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Endangered beetle found in northern Michigan stream, expanding known range

Hungerford's crawling water beetle
Courtesy Photo
U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service
Hungerford's crawling water beetle

A new group of endangered beetles has been discovered in Robinson Creek, two miles south of Roscommon.

The Hungerford's crawling water beetle is a yellowish-brown insect that resembles a watermelon seed.

There's not a solid population estimate for the beetle — a 2002 survey in Emmet County's Maple River counted just over a thousand beetles. With the latest discovery in Roscommon, the beetle now occupies 14 known rivers between Michigan and Ontario.

"It's always fun to find something you're looking for, especially something you don't get to see a lot," said Michelle Kane, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We were just jumping up and down in the river for joy."

Accounting for the new population of nine individuals, Kane said the USFWS is updating its survey protocol and map of the beetle's known distribution.

"The kinds of streams they are in don't appear to be super rare," Kane said. "They like cool perennial streams with groundwater input, so it's quite possible their range is larger than what we currently even think it is."

Kane said the beetles indicate high water quality and serve as the base of the food chain, feeding fish and birds.

"If we care about the fish and the health of stream, we want those macroinvertebrates around," Kane said. "There's also the inherent (value) of protecting biodiversity and keep species existing."

The Hungerford's crawling water beetle was first discovered in 1954 in the east branch of the Maple River and was listed as federally endangered in 1994.

Kane said there's still a lot we don't know about the beetle like exactly how they disperse, but she said they are relatively good swimmers compared to other beetles within their genus.

"This is a cool beetle, we want to learn more about it, and there's a lot of things people can do to preserve water quality," Kane said. "Anything you do that helps the health of a stream will also help the Hungerford."

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