5 Places You Can See a Mural of an Endangered Species

#EcoList of Things We Love

When artist Roger Peet and the Center for Biological Diversity set out in 2015 to increase the visibility of endangered species in the places where they live, we decided to do so with murals: a 12-foot-tall painting of endangered mountain caribou in Sandpoint, Idaho. An immense jaguar in downtown Tucson, Arizona, whose hypnotic gaze dominates a street corner. Endangered yellow-billed cuckoos flying, far larger than life, over the grounds of a public high school in Los Angeles, to be seen and known by generations of kids for years to come.

Murals have long served as a political art form that speaks to the values and experiences of the unknown and oppressed. In the early 20th century, Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros used murals to depict the achievements of Mexico’s nameless workers and the colonization of indigenous peoples by the Spanish. “There are traditions all over the world of muralists contributing to movements for social change and environmental justice,” says Roger Peet, director of the Center’s Endangered Species Mural Project and member of Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. “I’m a great fan of the classic Mexican muralists like Rivera and Siquieros, and I also draw inspiration from those often anonymous artists in Honduras, Portugal, Mozambique, Paris and beyond.”

Once a location for a mural has been found, Peet works, often in collaboration with other artists, to design and paint the species. Of the process, he says: “I love creating the artworks that feature these creatures — some well-known but many quite inconspicuous — and talking about them with the people who stop to ask us what we’re up to. We’re taking extra steps to make sure that these murals last and remain educational and inspirational landmarks in their locations for the next five or 10 or 20 years.”

Here are a handful of the many places where you can find our endangered species murals:

1. Tucson, Arizona

Jaguar mural in Tucson, Ariz., by Kati Astraeir.

Located at the corner of E. Toole Ave. and N. 7th Ave. in downtown Tucson, this mural celebrates the jaguars now returning to their historic range in Arizona. They’ve been spotted in the Sky Islands — as we call the green mountains that rise dramatically out of the desert lowlands — just 25 miles away from the heart of the city.

2. Sandpoint, Idaho

Mountain caribou mural in Sandpoint, Idaho, by Roger Peet, Mazatl and Joy Mallari.

Located at 382 Cedar St. in Sandpoint, Idaho, this mural depicts mountain caribou, which are found nowhere else in the United States besides the Selkirk Mountains of Idaho’s Panhandle.

3. Butte, Montana

Arctic grayling mural in Butte, Mont., by Roger Peet.

This mural, located in the heart of the historic downtown of Butte, Mont., depicts the threatened Arctic grayling, a member of the salmon family.

4. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Monarch butterfly mural in Minneapolis, Minn., by Roger Peet and Barry Newman.

On the side of Toni’s Market in the Phillips neighborhood of Southside Minneapolis, you can find a kaleidoscope of giant monarch butterflies. (Yes, the word for a group of butterflies is a “kaleidoscope”! Or a “swarm” or “rabble.”) The mural features the word “migration” in both English and Spanish in a nod to the majority-migrant neighborhood where it’s located.

5. Los Angeles, California

Whale mural on Melrose Ave. by Icy and Sot

Located near the corner of Melrose and Martel avenues, this mural was painted by Iranian refugee street artists Icy and Sot. It features the humpback whale, much recovered from early 20th-century endangerment, whose migration routes bring it within sight of the Southern California coast.

To see more endangered species murals, visit the Center’s website. Follow Roger Peet on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes of shots the murals being created. And if you own a wall in a public space that you’d like to make available for a mural, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at flotsam@biologicaldiversity.org.

Last but not least, to learn more about the endangered species that live near you, download the Center’s app and use the Species Finder to start meeting your plant and animal neighbors.

Flotsam is a list of things we think are cool. Send us your ideas at flotsam@biologicaldiversity.org.