Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 29, 2015

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Freshwater Mussels From Midwest, Southeast Gain 1,920 River Miles of
Protected Habitat Under Endangered Species Act

Neosho Mucket, Rabbitsfoot Mussels Have Disappeared From Nearly Two-thirds of Historic Range

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized critical habitat protection under the Endangered Species Act today for rabbitsfoot and Neosho mucket mussels in 12 states. The mussels were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2013 under a settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity that speeds protection decisions for 757 imperiled species nationwide.

Neosho mucket
Neosho mucket mussel photo by Edwin J. Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Photos are available for media use.
“Freshwater mussels are indicators of water quality, so it makes good common sense to protect habitat for them under the Endangered Species Act. That’ll also protect clean water that people need for drinking and recreation,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center.

The Neosho mucket is gaining 483 river miles of critical habitat in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma in the Elk, Fall, llinois, Neosho, Shoal, Spring, North Fork Spring and Verdigris rivers.

The rabbitsfoot is gaining 1,437 river miles of protected habitat in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee in the Neosho, Spring, Verdigris, Black, Buffalo, Little, Ouachita, Saline, Middle Fork Little Red, South Fork Spring, Strawberry, White, St. Francis, Big Sunflower, Big Black, Paint Rock, Duck, Tennessee, Red, Ohio, Allegheny, Green, Tippecanoe, Walhonding and North Fork Vermilion rivers.

Critical habitat protection means that any federally funded or permitted project will need to consult with the Service to make sure that activities do not harm the mussels’ habitat.

The Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels live on the bottom of streams and rivers and have suffered drastic declines because of water pollution and dams. Mussels reproduce by making a lure that looks like a young fish; when larger fish try to prey on the lure, the mussels release their fertilized eggs onto the fish’s gills. In dirty water the fish cannot see the mussel’s lure, so the mussel can’t reproduce. Dams separate mussels from their fish hosts and change the flowing water the mussels need to survive. Mussels filter water constantly and accumulate pollutants in their bodies.

Species Background
The Neosho mucket mussel has a 4-inch, round shell that’s light tan on the outside and bluish-white on the inside. Threatened by dams and pollution from agriculture and mining, it can no longer be found in more than 60 percent of its historic range. The mucket was first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1984.

The rabbitsfoot mussel grows to about 6 inches in length, with a rectangular, olive shell featuring gorgeous black triangles on the outside and iridescent purple or white inside. It has disappeared from 65 percent of its historic range. The rabbitsfoot was historically known from 139 streams in 15 states, but today it survives in only 49 streams and has been lost from Georgia and West Virginia. It is threatened by water pollution, mining, dredging, dams and displacement by exotic mollusks. It was first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1994.

Freshwater mollusks are the most endangered group of animals on the planet. The southeastern United States has already lost more than 50 mollusk species to extinction, and 70 percent of the remaining species are at risk of disappearing without protection. The Center for Biological Diversity is working to save more than 400 Southeast freshwater species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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