North America boasts an amazing diversity of habitats, including rivers, waterfalls, wetlands, springs, geysers, caves, and seacoasts. While North America's 5.8 billion acres have an unparalleled variety of wildlife, many of them are endangered. Read on to learn about a few of North America's most imperiled animal residents.
Black-footed Ferret: The Black-footed Ferret is the most endangered mammal in North America: about 1,000 live in captivity and only 80 live in the wild. In fact, until 1981, scientists believed that the Black-footed Ferret was extinct already! Why are Black-footed Ferrets in such dire straights? Loss of habitat and prairie dog extermination programs (prairie dogs are this ferret's main food source) have dramatically reduced their populations.
Grizzly Bear: Outside of Alaska, the U.S. Brown Bear population (a.k.a. Kodiak Bear or Grizzly Bear) is threatened. The scattered populations that live elsewhere (including Europe) are endangered, and, in some cases, there are only a few individuals left! Brown bear populations are slow to recover from population loss because females only give birth to two cubs every four years.
Vancouver Island Marmot: Found only on Vancouver Island, the Vancouver Island Marmot is among the world's most critically endangered animals. Like the Brown Bear, the Vancouver Island Marmot breeds infrequently--every other year--and is slow to recover from population loss. Predators include the Golden Eagle, Red Tail Hawk, Puma, Black Bear, and Humans. Only the Vancouver Island Marmot Preservation Committee stands between these animals and extinction. In 1982 there were only 6 active colonies, and fewer than 100 individuals alive.
Still, the Vancouver Island Marmots are sturdy stock! When hibernating through the cold Canadian winter, their body temperatures fall below 40.1 degrees Fahrenheit!
Swift Fox: Once common throughout North America, Swift Foxes went extinct in the Canadian wild in 1938. Today, they are one of North America's most endangered animals. Why? The fur trade, hunting, habitat loss, and the eradication of the bison (on which the foxes scavenged) all contributed to their near demise.
Swift foxes are one of the smallest members of the dog family, weighing less than your average house cat. Still, these quick canines can run up to 129 km/hr.! Today, the Swift Fox is making a slow comeback, thanks to reintroduction efforts in both the U.S. and Canada.