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Natural Resources

Posted on: May 19, 2017

May 19 is Endangered Species Day – Eight Federally Listed Plants and Animals Call Dakota County Home

Eight threatened and endangered species can be found in Dakota County, two of which you could encounter in Apple Valley.  While we tend to associate loss of rare plants and animals with large land disturbing activities like mining, farming, and logging, there is actually a role for suburban homeowners to play too.  The fact is, what we do in our yards and our everyday habits can have real impacts on these rare species:

Five Endangered Mussels…

The Higgens Eye, Sheepnose, Winged Mapleleaf, Snuffbox, and Spectaclecase mussels are all mussels of big rivers (Mississippi, St. Croix, etc.).  The last three mussels, although once found in the Mississippi River, are now mainly confined to small populations in the St. Croix.  Water quality and Zebra Mussels are major threats to these five endangered mussels. It is important to practice good water habits at home because all Apple Valley properties eventually drain to the Mississippi River. Practice appropriate sanitation methods after enjoying recreational water activities to prevent the spread of Zebra Mussels.  Remember this motto - Clean. Drain. Dry.

One Threatened Plant…

Prairie Bush Clover is a fairly inconspicuous plant of the prairies that blends in among the grasses.  This species is rare because we don’t have a lot of prairie left, less than 2% of its historical extent.  Supporting conservation of prairie is of primary importance to this species.  Groups, such as the Vermillion River Stewards and Dakota County Parks, offer opportunities for individuals to participate in fun prairie restoration activities and educational programs.

A Threatened Bat…

Just added to the list in 2015, the Northern Long-eared Bat has seen a steep drop in population size along with other bats due to the spread of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that infects bats.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources states the following on their website:

As a species that utilizes trees for reproduction, roost tree sites are important for the health of the population. Therefore, it is important to retain potential roost sites, that is trees with cracks, crevices, loose bark, or cavities available that are surrounded by other potential roost trees.

So, as a property owner, it is important to be thoughtful about tree care.  Hazardous and diseased trees or tree limbs should always be removed; however, you can consider leaving tree snags and damaged limbs in place in noncritical areas that are not diseased or in danger of injuring people or damaging structures.  Good examples of noncritical areas include conservation easements, pond buffers, and other natural areas.

And an Endangered Bumblebee…

Just added to the endangered species list on March 21 of this year, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee could be found in your backyard right now.  The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee’s decline has been in large part due to increased pesticide use by farmers and homeowners, loss of prairie due to farming and development, and spread of disease exacerbated by commercial bumblebee use for pollination of agricultural crops like tomatoes.  They are finding that as a result of the above listed pressures on Rusty Patched Bumble Bees, these rare bumblebees are starting to make their homes in urban areas and can sometimes be found in home gardens in the Twin Cities.  As a homeowner in the Twin Cities, there is a lot you can do to directly support populations of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee:

      • Add native plants to your yard that have overlapping blooming periods from May through September as a nectar source.  Great news, converting some of your lawn to a native plant garden is also a clean water habit that can help rare downstream mussels.
      • Leave space for nesting habitat.
      • Reconsider using insecticides or use with care.  For example, if you are spraying your yard for ants, you could be killing non-target insects like bumblebees.  Also, have a care when purchasing plants.  Some plants are pretreated with harmful insecticides that remain in the pollen and nectar; avoid purchasing plants pretreated with neonicotinoid insecticides. 
      • Know the difference between bees and wasps; know they aren’t the enemy.  We need bees and wasps to help pollinate the food we eat and flowers we enjoy.  Reconsider spraying or removing nests and hives unless absolutely necessary.
      • Help scientists find new populations of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee by participating in Bumble Bee Watch.

You can learn more about rare species by visiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Websites.

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