Volume II


Volume II is designed to allow users easy access to information about each of the 301 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) addressed in this Plan (Appendix 1.1). All of Elements 1 and 2, along with portions of Element 3 are addressed here. The species selection process is described along with data sources and the species accounts. The KY-CWCS team elected to provide detailed information about each species in the format of species accounts. The following sections explain the organization of the accounts, specific fields in the accounts, legends for the species occurrence maps, and other details to facilitate using this information.

2.1.1 Species Selection Process

Kentucky has a large variety of fish and wildlife species that are supported by equally diverse waterways and ecoregions. This diversity presented a challenge in deciding the appropriate groups and species to include in our Strategy. The CWCS team members considered all groups of vertebrates and invertebrates found in Kentucky with the guiding principles of identifying species and habitats in greatest need of conservation and adequately representing the diversity of habitats and species. The team quickly realized that digital data for invertebrate groups other than bivalves was very sparse. The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission (KSNPC) Natural Heritage Database had approximately 900 records for 134 invertebrate taxa (average of 6.7 records per taxa) in the following groups: gastropods, arachnids, crustaceans, diplopods, and insects (Don Dott, pers. comm.). The team also realized that many invertebrate groups could be protected indirectly within the context of our strategy through protection of vertebrate groups and bivalves. An example of this principle is illustrated by Kentucky’s karst region. This area contains several known species of crayfishes, cave beetles, and isopods not included in our CWCS. There are likely several species not yet described by scientists. Many species will profit from conservation actions implemented for the many SGCN found within Priority Conservation Areas (PCAs) identified in Volume IV (e.g., Interior Low Plateau Karst Region, Appendix 4.32). Addressing the caves, streams, and many terrestrial habitats here provides wide ranging benefit to those invertebrates not included in this draft. We recognize that future revisions of this strategy will need to include groups of invertebrates not covered in this draft, especially land snails, and lepidopterons. We will work with partners to identify the appropriate groups. Given the scarcity of digital data for most invertebrates and the ability to provide indirect benefits, the CWCS team decided to restrict Kentucky’s species list to terrestrial vertebrates, fishes, lampreys, and bivalves.

Even after narrowing the field as just described nearly 900 species were left to consider (Appendix 2.1). The taxonomic overviews that follow give a more complete discussion of species diversity for each group. The CWCS planning team examined the list of species monitored by the KSNPC (Appendix 2.2). While the list of KSNPC monitored species provided a valuable starting point for species in need of conservation, it did not necessarily cover the diversity of habitats or include many species monitored by other groups. For example, several bird species were added based on information from the Partner’s in Flight Program. Team members ensured that all vertebrate and mussel species with NatureServe Global Ranks (GRank) of G1, G2, and G3 were included. However, great care was taken to ensure the list was not simply a ‘threatened and endangered list’ of species. Over half the species are G4 (apparently secure) or G5 (secure) (Appendix 2.3) and 203 of the 251 species have no status under the Endangered Species Act (Appendix 2.4). Conversely, over half of the species are S1 (critically imperiled) or S2 (imperiled) within Kentucky (Appendix 2.5). Most of these S1 and S2 species also have G4 or G5 rankings. Other criteria for inclusion of vertebrate and mussel species were state endemics, reptile and amphibian species whose status were uncertain, and extirpated species that may be re-introduced. The first draft of this species list was sent to other taxonomic experts for review and modifications were made based on these comments.

2.1.2 Sources of Information

A wide variety of data were used to compile the species accounts that fall into two general categories: 1) information for the text portion and, 2) data for species occurrence maps. Each taxonomic group includes a literature section covering references used. In general, NatureServe and The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission were widely cited across groups. Also, personal communication with a variety of taxonomic experts was often cited where data or publications were lacking.

Data for mapping were gleaned from 35 sources housed at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Fish and Wildlife Information System (KFWIS) that included 22,970 individual observations (Appendix 2.6 and 2.7). The precision of observation data range from points with latitude and longitude coordinates, USGS quadrangle observations, and county level only observations. First draft maps were sent to taxonomic experts for review and questionable occurrence records were flagged for further investigation.

Critical to the effective management of these data were the use of a relational database management system (RDBMS) in conjunction with a geographic information system (GIS). Use of RDBMS allowed species level information (e.g., taxonomy, status, trend, etc.) to be connected with spatial information (e.g., occurrences, habitat, range) using GIS. This allowed CWCS team members to more fully investigate the distribution of single species or groups of species based on criteria such as abundance (GRank or SRank) and habitat guild(s). Use of RDBMS and GIS will be essential to future revisions of the CWCS. This technology will allow for updating of status and distribution information as it becomes available and facilitate the sharing of information with conservation partners throughout the state. GIS modeling techniques can be employed to refine location of key habitat and species overlap areas.

2.1.3 How to Use the Species Accounts

Species accounts are arranged by taxonomic group and are accessed by navigating the outline. Each taxonomic section of the species accounts contains an overview, a list of species for that group, links to individual species occurrence maps, a literature cited, and a link to print all species occurrence maps

The overview sections contain information that places Kentucky’s fauna in a national and worldwide context in addition to specifics about Kentucky. There may also be maps, tables, and figures relevant to that taxonomic group. A hyperlinked species list immediately follows the overview. Clicking on a species name will automatically display the account for that animal. The accounts cover a variety of information about individual species such as status, trend, and habitat. Please see the Explanation of fields in species accounts (Appendix 2.13) for a detailed description of each field. A link is provided within each account that allows users to view the occurrence and range map for that species. To view all maps for a taxonomic group choose the ‘Download all Statewide Maps’ link. This opens a large PDF file that ranges from 4 megabytes for mammals and up to 67 megabytes for fish. This file can be printed to hard copy or simply viewed on-screen. To save this file on your computer, right click on the “Download” link, and select “Save Target As” (in Internet Explorer) or “Save Link As” (in Netscape).

If these files are too large for downloading on a particular system, a CD-ROM is available by contacting us. Species maps vary somewhat between aquatic and terrestrial groups (see map legends, Appendix 2.14). However, all available occurrence records are always displayed in one map while those acquired since 1984 are displayed separately.


2.2.1 Fishes and Lampreys (Class Actinopterygii and Cephalaspidomorphi) Overview

Kentucky contains one of the most diverse fish faunas in the United States, exceeded only by Alabama and Tennessee. Currently, 260 species are known to occur or have occurred within the state, representing 69 genera and 30 families. Of the 260 species, 24 (9%) are the result of either intentional or accidental introduction by human activities, and 10 (4%) are presumed extinct or extirpated from the state (Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission 2004). Kentucky’s native fish fauna (236 species) represents approximately 30% of the entire native North American freshwater fish fauna (792 species; Lydeard and Mayden 1995). The most current list of rare and extirpated and/or extinct species maintained by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission (2004) includes 27 species (10%) with a conservation status of endangered, 11 (4%) that are threatened, and 16 (6%) that are of special concern. Four species (pallid sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus albus; palezone shiner, Notropis albizonatus; relict darter, Etheostoma chienense; and duskytail darter, E. percnurum) are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as endangered, one (blackside dace, Phoxinus cumberlandensis) is threatened, and one (Cumberland Johnny darter, Etheostoma susanae) is a candidate proposed for listing. At least 6 species (one minnow, one madtom, and four darters) are either undescribed or recognized as distinct taxa.

The only synopsis of the distribution, systematics, habitat, and conservation status of Kentucky fishes to date is provided in Burr and Warren (1986). Since this publication, collecting activities in the state have revealed new information on distribution and conservation status for many species. Accumulation of this information over the past 20 years has been maintained primarily in the Natural Heritage Program database of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Kentucky Division of Water Quality, and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) ichthyological collection has served as the primary depository for fish collections made in Kentucky.

The Cumberland River drainage supports the most diverse and unusual fish fauna in Kentucky. Although the majority of the river basin drains Tennessee, a total of 158 species occur or once occurred in the Kentucky portion of the drainage (Burr and Warren 1986). Among these species, five darters (smallscale darter, Etheostoma microlepidum; barcheek darter, E. obeyense; bloodfin darter, E. sanguifluum; Cumberland Johnny darter, E. susanae; and striped darter, E. virgatum) and one minnow (blackside dace, Phoxinus cumberlandensis) are endemic to the Cumberland River drainage and are found in Kentucky. Two darter species (emerald darter, Etheostoma baileyi and arrow darter, E. sagitta) are shared exclusively with the Kentucky River drainage. In the upper Cumberland River drainage, the South Fork Cumberland River drainage harbors three species (palezone shiner, Notropis albizonatus; blackside dace, Phoxinus cumberlandensis; and duskytail darter, Etheostoma percnurum) that are listed as either threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Green River drainage encompasses the largest area of any river drainage in the state. It drains multiple physiographic regions and supports a fish fauna composed of upland and lowland species (Burr and Warren 1986). With 150 species, it ranks second to the Cumberland River drainage in Kentucky with respect to species diversity and endemism (Butler et al. 2003). Five darter species (teardrop darter, Etheostoma barbouri; splendid darter, E. barrenense; orangefin darter, E. bellum; Kentucky darter, E. rafinesquei; and Shawnee darter, E. tecumsehi) and one sucker species (blackfin sucker, Thoburnia atripinnis) are endemic to the upper Green River drainage, and one darter species (frecklebelly darter, Percina stictogaster) is shared exclusively with the Kentucky River (Burr and Page, 1986; Ceas and Page, 1997). Three species in the cavefish family Amblyopsidae also occur in the karst region of the Green River. At least twenty of the 61 species listed as special concern, rare, or endangered by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission (2004) are found in the Green River drainage.

Although considerably smaller in size and species richness, Terrapin Creek, Running Slough, and oxbows of the Mississippi River in western Kentucky are of considerable importance in harboring several species otherwise unknown from the state (Burr and Warren 1986). Terrapin Creek, the only sizeable tributary of the Obion River in Kentucky, supports six species (blacktail redhorse, Moxostoma poecilurum; least madtom, Noturus hildebrandi; brown madtom, Noturus phaeus; gulf darter, Etheostoma swaini; brighteye darter, E. lynceum; and firebelly darter, Etheostoma pyrrhogaster) that are unique in the state. Several other species having limited distributions within the state maintain viable populations in Terrapin Creek, Running Slough, and other oxbow and wetland habitats along the Mississippi and lower Ohio Rivers (Burr and Warren 1986).

Modifications of natural habitats are occurring at an ever-increasing rate and have had severe impacts to Kentucky’s fish fauna. Collection data accumulated over the past 50 years reveal that many species are either extirpated, less abundant, or have more restricted ranges than formerly. Activities having the most significant impacts on aquatic habitats in the state include increased siltation and turbidity; acid drainage from coal mines; stream dredging and channelization; drainage and filling of swamps, oxbow lakes, and other wetlands; disposal of oil-field brines and associated wastes; industrial and domestic pollution; widespread use of herbicides and pesticides; and construction of impoundments. More recently, introduced species (e.g., Asian carps) and over-harvest of fishes have resulted in population declines for some species (Burr and Warren 1986).


Using the most current and available information on conservation status, distribution and biology, as well as recommendations provided by taxonomic authorities, 59 fish species were identified as “species of greatest conservation need” (SGCN). Most of these species were adopted from the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service threatened and endangered species lists. Other criteria used to select SGCN species include level of endemism, knowledge of population status, distribution, and life history characteristics, and importance as hosts to rare or declining mussel species.

2.2.2 Fishes and Lampreys (Class Actinopterygii and Cephalaspidomorphi) Species Accounts

2.2.3 Mussels (Class Bivalvia) Overview

Freshwater mussels are the most at-risk group of animals in North America. Of the 297 native mussel species in the United States (Appendix 2.8), 71.7% are considered endangered, threatened, or of special concern, including 21 mussels that are endangered and presumed extinct (Williams et al. 1993). Seventy species (23.6%) are considered to have stable populations, although information is lacking for many of these species. In 2005, seventy U.S. mussel species were listed as federally endangered. Mussel and their host fish populations are projected to decline if habitats are not restored and individual species’ numbers are not increased.

The extinction and decline of mussels can be attributed to biological and ecological requirements that make particular species more vulnerable to human-caused effects. Habitat loss and degraded water quality, impoundments, commercial harvest, mining, channel degradation, exotic species, chemical non-point and point source pollutants, and many other factors have contributed to the downward spiral of mussel populations. Additional issues that have contributed to mussel declines include sedimentation from agricultural land, logging and mining operations, construction projects, stream channelization and dredging, toxic spills and resulting fish kills, and invasion from exotic species (Parmalee and Bogan 1998).

With the low numbers of mussels and continuing population declines, protecting each stage in the life cycle of mussels (Appendix 2.9) becomes critical. Life history stages include the production of larvae (currently inhibited by few numbers of adults), host fish attachment and development, and juvenile survival. Suitable hosts must be present and occur in adequate numbers to increase the chance of glochidial attachment. Good water quality and sufficient habitat is critical to all stages of development, especially for the larval and juvenile stages.

Kentucky has one of the most diverse mussel populations in North America with 41 genera and 103 recognized species. Twelve mussels are presumed extinct, and 22 species are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as endangered (at least 8 of the 22 are considered extirpated from the state) (Appendix 2.10, data adapted from Williams et al. 1993, Cicerello et al. 1991).

Diverse mussel and fish populations occur in many of the state’s river systems (Appendix 2.11). The Ohio River drainage has historically been an important area for mussel diversity (Williams and Schuster 1989). Its tributaries now support some of the last few strongholds of rare and endangered mussels.

Kentucky has identified 46 mussels (44.6% of 103) that are considered to be the species of greatest conservation need. These include 19 species listed as federally endangered, and 2 candidate species for federal listing. The states heritage program lists 25 of the 46 species (54%) as state endangered, 5 (11%) as state threatened, and 5 (11%) as extirpated from Kentucky. Within the 46 species of greatest conservation need, there are 20 species listed as globally rare (G1) and 25 species as rare (S1) within Kentucky (Appendix 2.3, Appendix 2.5). Kentucky has within its boundaries some of the best populations of mussels, including the endangered fanshell, Cyprogenia stegaria, which is found in three river systems in the state. Some of the states most diverse populations of mussels are found in the Green River and tributaries to the Upper Cumberland River. It is not uncommon to find over 25-30 species and several thousand individuals at a single site in Kentucky.

2.2.4 Mussels (Class Bivalvia) Species Accounts

2.2.5 Crayfish (Class Malacostraca) Overview

The freshwater crayfishes (Order Decapoda) are one of the better known crustacean groups in Kentucky. Worldwide, freshwater crayfishes are represented by over 640 species (Crandall and Buhay 2008) with the southeastern United States being one of the epicenters of diversity. Three hundred sixty species are represented in the United States (Taylor et al. 2007). All of Kentucky’s crayfish fauna falls into the family Cambaridae and is represented by the genera Barbicambarus, Cambarus, Cambarellus, Fallicambarus, Orconectes, and Procambarus. Kentucky is home to one of the richer freshwater crayfish faunas in North America with 54 species, with some of those species still under taxonomic review and others potentially awaiting discovery. Seven species are endemic to the state of Kentucky (Cambarus batchi – Bluegrass Crayfish, Orconectes margorectus – Livingston Crayfish, Orconectes bisectus ¬– Crittenden Crayfish, Orconectes jeffersoni – Louisville Crayfish, Orconectes rafinesquei – Rough River Crayfish, Orconectes tricuspis – Western Highland Crayfish, Orconectes packardi – Appalachian Cave Crayfish). The most comprehensive treatments of Kentucky’s crayfish fauna includes Rhoades (1944) and Taylor and Schuster (2005).

Modification of habitats, sedimentation, and dams are serious threats to freshwater crayfishes. A larger threat that has not yet impacted Kentucky is the introduction and establishment of non-native crayfishes. Several studies have shown the displacement of native species by more aggressive or opportunistic non-native species (Capelli 1982; Taylor and Redmer 1996; Hill and Lodge 1999). Many introductions are suspected to be from fisherman dumping their purchased live crayfish into the stream at the end of the day.

Nationally, about 48% of crayfish species are of conservation concern (ranging from Vulnerable to Endangered); over a third (37%) of the Kentucky fauna falls into this category (KSNPC, 2010). Within the Commonwealth, much of this is driven by concerns related to very small distributional extents or endemism. For instance, The Crittenden Crayfish (Orconectes bisectus) and Livingston Crayfish (Orconectes margorectus) are only found in a few streams within a couple of counties in northwestern Kentucky. The recently discovered Cumberland Plateau Cave Crayfish, recently differentiated from other species using genetic data (Buhay and Crandall, 2008), is one of our rarest crayfishes. Its global distribution is underground cave streams within an area of less than 180 square miles in southeastern Kentucky. Currently, no crayfish species are federally-protected in Kentucky although the Louisville Crayfish has been previously reviewed as a candidate for federal listing and more recently, the Blood River Crayfish.

The crayfishes of Kentucky all depend on a connection to groundwater. This facilitates burrowing, a behavior common to all crayfishes. Some species, such as stream dwellers (known as tertiary burrowers), spend only a short time of the year burrowed into the groundwater, an example being drought periods. Other species spend a majority of the year in groundwater burrow systems (primary burrowers), coming out only to breed or forage (Taylor and Schuster 2005). An example of this behavior can been seen by walking though fields in the spring and looking for mud chimneys made by the excavation activity of a crayfish. The Upland Burrowing Crayfish (Cambarus dubius), for instance, can be seen doing this at certain times of the year. Secondary burrowers are an intermediate between these two strategies, spending time in the year between streams and burrow systems.

Cave species are particularly at-risk from upland activities that pollute groundwater flowing into cave systems; this includes issues with chemical spills, agricultural runoff, salt from roads, and siltation from poor land use. Best Management Practices are needed to guard against perturbations to groundwater.

Crayfish Conservation Areas

Species occurrence data was used to determine 8-digit hydrologic units (watersheds) where there were endemic or multiple species of SGCN crayfish. Eleven 8-digit watersheds were identified as Crayfish Conservation Areas (Appendix 4.35), in alphabetic order: Barren, Bayou De Chien, Kentucky Lake, Little Kentucky, Lower Ohio-bay, Middle Green, South Fork Cumberland, Upper Cumberland, Upper Cumberland-Lake Cumberland, Upper Green, and Upper Levisa.

2.2.6 Crayfish (Class Malacostraca) Species Accounts


2.3.1 Amphibians (Class Amphibia) Overview

All Amphibians. The amphibians (Class Amphibia) form a moderately diverse group consisting of about 4,100 species worldwide (Conant and Collins 1991), including more that 3,700 species of frogs and nearly 400 salamanders. At the present time, 55 species are known to occur in Kentucky: 20 frogs and 35 salamanders. About 20% of these (six frogs and five salamanders) are currently tracked by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission (KSNPC), and 40% of the Kentucky fauna (eight frogs and 14 salamanders) (see Appendix 2.1) was selected for inclusion into our CWCS for various conservation reasons. The most recent comprehensive treatment dealing with Kentucky’s amphibian fauna is that of Barbour (1971), but much of the information contained there is sketchy and/or out of date. The most reliable sources that are currently available include Petranka (1998) for salamanders and Conant and Collins (1991) and Minton (2001) for all amphibians.

Kentucky’s amphibians occur in a wide variety of habitats. Some species are largely or totally terrestrial, while others are entirely aquatic throughout their life cycle. Some are found only in swamps and/or bottomland forests bordering the Mississippi River and lower Ohio River, while others prefer upland forests in various sections of the state or even the high elevation northern hardwood forests in extreme southeastern Kentucky; still others prefer open grasslands and prairie remnants.

All of Kentucky’s 20 frog species breed in water. Some species prefer temporary ponds, road ruts, and ditches as breeding sites while others use permanent ponds or even the backwater areas of rivers and large streams. Kentucky’s 35 salamander species are more variable in breeding habitat; ten of our salamanders are completely terrestrial at all life stages while the remaining 25 species have aquatic larvae. The terrestrial forms—which include all Kentucky members of the genera Aneides and Plethodon—deposit their eggs in moist places on land; the eggs are brooded by the females and all larval development takes place within the eggs. Those species with aquatic larval stages are themselves quite variable;seven salamanders (Ambystoma opacum, Desmognathus spp., Hemidactylium scutatum) lay their eggs near water and the larvae become aquatic after hatching, while the others actually deposit eggs in water. Altogether, nine of Kentucky’s salamanders with aquatic larvae breed in ponds, two use swamps and/or wetlands, two utilize large streams and rivers, and 12 reproduce in springs, seeps, and headwater streams. All species of salamanders and frogs in Kentucky are predaceous as adults. All salamander larvae are also predaceous, but frog larvae (tadpoles) are herbivores.

Frogs. Of the 20 species of frogs native to Kentucky, eight species (40% of the total fauna) were selected as species with greatest conservation need (SGCN) for inclusion in the CWCS process. Six of these (barking treefrog, bird-voiced treefrog, gray treefrog, green treefrog, northern crawfish frog, and northern leopard frog) are also listed as “special concern” by KSNPC.

We have included two other species of frogs (southern leopard frog, wood frog) as SGCN species on the basis of vulnerability to extirpation from Kentucky (i.e., isolated populations located in rapidly developing areas). Southern leopard frogs in northeastern Kentucky seem to represent an isolated relict population that may be genetically distinct. Wood frogs in Fayette County along the Kentucky River Palisades are also quite isolated. Elsewhere in Kentucky, the southern leopard frog is primarily a species of wetlands and other bottomland habitats in central and western Kentucky, breeding most frequently in lowland ponds, while the wood frog is most common in forested upland habitats in eastern and southern Kentucky and breeds in ponds located in upland forests. Both the southern leopard frog and the wood frog can thus also be considered as representative species for large amphibian communities associated with various habitat types.

Salamanders. Of Kentucky’s 35 species of native salamanders, 14 species (40% of the total fauna) were selected for inclusion in our CWCS. Five (14%) are also listed as either endangered (two), threatened (one), or special concern (two) by KSNPC (eastern hellbender, northern redback salamander, three-lined salamander, three-toed amphiuma, and Wehrle’s salamander).

We have included nine other species of salamanders as SGCN species as follows: the Black Mountain salamander, Cumberland Plateau salamander, and streamside salamander are nearly endemic to Kentucky; the Allegheny Mountain salamander (cold dripping seeps) and the green salamander (crevices in shaded sandstone cliffs) are habitat specialists that occur primarily in eastern Kentucky; the four-toed salamander and the mole salamander are uncommon pond-breeding species that occur in both upland and lowland forests; the western lesser siren is primarily a wetland species; and the southern zigzag salamander is included for biogeographic reasons. Several SGCN species, including the Allegheny Mountain salamander, Black Mountain salamander, Cumberland Plateau salamander, green salamander, and some of their close relatives (i.e., northern dusky salamander, northern slimy salamander) appear to be declining or disappearing from large portions of their ranges both in Kentucky and elsewhere; this merits further investigation and better documentation.

2.3.2 Amphibians (Class Amphibia) Species Accounts

2.3.3 Birds (Class Aves) Overview

Kentucky is an ecoregionally diverse state that transitions from alluvial and coastal plain soils, to a northern hardwood forest landscape, and to the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau. The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers form Kentucky’s northern and western borders, respectively. Other major river systems include the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers that form the Land Between the Lakes (LBL) area. Kentucky is rich in floodplain forest, upland forest, high elevation forest, grassland, riverine, and marsh habitats. Because of this diversity, Kentucky falls within four Bird Conservation Regions (BCR) under the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI). These include the following: Central Hardwoods (BCR 24) which includes most of the state; the Appalachian Mountains (BCR 28) which includes the Cumberland Mountains and Plateau; the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (BCR 26) which covers a small portion of the Jackson Purchase along the Mississippi River; and the Southeastern Coastal Plain (BCR 27) which covers most of the Jackson Purchase west of Land Between the Lakes ( Appendix 2.12 ). BCR 27 is currently in the process of being split into the East Gulf Coastal Plain sub-BCR.

Approximately 375 species of birds have been recorded in Kentucky, and of these, about 150 species regularly breed in the state (B. Palmer-Ball, pers. comm.). Taxonomically, these species can be categorized as landbirds, waterbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl. Continental or range wide bird conservation plans have been created to cover individual or suites of species and include the Partners In Flight’s (PIF) North American Landbird Conservation Plan (NALCP; Rich et al. 2004), the United States Shorebird Conservation Plan (USSCP; Brown et al. 2001), the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan (NAWCP; Kushlan et al. 2002), the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP; Plan Committee 2004), and the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI; Dimmick et al. 2002). Where possible, Kentucky’s CWCS follows recommendations highlighted under these continental plans and includes 81 species (Appendix 1.1). Of the 81 species, four have been extirpated as breeding birds from Kentucky: greater prairie-chicken, red-cockaded woodpecker, swallow-tailed kite, and black tern, although the black tern still occurs in the state as a transient. Three federally listed species (interior least tern, whooping crane, and bald eagle) are also included in Kentucky’s CWCS.

Landbirds. Kentucky falls under four PIF physiographic regions. These include the Appalachian Mountains, the Interior Low Plateaus, the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, and the East Gulf Coastal Plain. Maps of the physiographic regions as well as conceptual conservation plans for each region are available at the PIF website ( http://www.blm.gov/wildlife/pifplans.htm ). Avian species selected for inclusion in the CWCS were based on Kentucky’s heritage list (which is based solely on breeding birds) [Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission 2004], the NALCP, physiographic region PIF plans, USFWS Watchlist for Region 4 states (Hunter 2004), and the Central Hardwoods Venture Concept Plan (Fitzgerald et al. 2003) and includes 46 landbird species (Appendix 1.1).

Waterfowl. The North American Waterfowl Management Plan predates NABCI and, as such, planning units are based on joint ventures (JV) rather than BCRs. Kentucky falls within two JVs: the Lower Mississippi Valley JV (which covers BCRs 26 and 27 in Kentucky as well as part of BCR 24) and the Central Hardwoods JV (which covers all of BCR 24). Updates to the NAWMP and maps of the JVs can be found on the USFWS website (http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/nawmp/nawmphp.htm). Three species of waterfowl are included in the CWCS and are based on Kentucky’s Heritage list (Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission 2004), the NAWMP (Plan Committee 2004), and the Central Hardwoods Venture Concept Plan (Fitzgerald et al. 2003) (Appendix 1.1).

Waterbirds. Waterbirds are a diverse group of species that includes gulls, terns, pelicans, wading birds, and marsh birds. As one of the newest initiatives, the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan sets fourth a plan for conserving waterbirds and is in the process of evaluating the population status of 210 species of waterbirds that range in North and Central America. Waterbird planning regions have been established and Kentucky falls within two of these regions: the Upper Mississippi Valley/Great Lakes and the Southeast U.S. planning regions. Maps of the planning regions and version 1 of the plan are available at the Waterbird Conservation for the America’s website ( http://www.waterbirdconservation.org/ ). Eighteen species of waterbirds were selected for inclusion in Kentucky’s CWCS based on Kentucky’s heritage list (breeding birds) [Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission 2004], the USFWS Watchlist for Region 4 states (Hunter 2004), the Central Hardwoods Venture Concept Plan (Fitzgerald et al. 2003), and version 1 of the NAWCP (Kushlan et al. 2002) (Appendix 1.1).

2.3.4 Birds (Class Aves) Species Accounts

2.3.5 Mammals (Class Mammalia) Overview

The Class Mammalia includes >4,600 species worldwide, a fairly low diversity when compared to most other Classes in Kingdom Animalia (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998). However, mammals are distributed nearly worldwide, being found in every ocean and on every continent except Antartica (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998). According to Kays and Wilson (2002), North America (north of Mexico) is home to 442 species of mammals. The eastern United States (i.e., east of the Mississippi River) supports populations of approximately 121 species of mammals, most of which are native, although some are exotic or domestic animals that have become established (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998).

Kentucky offers a diversity of habitat types across the state, along with numerous topographies, soils, and water sources (i.e., streams, rivers, ponds, sloughs, lakes, and reservoirs). For example, elevations range from 1,262 m in the rugged mountains of southeastern Kentucky to 78 m in the Mississippi River floodplains of western Kentucky, with extremely variable types of topography and thousands of kilometers of streams in between (Jones 2005). Highly diverse plant communities occur throughout the state in accordance with each ecoregion because of changes in soil properties, soil moisture, and slope characteristics (Jones 2005). The variability in habitat types throughout Kentucky supports an interesting diversity of mammals, a diversity that encompasses mammal communities typical of the region as well as species typically found elsewhere. As examples, several animals (e.g., Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, Corynorhinus rafinesquii; swamp rabbit, Sylvilagus aquaticus) reach their northern limits in or just north of Kentucky, others (e.g., cotton mouse, Peromyscus gossypinus) are typical of southern states, western states (e.g., prairie vole, Microtus ochrogaster; coyote, Canis latrans), northern states (e.g., meadow jumping mouse, Zapus hudsonius), or even the Appalachian Mountains (e.g., Appalachian cottontail, Sylvilagus obscurus; rock shrew, Sorex dispar) (Barbour and Davis 1974, although their taxonomy differed on several species).

Mammal diversity in Kentucky has been described to varying extents. Barbour and Davis (1974) discussed 64 species of mammals in their compilation of data on Kentucky’s mammals. They only included species with recent records (i.e., not extirpated species like elk [Cervus elaphus] or American bison [Bos bison]), and taxonomy they used differed from what it is now accepted, thereby not recognizing a couple of species. Choate et al. (1994) listed 67 species for Kentucky, but included several species that have been extirpated for decades (e.g., gray and red wolves, Canis lupus and C. rufus, respectively; fisher, Martes pennati; mountain lion, Felis concolor; American bison) or species they had no records for but assumed should be present (e.g., rock vole, Microtus chrotorrhinus; porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum). In the latter category, Choate et al. (1994) did not include rock shrew, nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), pygmy shrew (Sorex hoyi), or least weasel (Mustela nivalis), species that have recently (within the last 10 years) been recorded in Kentucky.

Diversity within the mammal group is particularly high in Kentucky with regard to bats. Kentucky provides habitat for 14 species of bats, three of which are federally endangered: Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), gray bat (Myotis grisescens), and Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus). In the south-central United States, there are only 17 species of wide-ranging bats (Choate et al. 1994), and even one of those (Brazilian free-tailed bat, Tadarida brasiliensis) is an “accidental wanderer” into Kentucky (Barbour and Davis 1974). In addition to the variety of terrestrial habitats available to bats in Kentucky (e.g., upland forests, riparian corridors, forested wetlands, etc.), subterranean Karst caves and sinkholes are numerous, and scattered throughout the state. These caves and sinkholes offer breeding sites for gray bats and Virginia big-eared bats, but also provide important hibernacula for numerous species of bats that migrate from other states in the region. Unfortunately, disturbance and harassment of bats in caves has been a major factor and likely has contributed to decline in many species.

Although it appears that a wealth of knowledge on Kentucky’s mammal community exists, there is still much to learn. Studies within the last decade funded solely or in part by Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources have expanded our knowledge about many species of mammals. A longer-term statewide small mammal survey provided us distribution and abundance information on 29 species, many of which we knew very little. Concerted survey efforts for Appalachian cottontails showed the species was not isolated solely to the most rugged portions of southeastern Kentucky, but instead was found throughout much of eastern Kentucky and even extended into the “Knobs” portion of central Kentucky. Trapping efforts for American black bears (Ursus americanus) and Allegheny woodrats (Neotoma magister) have provided valuable population and distribution information for these species. Despite all of the information these projects have provided us, there is still a wealth of information to be gained. Overall, we have a very poor understanding of the effects of land use practices on mammal communities, and most importantly, population status of most mammal species in Kentucky. Through our strategy, we hope to initiate numerous research and survey projects to help answer the questions we have about mammal diversity and abundance in Kentucky, especially as it pertains to our priority mammal species (see Appendix 3.2).

2.3.6 Mammals (Class Mammalia) Species Accounts

2.3.7 Reptiles (Class Reptilia) Overview

The reptiles (Class Reptilia) include about 6,300 species worldwide (Conant and Collins 1991); the largest subgroups are the lizards (about 3,700) and the snakes (about 2,300) species. The turtles (more than 240 species) are included with the reptiles here, but recent studies have shown that these animals are distinct from all other reptiles and form a separate class. At the present time, 56 species of reptiles are known to occur in Kentucky (9 lizards, 33 snakes, and 14 turtles). The most recent comprehensive treatment dealing with Kentucky’s reptile fauna is that of Barbour (1971), but much of the information contained there is unclear and/or out of date. The most reliable sources that are currently available include Ernst et al. 1994 for turtles, Ernst and Ernst (2003) and Meade (2005) for snakes, and Conant and Collins (1991) and Minton (2001) for all reptiles. Aside from these widely available published materials, much additional information on Kentucky’s reptiles and amphibians has been pulled from a variety of less well-known sources (e.g., university and museum collections, unpublished reports, theses, dissertations, journal articles, and biologists’ observations and field notes) and entered into databases that are being used to track species occurrences and population trends, create up-to-date species distribution maps, and compile state-specific life history information for the ongoing revision of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kentucky (J.R. MacGregor, in progress). The most significant of these include: (1) the comprehensive herpetological data base that is being developed and maintained by the biological staff at East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC); (2) the amphibian and reptile sections of the Kentucky Natural Heritage database housed at Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission (KSNPC); and (3) the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Information System (KFWIS) database housed at KDFWR.

Eighteen reptile species (32% of the Kentucky fauna including three lizards, 12 snakes, and three turtles) are currently tracked by KSNPC; 27 species (four lizards, 17 snakes, and six turtles) were selected for our CWCS for various conservation reasons (see Appendix 2.1). Most of our reptiles are native, but at least one species (common wall-lizard) is a European exotic that has been introduced into northern Kentucky. The eastern coachwhip, a snake found historically in the Park City area of west-central Kentucky, has not been seen within the state for many years and was possibly an introduced species as well (note: we included it in our CWCS because of its’ unclear history in the state).

Kentucky’s reptiles occur in a wide variety of habitats. In general, the lizards tend to prefer dry, open areas although a few species (e.g., five-lined skinks) sometimes occur in damp woodlands as well. The snakes form a highly variable group from a habitat perspective, but virtually all species require some degree of openness if they are to survive in heavily forested areas. Most Kentucky turtles (13 of 14) are primarily aquatic and leave the water only to make overland migrations between water bodies or to lay their eggs; only 1 species (eastern box turtle) is terrestrial. All of Kentucky’s lizards and snakes are carnivorous; most turtles are more omnivorous as adults and largely carnivorous as hatchlings, but the map turtles (genus Graptemys) feed almost completely on invertebrates and fishes.

Lizards. Four of Kentucky’s nine lizard species (44% of the total fauna) were selected for our CWCS. Three of these (coal skink, southeastern five-lined skink, and eastern slender glass lizard) are also listed as either threatened or special concern by KSNPC. The six-lined racerunner has been added here because the lack of recent records indicates that a number of populations have been lost and much of its habitat has essentially disappeared from the landscape.

Snakes. Seventeen of Kentucky’s 33 species of snakes (52% of the total fauna) were selected for our CWCS. Eleven species (33% of the snake fauna), including the broad-banded water snake, copperbelly water snake, corn snake, eastern ribbon snake, Kirtland’s snake, Mississippi green water snake, northern pine snake, scarlet kingsnake, western mud snake, western pigmy rattlesnake, and western ribbon snake, are listed as either endangered, threatened, or special concern by KSNPC. One additional snake (eastern coachwhip) has not been seen here since the early 1970’s and has likely been extirpated, but there is evidence that the Kentucky population may have originated from a now-defunct roadside reptile zoo and thus the coachwhip may not have been native.

Five additional snakes have been added to the list due to conservation concerns. Recent records are very sparse for northern scarlet snakes and southeastern crowned snakes; both species have apparently disappeared from many areas where they once could be found with some regularity. Western cottonmouths and diamondback water snakes seem to have declined in both range and numbers in the coal-mining areas of western Kentucky. The timber rattlesnake appears to have stable numbers in Kentucky but is known to be declining in numerous other states within its range. Regular monitoring of timber rattlesnake numbers and habitat use within Kentucky is essential so that the rangewide status of the species can be ascertained and consistently tracked.

Turtles. Six of Kentucky’s 14 turtles species (43% of the fauna) are included within our CWCS. Three of these—the alligator snapping turtle, midland smooth softshell, and southern painted turtle—are listed as either threatened or special concern by KSNPC. Three additional turtles (false map turtle, Mississippi map turtle, and mud turtle) have been added as CWCS species for conservation reasons. The two map turtles are largely restricted to western Kentucky rivers and are limited by the scarcity of suitable nesting habitat (natural sand bars). Mud turtle populations in central Kentucky occur in wetland complexes that have developed in natural sinkhole ponds and appear to have declined seriously in recent decades as more development has taken place within their limited ranges.

2.3.8 Reptiles (Class Reptilia) Species Accounts


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Burr, B.M., Warren, M.L.Jr., 1986. A Distributional Atlas of Kentucky Fishes. Volume Number 4 . Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission Scientific and Technical Series.

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