From the Eastern Shore to the Appalachian Mountains, Virginia provides an immense diversity of habitats for the thousands of species that call the Old Dominion their home. Whether in a marsh or mountaintop, forest or field, the Commonwealth’s biodiversity is staggering. Macroinvertebrates, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and other species all take advantage in an interconnected web of Virginia wildlife.
Nonetheless, the precious balance present in Virginia’s ecosystems faces constant threats. By far, habitat destruction and degradation is the top means by which Virginia’s wildlife species have become imperiled. As fields are replaced by parking lots and forests are carved up into subdivisions, species must adapt or leave. While a few species such as White-tailed Deer and Virginia Opossum do fairly well in these situations, they are by no means an indicator of a healthy system. Other threats to wildlife are less obvious. We have become more efficient at farming, which sounds great at the surface for pure economic sake, but as a result we have lost many of our early successional habitats and their associated species from the Northern Bobwhite quail to the Monarch Butterfly. Modern day commercial pine forestry practices often lead to forest monocultures with relatively little wildlife value. Our streams have become increasingly polluted by sediments, nutrients and pesticide residues which thereby endanger our diverse fish and mussel populations. Human-introduced invasive species also are a huge threat as they quickly invade and outcompete natives, leading to exotic monocultures with reduced biodiversity. The list could go on and on, but the reality is that from birds to bats, plants to pollinators, many of Virginia’s resident species are headed towards listing on the Endangered Species Act.
Despite all these challenges that face Virginia’s wildlife, all hope is not lost. The efforts of private citizens, non-profit organizations as well as public agencies such as the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Natural Resources Conservation Service are going a long way to stem the tide. We can find a balance between the needs of human populations and wildlife. We can tweak our farming and forestry practices to increase early successional habitats. We can reduce pesticide use and protect our streams from both point and non-point pollution. We can continue our fight against invasive species throughout Virginia. And, yes, we can help species to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. Bald Eagles are the poster child that most citizens know about, but hopefully many more species will come back in time.
For more information on wildlife in Virginia, please visit: https://www.dwr.virginia.gov/.
To contact your local wildlife office, click here.