Extraordinary comebacks of endangered species

24 October 2020 # Hope

Once nearly driven extinct by foxes introduced to their nesting islands in Alaska and by habitat destruction and hunting in California and Oregon, Aleutian Canada geese are today a clear success story. The Aleutian Canada goose population grew from 790 birds in 1975 to more than 60,000 in 2005. It was downlisted to “threatened” in 1990, declared recovered and removed from the endangered list in 2001, seven years earlier than projected by its recovery plan.

In the early 1900s, the United States was likely home to more than 5 million ferrets. But ferrets, which hunt prairie dogs for food and live in their burrows, were almost wiped out early in the 20th century after agricultural development and rodent poisons devastated prairie dog populations. Then in 1981 a small relic population was discovered in a Wyoming prairie dog colony. Between 1991 and 1999, about 1,200 ferrets from that population were released in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona and along the Utah/Colorado border. At least two of those reintroduced populations are established and no longer require releases of captive-raised ferrets.

The whooping crane is one of North America’s most majestic birds and also one of the most famous comeback stories. By 1941, the population had plummeted from as many as 20,000 to less than two dozen individuals in the wild. in 2017, thanks to conservation efforts, breeding and reintroduction, 98 whooping crane nests were observed in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, and it is estimated that the wild population is roughly 600 birds, higher than it has been in decades.