Wildlife officials delay calling woodpecker extinct: Last verifiable sighting was in 1944

Published 8:34 am Friday, July 8, 2022


Kentucky Today

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday a six-month extension before officially declaring the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct and is reopening the public comment period on the proposed rule for another 30 days.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they are not yet ready to call the bird extinct, which once lived in Kentucky. Photo is described by the Audubon Society as : a colorized rendition of a 1935 photograph taken by Arthur Allen of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker at a nest in Louisiana’s Singer Tract, 1935. Cornell Lab of Ornithology photo via Kentucky Today

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On Sept. 30, 2021, the Service published a proposed rule to remove 23 species from the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants due to extinction. This proposal included the ivory-billed woodpecker, based on the best science available at the time.

The Service held a requested public hearing on Jan. 26, 2022, on the proposal to delist the ivory-billed woodpecker, and considered information submitted during the public hearing, the 60-day public comment period associated with the proposed rule and the 30-day public comment period associated with the public hearing.

Although the last verifiable sighting of the bird was in 1944, reports continue to persist into the 21st century of people claiming to have spotted one.

Recognizing substantial disagreement among experts regarding the status of the species, the Service decided to extend the deadline to allow for additional time to review information.

The Service is seeking new information during the 30-day reopening, including clear video or photographic evidence of the presence of the ivory-billed woodpecker that can be repeatedly interpreted the same way by independent observers, such as definitive photographic evidence collected by a field observer. Comments provided during the initial proposal and the previous reopening do not need to be resubmitted.

While the woodpecker’s primary habitat was along the Gulf Coast, 19th century maps showed the bird also lived in the Ohio River Valley, as far north as Cincinnati, and was also reportedly in Stanford, Kentucky. Deforestation and hunting of the birds caused its decline in population, and possible demise.

The reopening of the 30-day public comment period on the proposed rule that published September 30, 2021, will publish in the Federal Register on July 7, 2022.  The Service will accept comments received or postmarked on or before August 8, 2022. Information on how to submit comments is available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS‒R4‒ES‒2020‒0109.