Eastern United States
The bald eagle was once on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and the use of pesticides such as DDT. In 1963 there were less than 500 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states. The bald eagle has recovered very well in the years following the ban on domestic use of DDT in 1972. The passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 led to the eagle being listed as endangered in 1976. Since that time, the eagle has benefited greatly from that protection and was reclassified from Endangered to Threatened in 1995. It has since recovered sufficiently that it was de-listed entirely on June 28th, 2007. It has also been given a risk level of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The bald eagle remains federally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Once listed as Endangered, the peregrine falcon population has increased in response to reintroduction and habitat protection, as well as the elimination of other threats such as pesticide use. Today there are an estimated 1,650 breeding pairs in North America. The peregrine falcon is found on every continent except Antarctica and lives in a variety of habitats. Peregrine falcons remain protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The West Indian manatee, also known as the Florida manatee, is at risk due to frequent assaults by high speed recreational watercraft and threatened by the loss of bottom grasses, its preferred food. Manatees have few natural predators, though they are highly succeptible to cold temperatures and can not survive prolonged periods in water below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The manatee remains Endangered and has been listed since 1967. As a result of habitat protection and limitations on the use of recreational watercraft, the population is recovering. Synoptic aerial surveys show an increase from 1,267 in 1991 to 5,067 Florida manatees in 2010.
All 7 species of marine sea turtles are listed as either Threatened or Endangered, in part due to the enormous level of capture by shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic oceans. Through the enactment of regulations to protect sea turtles including the protection of nesting beaches and mandatory installation of turtle excluder devices on shrimp boats, there has been a steady increase in annual nest counts of most species.
Western United States
Southern Sea Otter
Recognized as an umbrella species for the conservation of California’s near-shore coastal ecosystem, the southern sea otter was listed as threatened with the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1977. It’s population once numbered over a million but was hunted to near extinction by the fur trade. Though it remains listed as Threatened, the sea otter population is increasing due to the accompanying protections . Currently there are about 2,800 otters on the California Coast.
The Maguire primrose is located only in Utah’s Logan Canyon within the crevices on canyon walls and has been threatened by highway construction and rock climbers. Successful ESA Section 7 consultations have led to protection of primrose habitat while allowing for the completion of a Federal Highway Administration project, as well as a Forest Service recreation plan.
One of the rarest mammals in the world, the black-footed ferret was as recently as the 1970s thought to be extinct as a result of loss of habitat and elimination of prey species. In the ensuing years, black-footed ferret recovery has combined captive breeding programs with habitat protection to achieve recovery goals. The black-footed ferret wild population has grown from 18 to approximately 800 since 1986. More than 6,000 ferret kits have been born in captivity since 1991 and more than 2,000 have been reintroduced to the wild.
The gray wolf is one of the most widely dispersed apex predators in the world. It’s North American population was once ample, however the often maligned species suffered near extinction and was placed on the endangered species list in 1974. In the ensuing years, it’s populations have recovered locally in some regions and it has been the subject of controversial delisting efforts. It is currently protected throughout the continental United States except for Idaho, Montana and parts of Washington, Utah and Oregon.
Enacted in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has helped save some of the nation’s most imperiled species from extinction. These are just a few of the species saved from near extinction as a result. To read about more species saved from extinction, see the report 30 Years of the Endangered Species Act: Protecting Our World.