In their losing battle with television and digital devices, conservationists have urged parents to get the kiddies to the great outdoors. But even if parents managed to pull their children away from cellphones, what would they find in America's wilderness?
A new report by the Endangered Species Coalition, an alliance of 10 environmental activist groups, says they'll see fewer things in nature than their parents did. Many are listed as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Here are 10 plants and animals the groups say your children might never see.
Rusty patched bumblebees
These big, fat and cute bees were once the most common bees in North America, buzzing across millions of acres in the United States, sucking nectar and moving pollen from the male to female parts of plants, making them one of America's most efficient pollinators, worth about $3 billion per year to U.S. agriculture. Now they have lost nearly 90 percent of their range.
When farmers spray pesticides to protect corn and soy they've planted throughout the Midwest, the chemicals also fall on a food that's cherished by monarch caterpillars: milkweed. Monarch caterpillars are creepy and black and yellow striped early in life, but eventually they become one of the prettiest butterflies to take flight. Up to a billion monarchs once fluttered about from Canada to Mexico, but lately they've been grounded; only 33 million remain.
Being the largest predator on land is not easy. A fully grown male polar bear weighs well more than half a ton, and has a big belly to fill. With ice melting because of global warming and the seal blubber it needs to survive drifting away, polar bears are struggling to survive. They can eat as much as 100 pounds of fat in a single meal, the report says. Many drown attempting to swim to ice floes in search of food.
Little brown bats
These little creatures are about to head back into caves for their annual hibernation. Chances are, many of them won't come back out. There's a monster lurking in those caves that attacks numerous species of bats, but kills little browns more than most. It's called White Nose Syndrome, a fungus that covers the winged animals when their hearts slow and their bodies go cold during their deep sleep, wreaking havoc on their bodies. The government count of bats killed by white nose was nearly 7 million — two years ago in the Northeast, Southeast and parts of the Midwest. In Pennsylvania, little brown bat mortality was nearly 100 percent.
Great white sharks
Great white sharks are partially warm-blooded animals that slice through the water at up to 35 mph. But their offspring, shark pups, can't outrun commercial gill nets that pull them up as by-catch — creatures caught by fishermen who are targeting something else, such as tuna. Fishing for great whites is illegal because their numbers are dwindling due to mortality at the hands of humans, but there's no limit on the by-catch in nursery areas off California and Mexico in the gulf, unintentionally killing up to 200 young sharks per year, the reports says. Great whites grow slowly and mature late on their way to living as long as 70 years, "but low reproductive rates, small populations, and by-catch keep this species at risk of extinction," the study says.
Mountain yellow-legged frogs
Frogs were so plentiful in the southern Sierra Nevada and Southern California that they hopped on anyone who hiked the gorgeous landscapes of their territory. The vast majority of those populations have gone extinct, "and the remaining colonies have only about 10 adults," the report says. "And it’s all about us; we are degrading and destroying their habitats." How? Frogs are sensitive to pesticides that run from farms and housing developments into the freshwater streams they inhabit. It's a big loss because frogs eat flies, wasps and other pests that trouble humans.
North Pacific right whales
These whales are some of the most endangered animals on Earth. Some estimates say only 30 remain in U.S. waters, but there's no way of knowing for sure. Once they were plentiful, but hunting that lasted from the 1800s until the 1960s took about 30,000, and now the whales are classified as endangered throughout its range, according to NOAA.
White bark pine
White bark does a lot for nature. It provides shelter for numerous animals and birds and helps grizzlies get fat and healthy off its pine seeds. But nature isn't giving back. The species is being ravaged by a beetle that's spreading because of global warming, and it's being attacked by a fungus. In the western United States and Canada, its historic range, 85 percent of white bark has been wiped out. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the pine is worthy of endangered species protection but hasn't been listed because other species are a higher priority.
The greater sage-grouse
The greater sage-grouse is the poster bird of the conservationist movement. Its range, which once covered 297 million acres across more than a dozen Western states, has given way to development and natural gas exploration, and is now in the path of the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. But federal agencies strongly disagree with conservationists over whether projects should be halted to protect the bird. "U.S. Fish and Wildlife supports efforts to keep the greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list" by managing its habitat better, an agency Web post says.
Snake River sockeye salmon
There was a time when 40,000 of these fish with a green head and red body returned to spawn in the Rocky Mountains. But that was before four federal dams blocked its path. In 1992, one fish made it back. Since that time, federal, state and tribal fish managers have spent $40 million in an attempt to restock 2,500 salmon in the river. U.S. Fish and Wildlife lists Snake River sockeye as threatened and endangered in Oregon and Washington.