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Mountain-Prairie Region
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Endangered Species


Endangered Species | Proposed Species | Candidate Species

Species of North Dakota

Click here for more information on the Endangered Species Act
To view species by county in ND

piping plover


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 ploversĀ  inhabit barren sand and gravel shores of rivers and lakes





Least Tern


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.





western prairie fringed orchid


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.






Grey Wolf


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 Ferret


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 Crane


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


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.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: October 30, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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