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What's the Most Endangered Mammal in the United States?

By Alan Pollom

Tags: endangered species, black-footed ferrets,

FerretWhat's the most endangered mammal in the United States?

Bailey Wabash
Evansville, Indiana

The United States is home to 416 mammal species and about 9 percent of the world’s total, placing us sixth among nations in mammal diversity. Currently 83 mammals are listed under the Endangered Species Act as either threatened or endangered. One-fifth of the U.S. mammals on the list of endangered species are bats, which may surprise many, but not when you consider the fact that bats (order Chiroptera) also represent approximately one-fifth of mammal species worldwide. 

Some of the mammals on the list of endangered species are considered genetically distinct sub-species of more common animals such as the Key deer and Florida Panther. Others receive the legal protection under the Endangered Species Act only in portions of their historic range where they may have become threatened. Good examples would be the grizzly bear and grey wolf in the lower 48 states, whose populations in Alaska are considered relatively secure. 

Among the rarest mammals not only in the United States, but North America as well, is the black-footed ferret. A distinct species exceedingly rare throughout its range, this animal was feared extinct until a small population was discovered in 1981 in Meeteetse, Wyo. Following a disease outbreak, the remaining 18 animals were placed in a captive breeding program.

From these lone survivors, more than 2,700 offspring have been re-introduced into the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are over 650 individuals surviving in the wild, with a goal of 1,500 breeding adult ferrets in 10 locations to allow for down-listing from “endangered” to “threatened.” 

So far, re-introductions have taken place in 12 locations with the latest occurring in Kansas in December 2007. 

Visit the following websites for more information about endangered species or black-footed ferrets.


Fish and Wildlife Service

Black-footed Ferret recovery program

Nature Conservancy, Kansas chapter

— Alan Pollom, director, Kansas chapter of The Nature Conservancy

Photo by Sumio Harada/Minden Pictures

thomas wills
3/12/2012 3:46:56 AM

I enjoyed reading your 'rant'. We are an ego-controlled species Tim and destruction, due to over consumption, arrogance, and the inability to recognize the intrinsic value of organisms is often ignored. That is my two cents. Take it or leave it of course.

tim bucher_2
6/25/2010 10:35:21 AM

I just don't understand this insatiable human desire to control wildlife by destruction. For example, ground hogs. I recently was talking to my brother in law who likes to kill ground hogs for local farmers in Ohio. He is a marksman shooter, sort of like a bounty hunter but only for fun. Now tell me what do ground hogs do to farmers that killing them is justified? Another example I don't understand is the indiscriminate killing of coyotes here in central Florida where I live. People say they kill their chickens or goats but I don't see that happening. A couple years ago we would see signs of them and would here them at night, but the only thing they killed was Sandhill Cranes which are in abundance now. So the take a few live stock. Their habitat is constantly being dwindled and they deserve a place to live also. I just don't know! Where are we heading people? Now we have the oil spill disaster in the gulf. That will have a huge impact, but you know, everyday, everywhere in the world people are spilling, dripping, dumbing oil and all other pollutants on the ground, in the air and in the water, everywhere. What will it all come to? I don't know. I think Mother Earth should ex-spell humanity or at least western so called civilization and return the planet to wildlife and indigenous peoples only. Thanks for listening to my whining rant. Any suggestions?