Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Despite its seemingly inhospitable desert climate, Nevada is home to a wide array of biological diversity, including many threatened and endangered species.
Statewide there are 26 endangered species and 16 threatened species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, with another 15 species being considered for the list, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The species range from the tiny Devils Hole pupfish, an inch-long fish found only in a small body of water near Death Valley, to the Steamboat buckwheat, a small herb-like plant found near the base of mountains in the Sierra Nevada range.
Animals or plants listed as endangered face a threat to their continued existence, usually from loss of habitat, said Ted Koch, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Nevada state supervisor.
Species listed as endangered receive special protections that prohibit destruction of their habitats and make it illegal to catch or kill them, with violators facing fines or even jail time, Koch said.
Here’s a look at seven Nevada species that are protected or have been considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Southwestern willow flycatcher
This small, colorful bird is about 6 inches long from beak to tail and can be found throughout the Southwest, including southern portions of Nevada. It was first listed as endangered in 1995. The bird makes its habitat in the shrubs and trees around rivers, swamps and other wetlands, which have been slowly disappearing.
Yuma clapper rail
A marsh-dwelling bird about the size of a chicken, the Yuma clapper rail can be found in the cattails that line rivers flowing into Lake Mead, as well as around the Las Vegas Wash. Threats to this bird, an endangered species since 1967, include habitat destruction and pollution from agricultural runoff.
Devils Hole pupfish
Three pupfish species native to Nevada are listed as endangered — the Devils Hole pupfish, the Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfish and the Warm Springs pupfish. The Devils Hole pupfish is the smallest of these species, measuring less than an inch long.
Only about 100 of the fish remain, and their only natural habitat is the 93-degree water of Devils Hole, located in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nye County. The species was listed as endangered in 1967.
Mt. Charleston blue butterfly
The Mt. Charleston blue butterfly was recently proposed as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The butterfly is native to the high altitudes of the Spring Mountains and is threatened by a loss of habitat and extreme weather, including droughts or unusually wet conditions.
The Mojave desert tortoise is found throughout the deserts of Southern Nevada, Utah, California and Arizona. A threatened species, this foot-long tortoise spends most of its life in underground burrows.
The tortoise faces a variety of threats, including predators like ravens or free-ranging dogs, loss of habitat due to urbanization and injuries from vehicles on dirt roads and trails.
This perennial herb is found in the Steamboat Hills, which lay nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevadas in the eastern part of the state. Threats to its habitat from drilling, mining and geothermal development, as well as from recreational vehicles, led to the plant being listed as endangered in 1986.
After more than a decade of study, wildlife officials determined that the Amargosa toad did not need protection from the Endangered Species Act.
The four-inch toad resides along a 10-mile stretch of the Amargosa River and its surrounding springs in the Oasis Valley, near Beatty.
The toad was threatened by a loss of its wetlands habitat caused by water being diverted for ranching, as well as the encroachment of non-native predators like the bullfrog and crayfish.
Efforts between private landowners and federal wildlife officials helped restore wetlands habitat in the area, keeping the toad off the endangered species list.