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 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.
The Utah Prairie Dog (Cynomys parvidens) is the smallest of the Prairie Dog species. Between 1925 and 1975 the population was reduced in size by nearly 87% by poisoning, habitat loss, and introduced plague. They were classified as endangered as part of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and then reclassified as threatened in 1984.
The Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest known sea turtle, averaging 6 ft in length and weighing over 1,000 lbs. They travel immense distances and can dive as much as 4,922 ft deep.
The Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle was recently named the California State Marine Reptile, and has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970. The Pacific Leatherback population has been dropping rapidly in recent years. The main threats, according to scientists, are accidental deaths due to commercial fishing (especially longline), sale of sea turtle eggs, loss of nesting grounds due to beachfront development, and ocean pollution; especially the ingestion of plastic bags and other debris.
For more information and to help sea turtles go to Turtle Island Restoration Network at www.seaturtles.org
For more information on the Leatherback Sea Turtle go to: