MYSTERY WIRE — Death’s come knocking a last time for the splendid ivory-billed woodpecker and 22 assorted birds, fish and other species: The U.S. government is declaring them extinct, the Associated Press has learned.
It’s a rare move for wildlife officials to give up hope on a plant or animal, but government scientists say they’ve exhausted efforts to find these 23.
And they warn climate change on top of other pressures could make such disappearances more common as a warming planet adds to the dangers facing imperiled plants and wildlife.
The ivory-billed woodpecker was perhaps the best known on the list.
It went out stubbornly and with fanfare, making unconfirmed appearances in recent decades that ignited a frenzy of ultimately fruitless searches in the swamps of Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida.
Others such as the flat pigtoe, a freshwater mussel, were identified in the wild only a few times and never seen again, meaning by the time they got a name they were fading from existence.
The factors behind the disappearances vary but in each humans were the ultimate cause — too much development, water pollution, competition from invasive species, birds killed for feathers and animals captured by private collectors.
Another thing they share: All 23 were thought to have at least a slim chance of survival when they were added to the endangered species list beginning in the 1960s.
Only 11 species have been removed from the list previously due to extinction in the almost half-century since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law.
Around the globe, some 907 species have been documented as extinct.
The actual number is thought to be much higher because some are never formally identified, and many scientists warn the earth is in an “extinction crisis” with flora and fauna now disappearing at 1,000 times the historical rate.
Hawaii has the unwanted distinction of having the most species on the list, eight woodland birds and one plant.
That’s in part because the islands have so many plants and animals that many have extremely small ranges and thus can blink out quickly.