Endangered Species Return to the Wayne NF

American burying beetle and dead rodent.On Wednesday, June 15, 2011, staff from the Wayne National Forest and several partners continued their commitment to reintroduce the American burying beetle (ABB) in Ohio. This year, 171 pairs of the ABB were released in a rural forested setting within Forest boundaries in Perry County.

This was the fourth year the group has reintroduced individuals of this endangered species in Athens and Perry counties in southeastern Ohio. In the last four years, more than 750 ABB pairs have been released. The Forest's reintroduction effort will be finished next spring.

About 40 people joined the effort to help make the latest release a success. First, they laid out an area and dug several small holes on the forest floor. Next they placed dead rats into the holes to give the beetles an advantage in the wild and provide an ideal breeding location. Workers then laid a male and female beetle in the hole, where the insects quickly sought cover under the dead animal. The group covered the beetles with cardboard and wire to help protect them from wild animals like raccoons.

Within two weeks of the release, researchers will return to the site to look for signs of breeding activity by checking for larvae and later, new adult beetles. Fortunately, since 2008, the beetles have shown signs of reproduction. Unfortunately, no signs of the beetles have been found the following year. Still, the group remains optimistic that the beetle is on the landscape doing its job, which is to rid the Forest of small dead animals and to continue multiplying.

"The ABB was once a part of the diverse historic fauna found in the Buckeye state. I am a firm believer that no native species is insignificant enough to not care about its continued existence," said Athens Ranger District Wildlife Biologist Lynda Andrews.

Cheryl Coon, Botanist, hands a pair of American burying beetles to a child.The beetles used in the latest release came from rearing facilities at the St. Louis Zoo and The Wilds in Ohio. In previous years, Ohio State University also brought beetles to be released.

"Our goal is to establish self-sustaining populations of the American burying beetle, so that one day it will no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Angela Boyer. "As with many wildlife management efforts, partnerships are playing a significant role in restoring this missing piece of Ohio's natural landscape."

Among the partners joining the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service are the Ohio DNR, Division of Wildlife; Ohio State University; The Wilds; the St. Louis Zoo; and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Funding came from the Ohio Division of Wildlife through donations to the Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species Program. This program receives donations through the state income tax check-off and revenues from the sale of the wildlife conservation license plate. The other partners provided substantial in-kind services.

The ABB was designated a federally endangered species in 1989-the first insect species to be so recognized. Under the Endangered Species Act, plants and animals listed as endangered are likely to become extinct in the foreseeable future. The beetles are about 1 to 1.5 inches in length with orange and black bodies. They are named for their habit of burying their eggs in carrion, which sustains the larvae once they are hatched.

The Wayne National Forest 2006 Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) includes a commitment to reintroduce the ABB.

For more pictures of the American burying beetle release in 2011 click on the Wayne flickr site.


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