North Carolina

A spiky, venomous catfish could be North Carolina’s next species listed as endangered

Federal officials want to list the Carolina madtom as endangered and protect its habitat in North Carolina.
Federal officials want to list the Carolina madtom as endangered and protect its habitat in North Carolina. US Fish and Wildlife Service

A small venomous catfish and a salamander that “looks like something out of a science fiction movie” could be the next animals protected by the Endangered Species Act in North Carolina, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The proposed rules would list the Carolina madtom, a spotted catfish that grows to just 5 inches and has venomous spikes, as endangered. Carolina madtom live in North Carolina’s Neuse and Tar river basins and are already protected under state law, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

“The venom in the stinging spines of the Carolina madtom’s fins is so potent that it earned the freshwater catfish the scientific name, Noturus furiosus,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

The Neuse River waterdog is a salamander that lives in fresh water and can grow up to 11 inches long. It has “a reddish brown body with an irregular pattern of large blue or black spots,” according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The new rule would list the salamander as threatened under federal law.

“The Service is proposing to designate about 257 river miles in seven units in North Carolina as critical habitat for the Carolina madtom and about 738 river miles as critical habitat for the Neuse River waterdog,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

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The Neuse River waterdog is a salamander that can grow to 11 inches long. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

“Designating critical habitat informs landowners and the public which specific areas are important to a species’ conservation and recovery. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership, does not allow the government to take or manage private property, does not establish a refuge, reserve, preserve or other conservation area, and it does not allow government or public access to private land,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

People have another month to send comments about the new Endangered Species Act protections to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Development and pollution along the rivers and streams in the Neuse and Tar river basins are harming the species, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. For the madtom, the FWS said, the invasive flathead catfish, which grows much larger, is hurting the species, along with loss of habitat.

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The Carolina madtom lives in the Neuse and Tar river basins. N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

The species is already extinct on the Trent River, part of the Neuse River basin, the service said.

“Challenges to the Neuse River waterdog include dams or culverts that limit the salamander’s ability to move throughout a stream to occupy quality habitat,” according to the FWS.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.
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