Our Only Native Stork Back From Brink of Extinction
Wood stork is taken off endangered list
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2014 4:12 AM CDT
An adult wood stork comes in for a landing during a tour of the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge by United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell yesterday.   (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
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(Newser) – America's only native stork has made a comeback a few decades after scientists warned it could be extinct by the year 2000. The wood stork—a four-foot-tall wading bird with a five-foot wingspan—has been officially declared a threatened species instead of an endangered one, though it will continue to receive most of the same protections, the AP reports. The population had plummeted to a historic low by the late 1970s, but it resurged after it expanded its territory from southern Florida to Georgia and the Carolinas.

"One reason we're able to change their status is that the risk has been reduced because their numbers are more spread out," explains the Fish and Wildlife biologist in charge of the wood stork recovery program. "They have improved their productivity by expanding their breeding range." But reaction to the move has been mixed, with some conservationists calling it premature and warning that stork numbers continue to fluctuate, especially in the Everglades, the Palm Beach Post reports.