The state of Tennessee is 42,169 square miles. The region features points of the Appalachian mountain range, including the Great Smokey Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains. The state contains 300 different species of fish, 80 mammals and 300 bird species. In addition, there are 70 endangered animal species found in Tennessee.
Struggling to Make a Comeback
The red wolf is a small carnivore averaging 40 to 50 pounds in weight and standing approximately 26 inches tall. They feed on small animals including rabbits, raccoons and squirrels; they have also been known to feed on insects and crabs. Red wolves were hunted relentlessly because they attacked domestic animals. The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife captured 17 red wolves in 1980 in order to preserve the species. Shortly afterwards, the red wolf became extinct in the wild. In 2007, there were 207 red wolves at 38 domestic breeding programs. Due to the efforts of conservationists and domestic breeding programs, there are currently 100 red wolves in the wild, with their numbers slowly increasing.
Tennessee’s gray bat measures 5 inches in length with a wingspan of 11 to 13 inches. These bats live in caves, hunt for insects at night and give birth to a single baby each year. Although there are nearly 1 million gray bats in existence, they were added to the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Species in 1976. They're considered endangered because they are dispersed in only eight different caves, making them vulnerable to disruption. Threats to their survival include deforestation, flooding in caves and human disturbance. If a person enters the gray bat's cave, the entire colony will fly into a panic, causing them to lose energy. Young bats may leave the cave before they are ready and die. Females may drop their young in an attempt to escape an intruder.
Flying for Survival
Found in eastern Tennessee, the Carolina northern flying squirrel has been listed as endangered since 1985. The main threat to the squirrel’s survival is deforestation. These rodents build nests made only out of birch bark. They hunt at night and feed primarily on fungi, although they also eat tree blossoms, insects, fruit and nuts. The Carolina northern flying squirrel is 10 to 12 inches long and weighs 3 to 4 ounces.
Species That Survived and Died
The eastern cougar, a large, agile cat, was placed on the endangered species list in 1973. However, in 2011, the species was declared extinct by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The American peregrine falcon has a wide distribution and is found in most states, including Tennessee. It was placed on the endangered species list in 1970. The primary threat to the falcon was the use of the chemical DDT, which caused the birds to produce eggs with thin shells that would crack before they were ready to hatch. The use of DDT was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency, allowing these birds to make a comeback -- they were taken off the endangered species list in 1999.
- Dimensions Info: What is the Size of Tennessee?
- Endangered Wolf Center: Red Wolf
- Defenders of Wildlife: Basic Facts About Red Wolves
- US Fish and Wildlife: Gray Bat
- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation: Gray Bat
- North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission: Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel
- Scholastic: Animals on the Mend
- USA Today: Native Plants & Animals of Tennessee
- Endangered Specie.com: Endangered Species In Tennessee