Extinct & Almost Extinct: Oregon Silverspot Butterfly

-The following painting with notes is from my Extinct & Almost Extinct project –

extinct - oregon silverspot butterfly - 2015-12-12 at 11-13-16

Oregon Silverspot Butterfly-

saved from extinction-

The Oregon Silverspot Butterfly historically ranged from Washington to northern California. Their habitat is along the coast in salt-spray meadows. This beautiful medium-size butterfly is dependent on its only host plant, the early blue violet. A female lays about 200 eggs in vegetation near the blue violet and the larvae feed on the early blue violet leaves, no other plant will suffice. The adults normally move out of the meadows into fringe brush for heat conservation and nectar feeding.

Only a few places in Oregon and northern California now host populations. Habitat destruction led to listing the butterfly as a threatened species in 1990. The reduction of suitable habitat has been caused by multiple factors: residential and business expansion with their parking areas and lawns, public parkland development and traffic, overgrazing, and the use of off-road vehicles. In the past wildfires and wild animal grazing helped to keep the meadows open.

Today efforts are being made to actively maintain and nurture the salt-land meadows that support the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly. These include mowing, burning, and planting native plants in the meadows. A captive breeding program was begun in 1999 by several Northwest zoos. These breeding programs involve raising the butterfly to the pupae stage and then releasing them into areas with declining populations. Up to 2000 pupae have been released each year, augmenting the butterfly population and increasing the possibility of survival for this lovely creature.


Extinct & Almost Extinct: Northern Spotted Owl

Below is a painting with notes from my Extinct and Almost Extinct project –extinct - northern spotted owl - 2015-12-12 at 11-11-32

Northern Spotted Owl –

threatened –

Northern Spotted Owls are about 18 inches in length and have wing spans up to four feet. They are nocturnal hunters and prey primarily on squirrels, voles, wood rats and mice. They are non-migratory and prefer large territories of old-growth forest that have been maturing for 150-200 years. The range of Northern Spotted Owls stretches from Northern California to Southern British Columbia.

In 1990 they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This was primarily due to declining numbers caused by habitat loss from timber harvesting by companies that favor the same old growth forests that the owls need for nesting and hunting. Even with efforts to conserve habitat for the owls, their numbers have been dwindling about 3 percent a year.

In addition to habitat loss, the Northern Spotted Owl also suffers from a new threat, the migration of Barred Owls into their traditional territory. The Barred Owl spread from the eastern United States to the west coast in the 20th century. They are larger, more aggressive owls who have a more diverse diet making them more adaptable. They prefer the old growth forests where spotted owls make their homes. Both species are territorial and do not tolerate the other in their nesting and hunting areas. But with Barred Owls needing less territory, Northern Spotted Owls may have to protect their areas from multiple Barred Owls. This competition and the continued decline of the Northern Spotted Owl has led some people to propose the elimination of the Barred Owl. A pilot program was instituted in Northern California of shooting the Barred Owls, and another proposal calls for killing 3,600 Barred Owls throughout the Northwest, an approach that has created warranted controversy.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Western Lily

The following is one of the paintings with notes from my Extinct & Almost Extinct project –

extinct - western lily - 2015-12-05 at 11-50-57

Western Lily –

endangered –

The Western Lily is a perennial flower that reaches a height of five feet. It can be distinguished from other native lilies by its unique coloring, non-spreading stamens, and unbranched bulb. It grows at the edges of marshes, in poorly drained forests or thickets, and in coastal prairie and scrub forest near the ocean. In 1987 only 25 populations survived in an area that extends for 200 miles in southern Oregon and northern California. In 1994 it was listed as an endangered species by the federal government.

A number of factors have combined to threaten the survival of the Western Lily; the clearing and draining of wetlands, the development of cranberry agriculture, competition by shrubs and trees for suitable growing sites, and the collection of its bulbs by lily growers, breeders, and other horticultural enthusiasts.

The primary effort to restore the Western Lily is to establish populations within protected and managed areas. To save the lily a coalition of federal, state, and local governments, industry, and private landowners is needed. Twenty areas have been designated as viable places for populations to exist, and the goal is to have 1,000 plants in each area. To create suitable habitat, programs have been developed for controlled cattle and goat grazing, manual clearing, conservation easements, and a genetic management plan to enhance the population. These efforts offer promise for the survival of this beautiful flower.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Bull Trout

The following is a painting and notes from by ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct:extinct - bull trout - 2015-11-24 at 11-47-57

  • Bull Trout

Bull trout are a member of the family know as char. Their name originates from their large head and mouth. They are distinguished from trout and salmon by their absence of teeth in the roof of the mouth and the presence of light spots on a dark background on their body. Once native throughout the Pacific Northwest they are now found primarily in upper tributary streams and a few lakes and reservoirs. They spawn in the Fall in cool water that is below 48 degrees Fahrenheit and need steams with cold, unpolluted water, and clean gravel to spawn. Lake bull trout have been known to weigh more than 20 pounds.

The factors that have led to the plight of the bull trout are many. Around the turn of the 20th century game manager began introducing brook trout and other non-native fish to Northwest steams. The predatory nature of the bull trout took a toll on the introduced fish and it was decided to eradicate the bull trout. Commercial net fishing, bounties, and even poisoning campaigns were initiated and some continued up to 1990. Dams and irrigation systems placed on rivers and streams greatly hindering the migratory bull trout. Mining and agriculture silted up streams eliminating clean spawning gravel. Some isolated populations are not large enough for adequate genetic diversity. Problems with climate change warming stream water and causing reduced snow melt are worsening conditions for the bull trout.

Now federal and state programs are trying to conserve and propagate the bull trout population. Their efforts include stream and habitat protection and restoration, reduction of siltation, and modifying land use to improve stream quality. Strong commitment by private citizens, industry, and federal, state, and tribal agencies are all needed to protect the bull trout.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Thylacine

This is a painting and text from my ongoing project Extinct and Almost Extinct: 50 paintings – extinct - thylacine - 2014-12-02 at 14-52-45

-Thylacine (extinct 1936)-

Often called the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf, the Thylacine was the largest carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It looked like a dog with stripes and short legs. However, despite its appearance it was not related to canines or felines. Fossil records show the modern Thylacine living at least 4 million years ago in Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. Thylacine disappeared from Australia after dingos, a more efficient predator arrived about 4000 years ago. By the time of the white colonization, they were only found in Tasmania. Male Thylacines were the size of large dogs. The female were slightly smaller. Both had an abdominal pouch and a stiff tail similar to a kangaroo. They were not fast runners, but could hop like a kangaroo. The litters of two to three pups were carried in the mother’s pouch for three months.

The Thylacine was nocturnal and exclusively carnivorous, hunting mammals and birds. European settlers believing them to be responsible for the loss of sheep and poultry, called for a bounty to eliminate them. Evidence shows these beliefs were exaggerated and sometimes based on manufactured evidence. The increased bounty hunting along with the loss of prey and habitat due to the spread of agriculture lead to their extinction. While the last captive animal died in 1936 (ironically the same year they were granted protection) there were possible sightings of the animal in Tasmania for many years and the Thylacine was not officially declared extinct until 1986.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Sumatran Orangutan

— This is a painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings — extinct - sumatran organutan - 2015-06-10 at 09-45-35

Sumatran Orangutan

critically endangered

The Sumatran orangutans are found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Most of the surviving 7,000 orangutans are found in the north of the island and most of them in the remarkable Leuser Ecosystem. This ecosystem is the home to a large number of threatened Asian rainforest species but is gradually being diminished by agricultural development.

Orangutans are the only great ape of Asia. Their diet consists primarily of fruits, but also leaves, termites and ants. Females, weighing around 100 pounds, rarely if ever leave the trees. Males, weighing up to 200 pounds, occasionally leave the trees but spend most of the time where their food and safety is — in the trees. Their evolution in the trees has led to them have “four hands” rather than two hands and two feet. The length of their lives can range from 40 to 58 years. Females give birth first at the age of 15 and have offspring every eight or nine years producing about four babies in their lifetimes. Males are solitary unless breeding.

The Malayan name “orangutan” means “person of the forest.” This is apt as they share 96.7% of our DNA. Their intelligence is on par with all the great apes. They can learn sign language, they can control computer touch screens, they are skilled tool makers and fine escape artists. But their true intelligence is in natural harmony with their environment.

The capture of orangutans for the pet trade continues continues despite its illegality, but the elimination of their habitat through logging and establishment of vast palm oil plantations is driving the Sumatran orangutan closer and closer to extinction.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Honshu Wolf —

This is a painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings —extinct - honshu wolf - 2015-05-23 at 15-45-07

Honshu Wolf —

extinct cira 1905 —

The Honshu wolf of Japan was the smallest of all wolves, measuring about three feet in length. It inhabited the mountainous areas of the islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku.

Unlike the perception of wolves in the west, most Japanese villagers of the wolves’ territory did not see them as problem but as protectors. Stories abounded of the wolves protecting night travelers, the young and the helpless. Many farmers saw the wolf as their ally in that the wolves hunted boars, rabbits, and deer that could damage the farmer’s crops. There were cases of villagers hunting wolves they believed to had taken livestock, but the hunters risked great misfortune from the retribution of the wolf’s spirit.

The beginning of the end for the Honshu wolf was in the mid 18th century when rabies was introduced in Japan. The spread of the disease killed the majority of the wolves and deforestation and changes in agricultural practices reduced their habitat drastically.

The last known Honshu wolf was killed in 1905. Since then reports of sightings of the wolf have been continual up to the 21st century as is the case with many extinct species. But extensive searches and experiments to locate the wolf have all failed and experts are skeptical of any survivors. There has been talk of reintroducing wolves of other subspecies to the mountains of Japan but no action has been taken to do so.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Northern Pacific Right Whale

This is a painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings — extinct - northern pacific right whale - 2015-05-23 at 15-43-32


Northern Pacific Right Whale

critically endangered

Right whales were given their names by 19th century whalers who considered them the “right” whales to kill due to the plentiful oil in their blubber and the demand for their baleen, long bone-like plates made of keratin that extend down from the upper mouth used to filter their food, that was used for corsets, buggy whips and other things.

Northern Pacific Right whales are a newly designated subspecies of Right whale that are found in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea and have been sighted as far south as the California coast and the waters of Hawaii. They can weigh up to 70 tons and range from 45-55 feet in length. Their enormous head takes up a third to a quarter of their length. They eat primarily zoo-plankton and live 50 or more years. The females do not mature sexually until ten years of age and their gestation for a single offspring takes a full year.

The fierce whaling of the 18th and 19th centuries nearly led to their extinction with many thousands of whales killed. While prohibitions on whaling were begun in the 1930’s, notably Japanese and Russian whaling continued for many decades. Today the Northern Right Whale is the most endangered of any whale species with only one or two hundred surviving. Continued threat to the few remaining whales include ship strikes with the heavy transpacific shipping lines, entanglement in enormous fishing nets of commercial fisheries, high decibel sonar testing of the U.S. military and even continued poaching.

Northern Atlantic Right Whales are similarly endangered with only approximately 400 whales surviving.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Formosan Clouded Leopard

This is a painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings —extinct - formosan clouded leopard - 2015-04-15 at 15-47-32

Formosan Clouded Leopard —

extinct cira 2010 —

This beautiful sub-species of clouded leopard was three to five feet in length and weighed 35 to 50 pounds. Native to the island of Taiwan it lived mostly in forests of a thousand feet or more above sea level. Spending much of its time in the trees, it hunted monkeys, birds, squirells, and deer. Its average lifespan was about 11 years. It was a secretive animal, avoiding human contact. It had a keen sense of sight, smell and hearing. Little is known of their social systems but males and females probably only met for breeding. The females had an average of two kits who were weaned at 10 weeks and were independent in 10 months.

The beauty of the Formosan clouded leopard was a primary reason for its demise. Its gorgeous coat was sought by poachers for its value and the leopard’s bones were used in traditional Chinese medicine. The loss of habitat due to deforestation was also a factor. A 13 year search for the cat was mounted in 2000 and after the use of 1,500 infrared cameras, hundreds of catnip-bated hair traps and field hours beyond number, no cloud leopard was to be found in Taiwan.

Other subspecies of clouded leopard found in Southeast Asia to the eastern Himalayas are all at risk. Deforestation and poaching have the potential to drive them all to extinction.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: California Golden Bear

This is the painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings —

California Golden Bear, 12' X 12", acrylic on paper, 2014, Mark W.McGinnis

California Golden Bear
extinct cira 1930 —

This largest California land mammal, weighing up to 2300 pounds, once numbered 10,000 and ranged from the coast to the mountains. California Indian tribes revered and feared this great predator. The bear was an omnivore eating berries, roots, fish and small animals. They rarely hunted larger animals. Today its closest surviving relatives are the grizzly bears living on the southern coast of Alaska.

The decline of the California Golden Bear started with the arrival of Spanish settlers in 1769. The spread of ranchos and farms reduced food available to the bears and drove them into the foothills. Besides hunting the bears, the Spanish captured bears to provide the spectacle of bull/bears fights and the practice continued after Americans arrived.

As the bears’ range was reduced, they began attacking and killing livestock. The upsurge of people arriving for the Gold Rush brought more powerful guns, traps and poisons and the skill to rid the area of bears. While some bears were killed to protect people and their livestock, more were killed for sport and for bragging rights.

The last California Golden Bear was shot in 1922 and the last sighting in the Sierras was in 1924 but the bear has not been forgotten. The California flag and seal display the extinct animal in remembrance of the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846 that led to California joining the United States. In 1953, the extinct bear was designated the state animal of California and it is the mascot of many California sports teams.

California Golden Bear, 12′ X 12″, acrylic on paper, 2014, Mark W.McGinnis