11 threatened wildlife species to celebrate in wildlands

Oil and gas development is eating up Sage Grouse habitat in the American West. 

Rick McEwan, USFWS

Endangered Species Day on May 16, 2014 is an opportunity to recognize and support efforts to save America's endangered species and their habitats.

There are over 450 animal species listed as endangered and over 170 listed as threatened, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In honor of Endangered Species Day, we celebrate threatened wildlife who rely on our wildlands for habitat and survival. In fact, some of our wildlands have been protected, at least in part, precisely because they provide critical habitat for amazing creatures.

Here are 11 disappearing creatures who find refuge in America’s protected wildlands:

1. Greater sage-grouse in Bureau of Land Management lands, Colorado

A treasure of the West, this bird has lost 9 million acres of habitat to oil and gas development across the West. We are working with the BLM to ensure unfragmented wildlands protect the greater sage-grouse from extinction.

photo credit: Flickr, Pacific Southwest Region (USFWS/Stephen Ting)


2. Polar bears in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Among arctic animals, the polar bear is the most iconic, which is evident as the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in which they reside are also known as the Polar Bear Seas. Unfortunately, these are also the seas that companies are seeking to drill. Sign up for our WildAlerts to learn more about how you can help us prevent drilling in Arctic seas. 

photo credit: Flickr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Susanne Miller)


3. Frosted flatwoods salamanders in Francis Marion National Forest, South Carolina

These salamanders are not only characteristically sensitive to their environment, but their habitat requirements are highly specialized. Although it is part of their critical habitat, Francis Macon has only captured 8 frosted flatwoods salamanders in the past 20 years. A similar species, the reticulated flatwoods salamander, is being considered for endangered status, in part because there are only 21 known populations, 71% of which share a single breeding location.

photo credit: Flickr, Todd Pierson


4. Bull trout in Wild and Scenic portions of the North Fork Flathead River and the portion of the South Fork Flathead River in Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana

Bull trout need cold, clean water for reproduction, and logging and road building affects both of those factors. Rivers designated as “Wild and Scenic”, like portions of the Flathead, remain free-flowing, which helps these fish migrate. Bull trout can also be found in Boise National Forest, Sawtooth National Forest and Glacier National Park. 

photo credit: Flickr, USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Joel Sartore, National Geographic & Wade Fredenberg, USFWS)


5. Gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

In the continental U.S., there are less than 3,000 wolves, which require wildlands for their survival. In addition to Yellowstone, they can be found in national parks ranging from Isle Royale in Michigan to Glacier in Montana to North Cascades in Washington.

photo credit: NPS


6. Florida panthers in Everglades National Park, Florida

Florida panthers now occupy only 5% of their former range, so it’s no wonder that there are only about 100 of these special animals left. Worse still, air pollution has led to mercury poisoning in some panthers as well. They are one of 36 federally protected animals living in Everglades, one of only three places in the world that has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance.

photo credit: NPS (Rodney Cammauf)


7. Lange’s metalmark butterflies in Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, California

This insect is endemic, which means in lives only in the Antioch Dunes at the southern part of San Francisco Bay. Considered one of the most endangered species in the U.S., the Lange’s metalmark butterflies population has dropped to as little as 45 butterflies in recent years.

photo credit: Flickr, USFWS Endangered Species


8. Red wolves in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina

In the 1980s, the last 17 red wolves were captured and and bred in captivity to restore their numbers to over 100 now living in this refuge. Today the refuge is working to protect these treasured animals from another threat - rising sea levels that may destroy their coastal habitat.

photo credit: Flickr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (DJ Sharp)


9. California condors in Pinnacles National Park, California

With up to 10-foot wingspans, this endangered species is a favorite for visitors at America’s newest national park. These magnificent birds were nearly extinct just 25 years ago, but thanks to the California Condor Recovery Program they have rebounded to a population of about 200 living in the wild.

photo credit: Flickr, Brian Sims


10. Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

All six sea turtle species in the U.S. are listed as threatened or endangered, but this smallest one is the most endangered. In addition to getting trapped in fishing nets, Kemp's ridley sea turtles’ eggs are often stolen as they are considered an aphrodisiac in some cultures. Restoration efforts have led their numbers to grow slowly over the past 25 years.

photo credit: NPS


11. Staghorn Coral, Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii

Coral populations have been declining worldwide for decades - the Caribbean has lost 80% of its corals in the past 30 years. Water pollution, overfishing and climate change are all contributors. Staghorn Coral is only one variety affected by these factors, which persist even in its protected habitat in Hawaii - a state considered to be the endangered species capital of the world.

photo credit: Flickr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Jim Maragos)


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