Carolina madtoms are armed with stinging spines on their fins that can stun their attackers, but these small catfish are helpless against their main predator: urbanization.
Because of human encroachment on their native homes, the Carolina madtom is now on the federal Endangered Species list, the Center for Biological Diversity announced yesterday.
The Center had petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the courts for more than a decade to add protections for the species.
“The Endangered Species Act is the most effective tool available to save plants and animals from extinction, so it’s good news that these special North Carolina creek critters now have the habitat safeguards they need to survive,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center, in a press statement.
The Carolina madtom occurs only in the Neuse and Tar River basins, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. It is the only madtom native to North Carolina.
The Carolina madtom lives in larger streams that flow into the Tar and the Neuse. But runoff, sediment and other byproducts of urbanization and industrialized livestock farms have degraded the water quality in most of these streams. Before its designation as endangered, the Carolina madtom had been listed as threatened and a federal species of concern since 2007.
The Neuse River waterdog, an aquatic salamander found only in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins of North Carolina, is now listed as threatened. It has been eliminated from 35% of its range, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The waterdog is very sensitive to pollution and changes in its habitat, which can occur from runoff attributed to logging, industrialized livestock farms, as well as development. The salamander will be listed as threatened with a “4(d) rule” that allows ongoing logging in its habitat if certain management practices are followed to protect streams from sediment pollution.
An additional 25% of the Neuse River waterdog’s historical streams are in such poor condition that the waterdog is unlikely to survive there. The most significant declines have occurred in the Neuse River near Raleigh.
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