Skip to content

Federal And State Legislation Protects Maine’s Endangered Species

Federal and state legislation is the key to protecting Maine’s endangered species. Species, including the Northern Long-eared Bat, the Blanding’s Turtle, and the New England Cottontail, are listed under Maine’s Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Endangered Species Act, or both. 

Maine officials are currently working to increase the population of these unique animals, which are declining due to environmental and human-caused factors. To date, 26 inland fish and wildlife species are listed as endangered, and 31 are listed as threatened under the Pine Tree State’s Endangered Species Act.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is responsible for inland fish and wildlife listed under the Maine Endangered Species Act. The act applies only to animals — it does not include plants. Species under that act receive state protection, while species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act receive federal protection. Both are critical to saving wildlife, which is essential to the state’s ecosystem.

Northern Long-eared Bat

Photo Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Northern Long-eared bat is a varied, federally endangered species found in 37 states and eight provinces in North America. It has been endangered in Maine since 2015. The bat faces extinction due to the huge impact of white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease affecting bats across the continent.

This particular species is extremely rare in northern Maine and has been found a few times in Aroostook County. However, scientists have been unable to find the hibernation caves in the region. Following a November 2022 final ruling from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the species is now fully protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The country now celebrates International Bat Appreciation Day every April 24 as a way to bring attention to the tragic plight of bats and their importance to the ecosystem. 

Blanding’s Turtle

Photo Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Blanding’s turtle makes its home in marshes, ponds, streams, and other shallow freshwater wetlands. The medium- to large-sized turtle has been endangered in Maine since 1997 due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. The turtle can live up to 70 years, but the human toll on the environment has made it difficult for these reptiles to thrive. 

Many turtles die on state roadways when attempting to move from one body of water to another. The Nature Conservancy in Maine is trying to alleviate this issue by adding “Turtle Crossing” signs to various roads across the street. The Blanding’s turtle is officially listed as endangered under the Maine Endangered Species Act.

New England Cottontail

Photo Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

One of the more surprising animals on the endangered list is the New England Cottontail. This rabbit population began to decline during the 20th century due to a loss of forest habitat. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife listed the species as endangered in 2007.

Although the cottontail had been a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, it was determined nine years later that it did not need a federal listing. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to support New England cottontail conservation efforts, including work at the Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife released endangered New England cottontail rabbits into the Wells Reserve at Laudholm as an ongoing effort to restore the population. Today, only 300 individual cottontails live in the state and only in six towns: Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Wells, York, Kittery, and Eliot.

Humans have greatly impacted each of these endangered species in Maine. Whether it’s a turtle trying to dodge cars on a road, a bat hibernating in a disease-laden cave for the winter, or a rabbit affected by extreme habitat reduction, each species plays a vital role in the state’s overall environmental health. In conjunction with the federal government, Maine officials are working hard to give these species a second chance at survival through various legal protections and programs.

Share on Social

Back To Top