The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a long tradition of scientific excellence and always uses the best-available science to inform its work to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitat for the benefit of the American public.
Created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, today's National Wildlife Refuge System protects habitats and wildlife across the country, from the Alaskan tundra to subtropical wetlands. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Refuge System's 560-plus refuges cover more than 150 million acres and protect nearly 1,400 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
While national wildlife refuges were created to protect wildlife, they are for people too. Refuges are ideal places for people of all ages to explore and connect with the natural world. We invite you to learn more about and visit the national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
The Mountain-Prairie Region's Office of Ecological Services (ES) works to restore and protect healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and plants and the environments upon which they depend. Using the best available science, ES personnel work with Federal, State, Tribal, local, and non-profit stakeholders, as well as private land owners, to avoid, minimize, and mitigate threats to our Nation's natural resources.
Providing leadership in the conservation of migratory bird habitat through partnerships, grants, and outreach for present and future generations. The Migratory Bird Program is responsible for maintaining healthy migratory bird populations for the benefit of the American people.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program in the Mountain-Prairie Region helps conserve, protect, and enhance aquatic resources and provides economically valuable recreational fishing to anglers across the country. The program comprises 12 National Fish Hatcheries.
Law enforcement is essential to virtually every aspect of wildlife conservation. The Office of Law Enforcement contributes to Service efforts to manage ecosystems, save endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, restore fisheries, combat invasive species, and promote international wildlife conservation.
External Affairs staff in the Mountain-Prairie Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides support to the regional office and field stations to communicate and facilitate information about the Service's programs to the public, media, Congress, Tribes, partners, and other stakeholders in the 8-state region.
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
PHOT CREDIT: 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.
PHOT CREDIT: 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.
PHOT CREDIT: 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.
PHOT CREDIT: 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.
PHOT CREDIT: 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.
PHOT CREDIT: 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.