"Extinction Leads To Extinction:" Imperiled Wildlife Is Being Impacted By Humans

Jul 6, 2020

The Wyoming Toad population is growing because of conservation efforts and a successful breeding program.
Credit Sara Armstrong / USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Imperiled species - species that are threatened or endangered - are seeing population declines that are much faster than they were 100 years ago, according to a recent study by researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Stanford University, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. While Wyoming is home to a relatively low number of imperiled vertebrate species, scientists warn that's no reason to be lax.

"I would argue that probably the best way to prevent the loss of the species is doing what we can now to keep common species common. So implementing land management practices or whatever that keeps the species that we have on the landscape now," said Ian Abernethy a vertebrate biologist with the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database at the University of Wyoming. He was not involved in the research.

Many of Wyoming's imperiled species have management programs in place to help bolster their numbers, the Wyoming Toad and the Black-Footed Ferret are some of the most well-known examples. According to Abernethy, these programs are important to prevent what's known as "compounding factors of extinction."

"Extinction leads to extinction. When you lose a species from the environment, then you're promoting further extinctions down the line" Abernethy said.

Many of these extinctions are human-caused, the study authors argue. This could guide how people respond.

"When you see human-caused accelerations, I think a lot of people would argue that it becomes a human moral obligation then to try to reduce our impacts on the globe," Abernethy said.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Ivy Engel, at iengel@uwyo.edu.