There are twenty-five different mammal species across the United States of America that are either endangered or critically endangered as per the classification system of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Species. This is due to various factors, including over-hunting for meat and game, over-collecting for domestication, losses of habitats, pollution, the introduction of non-native plants and animals, the loss of native vegetation, human over-development, and many other factors. Still more are classified as Vulnerable or Near Threatened, while such aquatic mammal species as the Sea Mink, Caribbean Monk Seal, and Steller's Sea Cow have already gone extinct. This article will discuss the physical characteristics, habitats, life cycles and other aspects of some of these endangered species, as well as some of the threats that they face and the conservation efforts that are being spearheaded to help keep them from going extinct.
Notable Endangered Mammals of the United States
Giant Kangaroo Rat
The Giant Kangaroo Rat, scientific name Dipodomys ingens, is one of only twenty different species of kangaroo rat, which are a part of the larger Rodent Family. Kangaroo rats are so named because they have small front limbs and move by hopping on there back legs, bearing a similarity to kangaroos. As its name would suggest, the giant kangaroo rat is the largest of the twenty kangaroo rat species as it measures anywhere from 18.3 inches (46.48 centimeters) to 22.3 inches (56.64 centimeters) from head to tail. The species is noted for its large head an eyes, its tail which has white lines along it sides and a tuft of hair on its end and it ability to leap longer then 6 feet (1.82 meters) in one jump. They live in burrows that they dry in sandy, dry grasslands and are native to California. They predominately feed upon peppergrass, although they will eat the seeds, stems, and leaves of many other plants as well. It takes a female around one month to give birth to anywhere from one to seven baby rats. The species was first listed as being endangered in 1987. Currently the species is only found in one area that is located between the Carrizo Plain and the city of Taft where the species is protected by law, however the area encompasses less then 5 square miles (2.58 square kilometers). The species is threaten by habitat loss due to agricultural development and are currently being monitored while attempts are made to find new land for the species to live.
Hawaiian Monk Seal
The Hawaiian Monk Seal, scientific name Monachus schauinslandi, is a species of seal that has a distinctively unique appearance compared to most other species of seals. The Hawaiian monk seal has grey skin with a silver-grey colored underside, but their flipper and head are usually a brownish or darker grey color. Adults can grow to weight up to 600 pounds (272 kilograms) and be 7 feet (2.13 meters) long, with the female in the species being larger then the males. The Hawaiian monk seals are only found in the uninhabited atolls and islands in northwestern Hawaii. They eat a variety of different ocean species, including lobsters, eels, octopuses, and fish, among others. Females in the species give birth to only on pup in a eleven month period and the species has a unbalanced male to female ration, which can lead to females being injured during mating. During the 19th Century, commercial sealing was so extreme that people though that the species had gone extinct, but in 1976 the species was rediscovered and place on the endangered list. It is believed that there are less then 1,000 seals in the wild and a couple of different islands have been made into nature reserves. The species is mainly threatened by human disturbances of female seals with children, shark attacks and the poisoning of the reefs the species lives in as part of its habitat.
The Red Wolf, scientific name Canis rufus, is only slightly smaller then the closely related Grey Wolf (Canis lupus). However, it has a more slender build and a more elongated head then its relative. The red wolf has a red coat that has some darker areas that are grey or black and the tip of its tail is black. The average adult red wolf grows to be an average of 4.5 feet long (13.7 meters), weighing around 77 pounds (34.92 kilograms). The species is native to the southeastern United States and lived in a variety of different habitats, including forests, swamps, wetlands, and other areas. The red wolf's diet is mostly made up of rodents, deer, raccoons and rabbits. They also live in packs and it generally takes a female around 60 days to give birth to three to six pups. The species was declared by scientists to be endangered in 1967 and by 1980 they were declared to be extinct in the wild. They were declared to be extinct in the wild in 1980 since the few remaining in the wild were extracted and taken into breeding programs so that the species could be saved. The species almost went extinct due to human population growth, over hunting and that much of its habitat was cleared by humans. Currently, there are around 200 red wolves that have been reintroduced to the wild from captive bedding programs and the population is slowly growing.
What Can We Do To Save These Endangered Species?
There are many different actions that can be carried out by individuals to help protect these endangered species. One could volunteer their time or even just donate money to any of the various local or national organizations and wildlife refuges whose goal is to protect these endangered species. Even such simple acts as recycling, limiting the use of pesticides, starting a flower garden to attract native species, or not buying products that were made by using endangered species can make a bigger difference in the long run if more and more people were to participate. People can also try and push their local or national elected officials to support protecting these endangered species and getting them to support environmental friendly legislation.