Endangered Species Act


In 1973, the U.S. passed the federal Endangered Species Act, which was designed to protect habitats and endangered animals. The law is considered the “gold standard” around the world for conservation. Below is a list of some of the animals who have been saved from extinction, in part by this act.


Fun Facts

  • Black-footed ferrets once lived in much of the western United States, now living in less than 2 percent of their former environment. As humans moved into their environment, they lost their homes. Humans also introduced disease to prairie dogs, which black-footed ferrets eat. This meant a reduction in their food supply. It also meant the spread of the disease to the ferrets. The animals seem to be making a slow and somewhat unsure comeback.
  • In the 1960s, only 1,500 humpback whales remained after extensive hunting for many years. Today, there are over 20,000 humpback whales in the world.
  • The bald eagle was named the national bird in 1782, but by the 1960s, only 400 pairs remained in the United States. This animal had been hunted, trapped, and poisoned almost to extinction. The first step was banning DDT, a pesticide that was lethal to the birds, and protecting nesting sites. Today, more than 70,000 bald eagles live in the U.S.
  • Over 500,000 grizzly bears once lived in the lower United States, but they were hunted almost to extinction. Today, they’re protected in Yellowstone National Park. 1,500 live in the lower U.S.
  • Florida manatees, big, gentle, plant-eating marine mammals, have lived in Florida waters for millions of years, but their numbers were reduced to around 1,300 just a few years ago. Today, manatee protection zones have allowed their number to grow to 6,200.
  • Gray wolves once lived throughout North America hunting deer, elk, and antelope. As settlers arrived, they hunted the gray wolves because they were a threat to livestock. The animals became almost extinct, but today their numbers are increasing.


Questions and Answers

Question: Why do animals need government protection?

Answer: To ensure that land is set aside for them.


Learn More

Visit the Washington Post to read about other endangered animals.