Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) are marine mammals and members of the weasel family. They are the only marine mammal to rely on their fur instead of fat for warmth. Their fur is the thickest of any mammal and the primary reason for their decline in numbers. Starting in the the mid 1700’s to the early part of the 20th century, Sea Otters were hunted for their fur leading them to the brink of extinction.
Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) are one of the largest bears, weighing as much as 1,500 lbs. The Polar Bear is currently listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. Because they are at the top of the arctic food chain and depend heavily on sea ice for their survival, they have become a key indicator species in the fight against climate change.
Black Footed Ferrets (Mustela nigripes) are the only ferret native to North America. Their primary source of food and shelter is the prairie dog, which accounts for 90% of their diet.
As settlers killed off prairie dogs and destroyed their tunnels, the Black Footed Ferret population also declined. By the mid 1900 they were thought to be extinct. But a small population was found alive in Wyoming in the 1980’s; those18 individuals were placed in a captive breeding program. Today, there are approximately 750 living in the wild.
The West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) is the largest surviving member of the order Sirenia. They are thought to have been mistaken for mermaids by sailors who had been at sea for too long. Threats to the West Indian Manatee include habitat loss, and injury and death due to commercial and recreational boating.
Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) are the tallest North American bird and one of only two crane species on the continent. Brought to the verge of extinction in the 1940’s due to habitat loss and excessive hunting, there are now over 500, either in captivity or in the wild. As part of the conservation program, young cranes are trained to follow an ultralight aircraft to learn their traditional migratory routes.
The Rothschild’s Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) is the world’s most endangered giraffe. Most giraffe species are listed as ”of least concern”. But with only several hundred left in the wild, the Rothschild’s Giraffe in considered endangered. This beautiful giraffe can be distinguished from other subspecies by the lack of markings below the knee.
The Siberian or Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is the largest of the world’s wild cats. It lives primarily in the birch forests of eastern Russia, China and North Korea. There are currently estimated to be between 400 and 500 Siberian Tigers in the wild.
The belief in traditional Chinese medicine that tiger parts have medicinal properties has greatly reduced the number of critically endangered tiger species. The trade in all tigers and their parts and derivatives are prohibited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It’s worth noting that medicines containing ground parts are harder to police. Fortunately other sustainable natural remedies exist and should be used.
The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)
is the largest land bird in North America. Their wingspan can reach 10 feet. In 1987 all 22 remaining California Condors were taken into captivity as part of a captive breeding program at the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos. Through this program, their numbers grew and starting in 1991 birds were released into the wild.
In resent years the wild population has been threatened by the use of lead based bullets used by hunters. As scavengers, the birds would feast upon carcasses killed by hunters, sometime ingesting the lead bullets. Thankfully, on October 11, 2013 California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 711 into law, making California the first state to completely ban the use of lead in hunting ammunition. The California Fish and Game Commission has until July of 2019 to fully implement the law.
The Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) lives in old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Long cited in the debate over cutting old growth forests, the Spotted Owl is now at risk due to Barred Owls that have migrated west into their habitat.
Poison Dart Frogs are brightly colored members of the family Dendrobatidae from Central and South America. Secretions from their skin are toxic, and have sometimes been used to coat the tips of blowdarts. Many of these species are listed as threatened or endangered due to habitat loss from logging and farming.