Like every state in the world, Wyoming features different animals and plants on its turf.
Unfortunately, some of these species are facing extinction and have been classified as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the United States.
While there are several of them, the most note-worthy species are the black-footed ferret, the Wyoming toad, the Greater sage-grouse, the Wyoming pocket gopher, and the rusty blackbird.
Below are more details about these animals and their conservation status.
5. Black-Footed Ferret
The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is also called prairie dog hunter or the American polecat and is native to central North America.
It is called a prairie dog hunter because about 90% of its diet comprises prairie dogs.
This is why the decrease in the number of prairie dogs led to the decline of the black-footed ferret.
The sylvatic plague is also a contributing factor. In fact, in 1979, these ferrets were declared extinct until a rancher’s dog discovered a few wild populations in 1981 in Meeteetse, Wyoming.
Once discovered, these animals were bred in captivity by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
This led to the reintroduction of the black-footed ferrets into eight western US states, Mexico, and Canada, between 1991 and 2009.
By 2015, over 200 adult American polecats had been recorded in the wild, with some groups making their homes in Wyoming, Arizona, and South Dakota.
In 2008, the animal’s conservation status was changed to “endangered.”
4. Wyoming Toad
The Wyoming toad (Anaxyrus baxteri), also called Baxter’s toad,is one of the most endangered amphibians worldwide, but this wasn’t always the case.
Long ago, this toad was widely spread across Wyoming’s wetlands, particularly in the Laramie Basin, until their population began to crash in 1975 and almost hit rock bottom in 1980.
Some issues that negatively impact the toad population include acid rain, fungal disease, habitat destruction, and pollution.
In 1985, the Wyoming toad was officially classified as an endangered species, and a captive-breeding program started in 1989.
This seemed to work and has revived the Wyoming toad’s numbers.
The captive toads have made their home at Mortenson Lake, and although there are still threats to their existence, efforts are still being put in place to ensure that this species stay far away from extinction.
3. Greater Sage-Grouse
The greater sage-grouse (Centrocerus urophasianus), otherwise called the sagehen, is the biggest grouse in North America.
It’s commonly found in sagebrush counties in the western US as well as some regions in Canada.
This bird was known as the sage grouse until another species, the Gunnison sage-grouse, was discovered in 2000.
These birds stay permanently on their breeding grounds, although they may move a short distance away during winter.
Due to energy development and residential building, the greater sage-grouse has lost many of its home.
While there were about 16 million of this species about a century ago, this number has been reduced to 200,000-500,000.
While this number means these birds are not endangered, they are still near-threatened.
Other factors influencing the decline in the sage-grouse population include overgrazing and invasive plants.
According to a survey by Sage Grouse Initiative, almost half of the sagebrush ecosystem is gone, making it one of the country’s most endangered ecosystems.
2. Wyoming Pocket Gopher
The Wyoming pocket gopher, with the scientific name Thomomys clusius, is the only animal endemic to Wyoming, United States.
It lives in remote corners of the state’s Red Desert, a region with a high concentration of energy development.
Since these rodents have a limited habitat, conservation groups have been worried that these animals could be harmed by energy development and other potential threats.
As a result, there was a petition for the Wyoming pocket gopher to be classified as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007.
This petition was denied, with arguments claiming that energy development, as well as other disturbances, did not pose a threat to this species.
Only little is known about the Wyoming pocket gopher, and as they are burrowing animals, it is difficult to get accurate data on how many of the creatures are in the world today.
Although this species has been noted as an animal of conservation need, they are not highly prioritized. Experts have also noticed these rodents disappearing from areas they once inhabited.
However, at this point, scientists are hopeful that protecting other animals under the Endangered Species Act will also affect the Wyoming pocket gopher in some way.
1. Rusty Blackbird
The rusty blackbird (1. Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus) is a bird that loves to stay in wet forested environments, in muskeg and boreal forest around northern Canada.
Then, it migrates to the United States in winter.
This species was once abundant but has faced a rapid and steady decline in recent years.
In fact, the rusty blackbird population has reduced by 85%-90%, making it one of the fastest declining land birds in North America.
This loss is difficult to understand because these birds stay in boreal forests that are roadless and remote, with a low chance of coming in contact with human activities.
Therefore, scientists have suggested that climate change could be a strong factor.
This can cause wetlands to dry more often and affect blackbird breeding.
Also, the eradication of wetlands in the US and the degradation of other habitats can come into play.
Other factors may include poisoning and competition with invasive species like common grackles and red-winged blackbirds.