SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Today is National Endangered Species Day, a special time to acknowledge the fading populations of certain animals and work together to help.

An endangered species is any species that is at risk of extinction because of a sudden rapid decrease in its population or a loss of its critical habitat.

Noah McCoard, a biologist for the state of Georgia, and Chris Groskreutz, with the USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of Georgia, answered a few questions from WSAV NOW on endangered species in the Peach State.

Georgia has been ranked in the top 10 states with the most endangered species. What are some simple steps can residents can take to help?

Learn how to enhance wildlife habitat on your land to help endangered species. (Getty Images)

The state is over 90% privately owned and involving the citizens of Georgia is essential to the conservation of endangered species.

A few things Georgians can do:

– Learn about endangered species and how they contribute to the natural world. Tell others about endangered species and encourage them to learn more. Learning about these species leads to an appreciation of these unique creatures.

– Get outside and visit natural areas; fees collected by natural resource agencies go to managing habitat.  

– Keep natural habitat natural. Don’t leave litter or trash. Help clean up natural areas.

– Be mindful of any chemicals when spraying lawns, farms and forests, especially when near areas that have native plant communities or streams.

– If you own land, consider having a biologist visit your property and provide recommendations on how to create, restore or enhance wildlife habitats.

– When planning activities on your property, seek out professional assistance to determine if there may be impacts on endangered species.

How can someone know if a species is endangered?

A little turtle (Caretta caretta) swims for freedom while a biologist observes. (Getty Images)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Information for Planning and Consultation website can be used to determine what federally listed threatened or endangered species could occur in your location or on your property.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division website also keeps lists of endangered species, along with descriptions and photos that explain how to identify these species and their habitats.

Additionally, these agencies have biologists available to assist with identification. 

If someone comes across an endangered animal that seems healthy, what should they do?

If someone comes across an endangered animal in its natural habitat and there is no immediate danger, it is best to leave it alone.

If an endangered species is in an area where there are activities that may put it in danger, such as land clearing or construction, stop all activities and report it to the Fish and Wildlife Service at 706-613-9493. Do not attempt to handle any endangered species.

Protective wire cage for protecting endangered turtle species during nesting before returning to the Atlantic Ocean. (Getty Images)

Endangered species are protected by the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits individuals from taking listed species. To take a species is to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct with a listed species.

Harass means an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavior patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering.

Harm means any act that kills or injures wildlife, including significant habitat modification or degradation when it kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns including breeding, feeding or sheltering.

Is there any other information that you would like to share?

Over 80 species of endangered plants and animals live throughout the state, from small fish in mountain streams to the Red-cockaded Woodpecker of longleaf forests in south Georgia.

One of Georgia’s endangered species, the eastern indigo snake, is the longest snake native to North America.

The eastern indigo snake is a large nonvenomous snake native to the Eastern United States. (Getty Images)

A final note provided by Groskreutz with NRCS of Georgia

The NRCS was started in the 1930s because of the Dust Bowl. Since then, the agency has worked closely with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to implement conservation measures in a 100% voluntary manner. 

Because nearly two-thirds of all our country’s species listed as threatened or endangered exist on private lands, partnering with landowners is critical to protecting wildlife, while also keeping working lands working for the millions of people in America and around the world that depend on U.S. agriculture.

NRCS offers conservation practices nationwide that producers can use to integrate wildlife-friendly practices on working lands. To find out if USDA’s conservation options are right for you, visit farmers.gov