​​BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

It was on June 20, 1782, that the U.S. Congress approved the "American eagle" as our national emblem. Congress chose the bald eagle because it occurs only in North America.

Despite its honored and symbolic status, the bald eagle has been severely persecuted through the years; its very survival has been a long and uphill battle. Not until 1940 did it gain full protection from the Bald Eagle Protection Act. Even then, habitat loss contributed to a severe population decline, as did environmental contamination by pesticides and heavy-metal residues.

Image courtesy of Endangered Species Media Project


Toad HOUSTON TOAD (Bufo houstonensis)

Unfortunately, urban development quickly claimed Houston's population of a namesake species. Other suitable habitat on the coastal prairie was cleared for crops treated with chemical herbicides and pesticides. Native vegetation gave way to Bermuda grass and other invasive plant species.

Watershed alteration drained breeding ponds, and the toads were unable to reproduce or survive long-term drought conditions.

The Houston toad was classified as endangered in 1970. It was also named as one of the most imperiled animals in the United States.

Image courtesy of Endangered Species Media Project


​​Ocelot OCELOT (Leopardus pardalis)

The ocelot is not much bigger than a domestic cat and is considered to be one of the most beautiful wild cats in the world. The species once ranged across the southern portions of the state and northward along the coastal plain to the Big Thicket of East Texas. Ocelots also inhabited the Edwards Plateau, where they found homes in caves along the rocky bluffs and in hollow trees.

Regrettably, those days are gone forever, and the ocelot now occurs only in isolated patches of remnant brushlands across three or four counties of the lower Rio Grande Valley.

Image courtesy of Endangered Species Media Project


​​River Otter RIVER OTTER (Lontra canadensis)

An extraordinary biological diversity provided food and protective cover for hundreds of native species in these ecoregions. Although the river otter is not listed as an endangered species, logging operations have greatly reduced it's native habitat.

The river otter, beaver and mink were highly prized for their furs and pelts which were exported in large numbers. Many of these animals have never recovered from intensive trapping by early fur traders. River otters are very susceptible to environmental pollution, which is a likely factor in the continued decline of their numbers.

Image courtesy of Endangered Species Media Project


​Lizard TEXAS HORNED LIZARD (Phrynosoma cornutum)

In 1993, the Texas legislature designated the Texas horned lizard as the official state reptile. "The horned lizard possesses numerous attributes that qualify it as an official representative of our state," the resolution noted "like many other things truly Texan, it is a threatened species."

Once abundant across much of the state, the horned lizard has disappeared from large portions of its former range. Loss of habitat, pesticide spraying and the accidental introduction of fire ants from South America have also contributed to its decline.

Image courtesy of Endangered Species Media Project


​Wood Stork WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)

Displaced by logging, draining of the swamps, channelization of rivers and bayous, and an increase in pollution and pesticides, the population of the species slowly dwindled. The wood stork was listed as a federally endangered species in 1984.

Recently, however, there have been reports of the return of this tall, stately bird to the swamps of East Texas. Perhaps, with continued preservation of wetlands and the banning of persistent pesticides, the wood stork will be back.

Image courtesy of Endangered Species Media Project

Harris County Flora and Fauna