By Dr. Becker
North America hosts an incredible variety of diverse animal species, many of which can be found right here in the US.
Several wildlife species in North America don't exist anywhere else.
Some of the animals on the list are endangered. It's important that we protect them from extinction.
9 Fascinating Animals Found in the US
The bald eagle has been a national symbol of the US since the late 1700s. It is also a spiritual symbol for Native Americans.
Bald eagles aren't actually bald. Their heads are covered with white feathers that stand out against the chocolate brown coloring of their body and wings.
Once endangered by hunting and pesticides, bald eagle populations have rebounded under protection.
The bison is a symbolic animal of the Great Plains. Often incorrectly called buffalo, bison are the heaviest land animals in North America, weighing from 900 to over 2,000 pounds.
Bison were plentiful across much of North America, but during the 19th century, settlers killed tens of millions of the animals for food and sport. Enormous herds were reduced to a few hundred animals.
Fortunately, bison populations have rebounded to some extent, and about 200,000 bison now live on preserves and ranches as food animals.
Box turtles, also known as box tortoises (although they are turtles, not tortoises), are native to the US and Mexico. There are 4 species of box turtles: Common box turtle, Coahuilan box turtle, Spotted box turtle, and Ornate box turtle.
Box turtles have a domed shell that is hinged at the bottom, which allows the turtle to close its shell tightly to defend against predators.
Box turtles like to stick close to home, and most do not travel far from the place of their birth. One of the leading causes of population decline of box turtles is humans taking them from their homes and releasing them elsewhere in the wild. These turtles often end up wandering aimlessly, trying to find their original home until they die.
The only place to find wild American crocodiles in the US is in the mangrove swamps of the southernmost tip of Florida, where they can grow to over 6 feet and live up to 50 years.
Although American crocodiles live in environments with a mixture of fresh and salt water, rising sea levels can flood the Everglades and alter that balance. Too much saltwater can impact the growth and development of crocodile hatchings, which have a much lower tolerance for saltwater than adults.
Crocodiles are also vulnerable to global warming because the sex of hatchlings is determined by temperature during incubation of the eggs. Warming temps could tip the sex ratio of crocodiles and threaten their survival.
The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas, and lives in a variety of habitats, including deciduous forests, rainforests, swamps, pampas grasslands, and mountain scrub areas.
Sadly, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated in the US and are endangered throughout their range, which stretches to Patagonia in South America. Just 15,000 jaguars are estimated to remain in the wild. Conservation efforts have preserved a small population of 80 to 120 individuals in the mountains of Sonora, Mexico bordering Arizona. This population is the largest of three known to remain in Sonora, and is the last hope for recovery in the US.
The javelina, or peccary, evolved in South America and migrated north, arriving in Arizona. It's possible the javelina spread simultaneously with the replacement of Arizona's native grasslands by scrub and cactus. The javelina has one of the largest ranges of any New World animal – from Arizona to Argentina – and the range is still expanding, primarily northwestward. In the United States, the javelina is only found in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico.
Javelina inhabit desert washes, saguaro and palo verde forests, oak woodlands, and grasslands with mixed shrubs and cacti. They live in family groups of up to 10, but a few herds have been known to number over 50 animals.
Monarch butterflies make an amazing mass migration that brings them by the millions to California and Mexico every winter. North American monarchs are the only butterflies that travel such long distances – up to 3,000 miles.
Recently, scientists separated the North American monarchs into eastern and western populations. The larger eastern population migrates to Central Mexico in the fall; the smaller western population migrates primarily to coastal California when the weather turns chilly.
The eastern monarchs have experienced tremendous population declines and widespread threats in recent years and are now considered "critically imperiled," whereas the western population has been declining at a slightly slower rate and is categorized as "vulnerable to imperiled."
Pacific Tree Frog
The Pacific tree frog, also known as the Pacific chorus frog, inhabits the west coast of the US from Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, to British Columbia in Canada, and extreme southern Alaska. These small amphibians live at sea level to more than 10,000 feet in many types of habitats, and reproduce in aquatic settings.
Pacific tree frogs are either green or brown, and can change colors over periods of hours and weeks.
In 2007, the Pacific tree frog was named the state amphibian of the State of Washington. It is also a very important species in all of the regions where it is found because it is a keystone species.
The American pika is a small mammal that inhabits fields in alpine and subalpine mountain areas. The historical range of this impossibly cute little fellow includes California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.
The American pika is highly sensitive to temperature changes and cannot survive at temps of 78 degree F or higher. In New Mexico, Nevada, and Southern California, populations of pikas are rarely seen below about 8,000 feet.
Without protection, American pikas could be the first species with the distinction of going extinct due to global warming.