in the past, they have learned to fear us and try to keep to themselves far away from civilization. In many places, the wolves have begun to repopulate, though there are legal hunting dates in some places. There is almost always a bag limit for these canines though, in order to help the population even out.

What You Can Do To Protect Endangered Species

Learn how to identify threatened or endangered plants and animals.
Some endangered plants are often mistakenly destroyed as weeds and endangered animals could be killed as a potential nuisance.

Support conservation efforts at state and federal parks.
Some parks may have volunteer programs for picking up litter and other conservation tasks. If you visit a local park, be sure to stay on the trails to avoid trampling endangered plants and protect yourself from potentially poisonous plants and animals.

Support funding for conservation efforts.
Some organizations are actively involved in conserving endangered species. Show your support for top conservation organizations

Educate others.
This does not mean you have to tell everyone about conservation efforts, but tell your story and the stories of the plants and animals in the region. Let people know what is happening around them. A lot of the problems with extinction can be eradicated through knowledge. Spread the word.

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Comments 6 comments

cyoung35 profile image

cyoung35 23 months ago from Corona, CA

I never thought of the plants that grow in our yard as an endangered species. I will start paying more attention before pulling them out. I'm sure most are just like me and are not sure how to identify them. Great hub!


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

I live in Michigan and will help as I can.


AudraLeigh 3 years ago

Micah has been to Michigan, but I have not. Interesting to read your hub on many endangered species. I live 15 minutes from Lake Ontario. Now I would like to find similar info here. Like the pics you sed, especially the Pitcher's thistle. Very good and informative hub!


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

Michigan is known more for its water based tourism, universities, car manufacturing plants of the big 3, ethnic food in the suburbs of Detroit, rather than its wildlife. You did a great job by addressing endangered wildlife residing in your state and giving some recommendations on how to help conserve its natural resources at the end.

Voted up.


whowas 4 years ago

Hi melbel,

That is a wonderful and very important article. You are very right to point out that many people are aware of the 'keystone' endangered species while remaining sadly ignorant of the creatures on their doorstep. And of course, while we should all support the campaigns for those better known endangered animals, there is much more that we can practically do to help our local wildlife. Simple things such as leaving a corner of your garden wild, putting in a pond or feeding the birds can make a huge difference.

An excellent hub - thank you!


William Young profile image

William Young 4 years ago from Eaglle Grove, Iowa

That was fascinating! I've never seen Lynx kittens before, those are cute little fellas!

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