Who are the species in your neighborhood?
May 1, 2006 1:19 PM   Subscribe

What are the most important animals for your region of the country?

Impressed by the environmental movement to create the Salmon Nation and the Buffalo Commons, I've (barely) begun making a website about key animal species for different regions of the country.

What are the most important animals where you live? They might be the most popular, the most endangered, the most economically important, or a cornerstone for the ecosystem. Do you know of grassroots groups organizing around those animals? Chambers of Commerce trying to bring back a certain animal? Ecology labs that collect data on these animals or count them?

Any other resources or thoughts on this idea are welcome. Did I miss any major projects to restore regional ecosystems while creating a bioregional identity?
posted by salvia to Science & Nature (27 answers total)
Any other resources or thoughts on this idea are welcome.

National Geographic's Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World.

Did I miss any major projects to restore regional ecosystems while creating a bioregional identity?

Check out the programs associated with the Wildlands Project.
posted by driveler at 1:28 PM on May 1, 2006

In Maryland, the answer is easy. It's the tasty, tasty blue crab, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, the only beast of which I'm aware whose Latin name makes reference to how delicious it is. Man, I could go for a soft-shell sandwich right now.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:45 PM on May 1, 2006

Living in the Northeast US, I would have to say Homo sapiens sapiens. They've overrun the place.
posted by The Michael The at 1:47 PM on May 1, 2006

No, seriously, in eastern Pennsylvania, deer are probably the most visible wild mammal. For Massachusetts, historically, maybe the cod ("In Cod We Trust") or whales.

Still, I think my point holds: that in highly urbanized areas, a case could certainly be made for human primacy in the ecosystem (and in less urbanized areas, but the case may be a bit more difficult).
posted by The Michael The at 1:50 PM on May 1, 2006

Response by poster: To clarify, I'd eventually like to include all of North America, but I plan to start with the United States.
posted by salvia at 2:13 PM on May 1, 2006

Ohh, I'd really like to see this broken down by major taxonomic class. Here in Indiana I'd say just in term of threatened within state borders and historically related to the region:

Mammal: Indiana Brown Bat
Reptile: Alligator Snapping Turtle
Bird: Toss-up between the Whooping crane and the Nald eagle.
Fish: Northern Cave Fish

Yeah, I know that the snapper and the bald eagle are doing well elsewhere.

I don't know of many endagered trees but the Tulip Poplar is of major historic importance.

Fungi: Indiana is the only place I know of where "wild mushroom" = morel. Few things around here inspire more passion.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:18 PM on May 1, 2006

In Oregon, the most important animal is the slug.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:03 PM on May 1, 2006

The country? Presumably you mean New Zealand, and it's the Kiwi, the Kokako, and the Tuatara (it's older than the dinosaurs and it's got 3 eyes)
posted by holloway at 3:33 PM on May 1, 2006

holloway, I'll see your kiwi, kokako, and tuatara, and raise you wetapunga, and pekapeka (our only endemic mammals, after all).
posted by The Monkey at 5:31 PM on May 1, 2006

Response by poster: Speaking of New Zealand animals, did you see this?

(And I did already clarify what I meant by "the country," and sorry for the original oversight. Everyone I speak to day-to-day lives in the US, so I forgot the obvious fact that the Internet is a global medium.)
posted by salvia at 5:33 PM on May 1, 2006

Southern California: coyotes. Even in the urban areas.
posted by Asparagirl at 6:05 PM on May 1, 2006

Prolly Rabbits, Cows, and Pigs. And humans, of course.
posted by delmoi at 7:08 PM on May 1, 2006

Ants. Often overlooked, they perform a valuable function in clearing away waste matter, returning said matter to the earth as a usable resource, improving soil condition and water retention. It's not a glamourous job, trash disposal, but it's vital to the health of the ecosystem.
posted by SPrintF at 8:57 PM on May 1, 2006

Oooh, I forgot Buteo jamaicensis!
posted by billtron at 10:06 PM on May 1, 2006

In the (NY) tri-state area, it's gotta be Rattus avians.
In New Zealand in recent months, I'd nominate the oh-so-euphonious Kikihia Dugdale (alluring soundbite here).
posted by rob511 at 10:44 PM on May 1, 2006

The country? Politically, the koala is symbolic, particularly in Gippsland.

Wild dogs and dingoes are important in the north east. The whale is becoming symbolic along the western coast. Up in the mallee, the malleefowl is pretty cool.

(salvia, recent mefite, can you please remember that this is an international board? The US /= the world)
posted by wilful at 12:28 AM on May 2, 2006

Montana: deer, elk, bears, eagles, owls, bison.
posted by davidmsc at 4:11 AM on May 2, 2006

The Big Five: lions, elephants, rhinocerous, leopards, and buffalo. Oh, USA, not RSA? Well, please, American bison are not buffalo. If you need help with that, come visit. Real buffalo will kill you.

What is meant by 'important'? Important to whom?

In Washington, D.C., it is clear, pigs are the top of the food chain these days.

In Michigan, the white-tail deer is important, in terms of hunting-generated tourism. Also coho salmon (sport fishing).

Globally, I would say the honey bee ranks as one of the most wonderful, needful, fabulous, interesting creatures on the planet.
posted by Goofyy at 5:01 AM on May 2, 2006

Response by poster: I'm hoping to encourage people -- US residents in this case -- to feel concern for non-human animals, to feel part of a larger ecological community that includes humans but other important members as well, and that by helping them, we help ourselves. (So focusing on humans or domestic animals isn't the way I'd want to go.)

So by "important," I guess I meant the way that on the US California & Oregon coast, the salmon were the cornerstone of the fishing economy, and before that (and still, to some) a key source of food. So, salmon are important. To help whales, one would have to help the salmon, their food supply. Whales might be a better mascot then. Top predators require more land set aside, so by focusing on them, you'll end up protecting a lot of smaller animals. Things like that. Don't know if that makes it clearer.
posted by salvia at 9:36 AM on May 2, 2006

Cats. I'd be so lonely without them.
posted by JamesMessick at 7:57 PM on May 2, 2006

Ohio seems to have a thing with birds, especially Canada geese.
posted by UnclePlayground at 12:56 PM on May 3, 2006

Cool question and project, but I think it's still a little unclear. Are you looking for animals that are economically important, as your example of salmon would suggest, or would you like focus on the top predators?
I think there is often a conflict between those two, at least in the Western US, where there is a history of mistrust of the predators because of threats to the "important" animals: Livestock. That mistrust and fear still exists: Ranchers and farmers don't like to see bears and wolves around, suburban families don't like to see coyotes and lions around.
posted by jgee at 10:19 PM on May 3, 2006

In the Northeastern Suburb where I live, the most important animals to the environment are probably birds and insects of various types. The major predator is probably the fox, and thus deer are out of control.
posted by illovich at 9:47 AM on May 4, 2006

Response by poster: jgee, thanks, I'm most concerned in encouraging people to expand their self-interest to include animals. Whales and buffaloes are good for that. Fish (that we like to eat) are maybe good for that. Coyotes and wolves, maybe not good...
posted by salvia at 9:51 AM on May 4, 2006

That makes sense. In Utah, i'd say mule deer, bald eagles, elk, mountiain lions, moose, elk, and bighorn sheep. An example of identification with a particular ecosystem rather than a particular species is the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, located on the long-neglected (from an environmental standpoint) Great Salt Lake. Oh, and Pink Floyd, Utah's only wild flamingo.

Not my region, but I know the Yukon to Yellowstone region is identified with Grizzly Bears.
posted by jgee at 11:20 AM on May 4, 2006

In fact, The National Wildlife Refuge System seems like it would be a great resource for your project.
posted by jgee at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2006

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