Arapahoe Snowfly candidate for endangered list: What are other contenders?

Categories: Environment, News

Bye bye, fly?.
The Arapahoe Snowfly is so small that you wouldn't notice if you inhaled it. At just .2 inches long, it's certainly not the kind of cuddly creature that appears on birthday cards and computer backgrounds. (Like mine, which just so happens to feature an effing adorable photo of two Denver Zoo polar bears spooning. Shut up.) But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife thinks this bug is worth saving, and they've put it on a list of endangered species candidates.

That's right, candidates. You see, the Fish and Wildlife Service only has so much money per year to help save endangered animals, so some end up on a sort-of waiting list (though they don't call it that), riding the pine while more important animals like jaguars, pumas and sperm whales play in the game. Not all animals on the endangered species list are fuzzy, however, as evidenced by the fact that a hideous thing called a tooth cave spider -- which Wikipedia says has six "obsolescent" eyes -- made the cut.

puma from wikipedia.jpg
Definitely on the list.
The Arapahoe Snowfly joins 252 other animals on the candidate species list. Each animal is given a priority rating of one to twelve (one is the highest priority) that determines how quickly the scientists evaluate them for possible placement on the actual list. The Arapahoe Snowfly is a five, putting it solidly in the middle of the pack. But there's a catch, says senior listing biologist Justin Shoemaker. Because of a recent lawsuit settlement, the feds must give priority to animals that were on the candidate list in 2011, when the settlement occurred. Those who sued were concerned that animals were languishing in endangered-species purgatory for too long.

So what are the fly's prospects? Shoemaker isn't sure. "I'm not saying this thing has to sit on the back burner for the next five years," he says. "There's a chance it could get done within that period, but it depends on funding and priorities. If something happened and the species took real nose dive, we could take more immediate action."

The Arapahoe Snowfly likely lives in just one stream in Colorado: Elkhorn Creek, which is a tributary of the Cache la Poudre River. It used to live in another stream too, but it hasn't been sighted there since 1986. So why is the fly worth saving? According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, flies like this "are typically found in cold, clean, well-oxygenated streams and rivers. They are sensitive to most types of pollution. Therefore, their presence can be an indication of a healthy stream ecosystem."

Sounds important to us -- but it's clearly not level-one important. Flip the page to see five animals rated higher on the candidate species list than the Arapahoe Snowfly.

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