North Dakota Field Office
Mountain-Prairie Region

Endangered Species

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To view species by county in ND

piping plover by US Fish & Wildlife Service
(Photo by: USFWS/Gene Nieminen)

The piping plover is a small shorebird listed as "threatened" in 1985. Habitat loss and poor breeding success are major reasons for the population decline. North Dakota is the most important State in the Great Plains for nesting piping plovers. More than three-fourths of piping plovers in North Dakota nest on prairie alkali lakes, while the remainder use the Missouri River. Piping plovers  inhabit barren sand and gravel shores of rivers and lakes.


interior least tern by US Fish & Wildlife Service
(Photo by: USFWS/S. Maslowski)

The least tern is found on sparsely vegetated sandbars, including those in the Missouri and Yellowstone River systems in North Dakota. These nine-inch long birds are the smallest member of the gull and tern family. About 100 of the remaining 2,500 pairs of the interior population of least terns come to North Dakota each year. They were listed as "endangered" in 1985. Their decline is due to the loss of habitat resulting from dam construction.


(Photo by: USFWS)

The only North Dakota plant on the Endangered Species List, the western prairie fringed orchid is classified as "threatened," which means it is likely to become endangered. The plant, which may reach three feet in height, can be recognized by its large, white flowers on a single stem. The Sheyenne National Grasslands and adjacent native prairie in southeastern North Dakota contain one of three large populations of the orchid. The other two are located in Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada. The conversion of prairie habitat to cropland is the main reason for the plant's decline.


greay wolf
(Photo by: USFWS/Tracy Brooks)

An infrequent visitor to North Dakota, the gray wolf occasionally comes across the borders from neighboring Minnesota, Montana, or the province of Manitoba, Canada. Once abundant in the State, the gray wolf was hunted to near extinction by 1940 at the urging of western settlers, who believed wolves caused widespread livestock losses. Biologists say most wolves prefer deer or moose, only a few attack livestock, and programs exist to repay ranchers for their losses. The gray wolf was added to the Endangered Species List in 1978.


black footed ferrets
(Photo by: USFWS/LuRay Parker)

The black-footed ferret is found in or near prairie dog towns in the Great Plains. They are only about two feet long, including a six-inch tail. Black-footed ferrets are easily recognizable by the black mask across their face, and black markings on their feet and the tip of their tail. Once common, they were declared "endangered" in 1970, and their numbers dropped to 18 animals in 1981. The decline of the black-footed ferret corresponds with the eradication of the prairie dog.


whooping cranes 
(Photo by: USFWS)

The whooping crane is making a slow, but steady comeback. From a low of 21 birds in the 1940s, the current whooper population is believed to be about 264. Its decline is blamed on loss of habitat and excessive shooting. It was declared "endangered" in 1970. At a height of five feet, the whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America. Equally impressive is its 7-foot wingspan. Most whoopers migrate through North Dakota each spring and fall, frequently with sandhill cranes.


pallid sturgeon
(Photo by: USFWS)

The pallid sturgeon is a fish that dates to prehistoric times, and it is ancient in appearance. This endangered fish, which can weigh up to 80 pounds, has rows of bony plates that stretch from head to tail. It prefers the bottom of large, shallow rivers with sand and gravel bars, but construction of dams and bank stabilization has damaged or destroyed that habitat. The pallid sturgeon was fairly common in the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers in North Dakota as late as the 1950s, but biologists believe fewer than 250 of the fish remain. It was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1990.


Proposed Species

Proposed species are those candidate species that were found to warrant listing as either threatened or endangered and were officially proposed as such in a Federal Register notice after the completion of a status review and consideration of other protective conservation measures. Public comment is always sought on a proposal to list species under the ESA. The USFWS generally has one year after a species is proposed for listing under the ESA to make a final determination whether to list a species as threatened or endangered.  Comment periods for the listing and critical habitat proposed rules are currently open for Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling.  Additional information, including how to submit comments, can be found at:


dakota skipper butterfly on flower
(Photo by: USFWS/Robert Dana)

The Dakota skipper is a small butterfly with a 1-inch wingspan. Dakota skippers are found in native prairie containing a high diversity of wildflowers and grasses. Habitat includes two prairie types: 1) low (wet) prairie dominated by bluestem grasses, wood lily, harebell, and smooth camas; and 2) upland (dry) prairie on ridges and hillsides dominated by bluestem grasses, needlegrass, pale purple coneflower and upright coneflowers and blanketflower. Remnant native prairies occupied by Dakota skippers are subject to a variety of threats.

The Dakota skipper has been proposed to be listed as threatened. Found in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada, the Dakota skipper has experienced a dramatic decline in numbers and no longer occurs on half the sites where previously found. Additional information, including Dakota skipper section 7 guidance and appendices, are available at the following website:


Poweshiek Skipperling

(Photo by: Mike Reese/

The Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek): Found in prairie habitat including prairie fens, grassy lake and stream margins, moist meadows, and wet-mesic to dry tallgrass prairie. Prefers a wide variety of native plants including smooth ox-eye, blacksamson echinacea, stiff tickseed, blackeyed susan, pale lobelia, prairie dropseed, little bluestem, and sideoats grama.

The Poweshiek skipperling has been proposed to be listed as endangered. During preparation of a status assessment in 2005, there was evidence that populations were declining throughout its range, particularly in Iowa and Minnesota. Data since then confirms sharp population declines in most of its range.  Of particular concern is its apparent disappearance from the majority of sites in the heart of it range in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Additional information can be found at:


(Photo by: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)

The northern long-eared bat is found in the United States from Maine to North Carolina on the Atlantic Coast, westward to eastern Oklahoma and north through the Dakotas, even reaching into eastern Montana and Wyoming. In Canada it is found from the Atlantic Coast westward to the southern Yukon Territory and eastern British Columbia. As its name suggests, this bat is distinguished by its long ears, particularly as compared to other bats in its genus, Myotis. On January 21, 2010, the Service received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity requesting that the northern long-eared bat and eastern small-footed bat be listed as threatened or endangered. After reviewing all available information on these bat species, we determined that listing the eastern small-footed bat was not warranted but listing the northern long-eared bat was warranted. Therefore on October 2, 2013, we published in the Federal Register a proposal to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered throughout its range under the Endangered Species Act. For additional information including Interim Conference and Planning Guidance for northern long-eared bats, see the following website:


Candidate Species

Candidate species are plants and animals for which the USFWS has sufficient information on their biological status and threats to propose them as endangered or threatened under the ESA, but for which development of a proposed listing regulation is precluded by other higher priority listing activities. Candidate species receive no statutory protection under the ESA. The USFWS encourages cooperative conservation efforts for these species because they are, by definition, species that may warrant future protection under the ESA.


greater sage grouse by USFWS
(Photo by: USFWS)

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus): Native to sagebrush grasslands in western North America, with a range that closes follows the distribution of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). In North Dakota sage-grouse are restricted to approximately 800 square miles is western Bowman and Slope counties and southern Golden Valley County.


sprague's pipit

(Photo by: Bob Gress)

The Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii): Endemic to the northern great Plains native short-to-mixed grass prairie. Sensitive to fragmentation and conversion of grassland habitat. Sprague's pipits prefer relatively large prairie patches of at least approximately 72 acres, with larger patches of at least 360 acres preferred.

Last updated: April 9, 2014