ND has a variety of endangered species, both local and migratory
The World Wildlife Fund has found that in less than 50 years, there has been an overall decline of 60 percent in the population sizes of vertebrate species. These species include all mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. This has played a role in the number of endangered and threatened species around the world.
The United States has around 1,300 endangered or threatened species, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While North Dakota doesn’t have an official state endangered or threatened species list, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 says North Dakota is home to 12 endangered or threatened species. Of those 12, eight are vertebrate species, three are insects and one is a plant.
The first on the list of vertebrate species is the Black-footed Ferret. A small, mink-sized member of the weasel family, the Black-footed Ferret has grown rare in North Dakota. They’re associated with prairie dog towns, where they use the burrows created for shelter and feed on prairie dogs and other species that live within the town.
They became endangered and are considered to be eradicated due to poisoning efforts directed towards the Black-tailed Prairie Dog in the early part of the 1900s.
Another animal that has grown rare in North Dakota is the Gray Wolf. With no known breeding population in the state, this species isn’t often spotted anymore.
According to the North Dakota Game and Fish, the greatest problem facing the Gray Wolf in returning to North Dakota is humans. From roads causing wolf-vehicle collisions to being mistaken for coyotes and killed, the Gray Wolf has become rare and endangered in North Dakota.
There are many birds that are considered endangered or threatened in North Dakota. The list includes Least Terns, Northern Long-eared Bats, Piping Plovers and Whooping Cranes.
Many of these birds are migratory birds and travel to or through North Dakota during their breeding seasons. According to the North Dakota Game and Fish, “North Dakota provides important stopover habitat as the few birds left in the wild migrate through during both spring and fall.”
The Least Tern, the smallest species of Tern, is one of the migratory birds that visit North Dakota. They migrate to the state from mid-May to August and prefer sparsely vegetated sand bars or shorelines.
Piping Plovers have similar preferences to the Least Tern and migrate to North Dakota from mid-April to August.
The Least Tern became endangered and the Piping Plovers became threatened in 1985 after the Missouri River’s streamflow was altered from dam construction. Much of their preferred habitats were destroyed or degraded.
The Whooping Crane is another migratory bird that would travel through North Dakota in April to mid-May and used to nest in North Dakota. Whooping Crane nests haven’t been seen in over 100 years in North Dakota. They became first listed as threatened in 1967 and then endangered just three years later.
The Northern Long-eared Bat can be found in most Midwest states and almost all Eastern states. While it isn’t endangered yet, it is threatened. They became threatened after being greatly impacted by the disease known as White-nose Syndrome, which has killed millions of bats across North America.
According to the WWF, habitat loss and degradation accounts for nearly half of all threats against animals. Overexploitation is a close second cause, referring to not only hunting, poaching and harvesting of wildlife, but also the unintentional killing of non-target species.