Looking at Animals That Have Come Back from Extinction

The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), October 30, 2017 | Go to article overview

Looking at Animals That Have Come Back from Extinction


Dear Earthtalk: Whatever became of the rediscovered Ivory-Billed Woodpecker that we thought we had lost to extinction? What other animals that we thought went extinct have "come back from the dead? - Betsey Edgewater, Austin, TX

Whether or not the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is extinct in the Southeastern U.S. is still a matter of debate. The last conclusive evidence of the bird's existence in the U.S. dates back to 1944; most biologists presume the species didn't hang on around here much longer than that. And the last confirmed sighting of the species anywhere was in Cuba in 1986.

But then in April 2004, amateur birder David Luneau captured video of what he claimed to be an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker making its rounds in the Arkansas' Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, soon thereafter sparking international interest in the story of the bird that came back from the dead.

But doubters point out that the bird Luneau saw may have been a common Pileated Woodpecker, giving the similar size and coloring of the two different birds. Luneau's shaky, distant video is far from conclusive proof, and since then no one else has managed a confirmed sighting of the bird at Cache River or anywhere else in the woodpecker's traditional range. A 2016 trip to Cuba by researchers from Cornell's Lab of Ornithology looking for evidence of living Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers there likewise turned up nothing. While birders continue to hope the majestic woodpecker turns up again, no one is holding their breath.

But one source of optimism for the Ivory-Billed's return continues to be other examples of wildlife coming back from the dead. …

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