ground squirrel eating nuts on a dirt road in northern Idaho

25 endangered animals that only live in America

Written by:
October 30, 2019
Nature's Charm // Shutterstock

25 endangered animals that only live in America

The 1973 Endangered Species Act is a landmark conservation law that has brought wildlife threatened by habitat destruction, climate change, and other issues back from the brink of extinction—the iconic Bald Eagle is one of the most well-known examples. The act defined the parameters of endangered and threatened species and empowered the government to take action to protect species at risk, as well as earmarking funding to do so. It also prohibited agencies from taking any action that could further endanger any species listed under the ESA. Since it was established, the Endangered Species Act has become the bedrock of American wildlife conservation and has allowed advocates to fight in the name of species on the brink of extinction.

For decades, administrations on both sides of the aisle have for the most part left the ESA alone, only updating it as necessary. But in August, the Trump Administration announced a sweeping rollback of the law, during what many scientists are now calling "a great extinction." Among other changes, the new rules allow for economic assessments to be conducted when determining whether a species warrants protection; for example, regulators could calculate the revenue that would be lost from closing off critical habitat for logging. This is a radical departure from the original ESA and one that has caused controversy and outrage. Twenty states and the City of New York are now suing the administration to protect the law, but its future remains uncertain. 

To understand the current state of endangered species in the U.S., Stacker has compiled a list of 25 endangered animals that are only found in the United States using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species list. All animals on this list are endemic to the U.S., classified as either Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN, and classified as either Endangered or Threatened by the federal government. 

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1 / 25
USFWS // Flickr

Salt marsh harvest mouse

- Scientific name: Reithrodontomys raviventris
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: California

The Salt marsh harvest mouse was found around the Bay Area until relatively recently, but its habitat has become extremely fragmented. Because of human development, populations of the mouse are isolated from one another and cannot breed properly.

2 / 25
Bernd Thaller // Flickr

Utah prairie dog

- Scientific name: Cynomys parvidens
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: Utah

The Utah Prairie Dog was declared endangered in 1973. However, over the last 30 years, the population has been stable to increasing, and the Utah Prairie Dog is now federally recognized as threatened rather than endangered. Threats like urban expansion, climate change, and resource exploration remain, but the prairie dog has made a strong recovery.

3 / 25
LaggedOnUser // Wikimedia Commons

Red wolf

- Scientific name: Canis rufus
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: North Carolina

Red Wolves were once found along much of the Southeast, but habitat destruction, hunting, and more have dwindled their range to the point thatthey are only found in North Carolina. They’re one of the most endangered canids on Earth. Red wolves are also highly endangered because of interactions with coyotes, which can hurt the species’ viability long term.

4 / 25
Gordon Smith // Wikimedia Commons

Kauai cave wolf spider

- Scientific name: Adelocosa anops
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: Hawaii

The Kauai cave wolf is a highly unusual spider that can only be found in caves in the Koloa district of Kauai, Hawaii.  Wolf spiders usually utilize their vision to catch their prey rather than webs, but the Kauai cave wolf is unique because it is eyeless, relying only on swift motion to hunt. Because they have such specific habitat needs, the cave wolf is highly vulnerable to habitat destruction from construction, human visitation, and other sources. 

5 / 25
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Laysan duck

- Scientific name: Anas laysanensis
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Hawaii

Ducks don’t immediately come to mind when we consider an endangered species, but this particular one is. In fact, the Laysan duck, once found all over the Hawaiian islands, is now the rarest native waterfowl in the United States and populations exist only on Laysan Island and on a wildlife refuge at Midway Atoll.

6 / 25
USFWS // Flickr

Yosemite toad

- Scientific name: Anaxyrus canorus
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: California

The Yosemite Toad, endemic to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California is covered in warts; the females also have splotches all over their bodies. They’re only found in a 150-mile range and are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction.

7 / 25
Larry Lamsa // Flickr

Gunnison sage-grouse

- Scientific name: Centrocercus minimus
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: Colorado, Utah

The Gunnison sage-grouse is an unusual species of bird found only in the Southwest. They face threats from a variety of sources, but their habitat has been largely ravaged by oil and gas drilling. Environmental groups are fighting hard to protect the animal’s remaining habitat from further drilling.

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8 / 25
USFWS // Flickr

Devils Hole pupfish

- Scientific name: Cyprinodon diabolis
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Nevada

This tiny, bright blue fish (only one inch in length) is only found naturally in the Devils Hole cavern in Nevada, the waters of which are 93 degrees. Pupfish got their name because of the way they swim and move, which observers often likened to the frolic and play of a puppy.

9 / 25
Dick Biggins // Wikimedia Commons


- Scientific name: Cyprogenia stegaria
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia

The Fanshellmussel has been severely impacted by human activity like dredging, mining and water pollution. Water conservation activities and erosion prevention are both key to keeping the mussel from disappearing.

10 / 25
Harrison George // Wikimedia Commons

Giant kangaroo rat

- Scientific name: Dipodomys ingens
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: California

Giant kangaroo rats are the largest species in their family. They got their name because they stand up on their hind feet and hop to move, like a kangaroo. They create complex burrow systems that sometimes have more than five separate entrances.

11 / 25
USFWS // Flickr

Delta green ground beetle

- Scientific name: Elaphrus viridis
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: California

This beetle has a range of only about 7,000 acres in Solano County, Calif. There are natural gas reserves in the beetle’s habitat, so natural gas exploration could further threaten it. Because it is unusually colorful, it could also be a target for illegal collectors.

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12 / 25
Piershendrie // Wikimedia Commons

Jollyville Plateau salamander

- Scientific name: Eurycea tonkawae
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: Texas

This unique salamander spends its entire life underwater. It was only discovered in 2000, but already its population has declined dramatically due to the sensitive nature of these amphibians. The Jollyville Plateau salamander is highly threatened by development, which groups like The Center for Biological Diversity fight in areas known to be inhabited by this species.

13 / 25
Pacific Southwest Region // Wikimedia Commons

California condor

- Scientific name: Gymnogyps californianus
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: California, Arizona, Utah

Condors are the largest flying birds in North America. Their wingspan is nearly 10 feet from tip to tip. After they nearly went extinct, the remaining 10 wild condors were captured in 1987; reintroduction began in 1992.

14 / 25
USFWS // Flickr

American burying beetle

- Scientific name: Nicrophorus americanus
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Arkansas, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas

Burying beetles survive off of the carcasses of dead animals, which they bury in the ground. Biologists aren’t sure what has led to their rapid decline, but it is possible that it has been caused by declines in other species that they rely on to eat.

15 / 25
Unknown // Wikimedia Commons

Squirrel Chimney Cave shrimp

- Scientific name: Palaemonetes cummingi
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Florida

This tiny, translucent shrimp has only been found in a single sinkhole in Florida. Because they are so rare, very little is known about them at this point.

16 / 25
Hiart // Wikimedia Commons

Crested honeycreeper (Akohekohe)

- Scientific name: Palmeria dolei
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Hawaii

The Crested Honeycreeper, known in traditional Hawaiian as ‘Ākohekohe, was once found on both Maui and Molokai but is now only found on Maui. It is known for its acrobatic movements and how it runs across treetops.

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17 / 25
Blakenship Emmett // Wikimedia Commons

Red Hills salamander

- Scientific name: Phaeognathus hubrichti
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: Alabama

The Red Hills salamander is unusually large; it can be up to 11 inches long! Unfortunately, its range is very limited. In fact, it is the only terrestrial vertebrate entirely confined to the state.

18 / 25
USFWS // Flickr

Louisiana pine snake

- Scientific name: Pituophis ruthveni
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: Louisiana, Texas

The Louisiana pine snake, one of the rarest snakes in North America, is known for its large eggs. It rarely appears in the wild anymore, but when it does, it lives out its days in the warren of tunnels created by pocket gophers, which it eats.

19 / 25
Brian Gratwicke // Flickr


- Scientific name: Plagopterus argentissimus
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Arizona, Utah, Nevada

Woundfins are tiny minnows that once occupied much of the Colorado River Basin. But because of habitat destruction, invasive species, and other issues, its populations have dwindled significantly. Increased water temperatures are one of the biggest threats to the fish.

20 / 25
Josh Roswell // Wikimedia Commons

Alabama red-bellied turtle

- Scientific name: Pseudemys alabamensis
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: Alabama

Named for its bright underbelly, which can be red or yellow, this turtle makes its home in freshwater rivers, ponds, and bayous. Unfortunately, when the turtles come onto land to lay eggs, they are a target for drivers who don’t see them. The Alabama Department of Transportation has built fences to keep them off highways and has signs on roads during hatching season to keep them safer.

21 / 25
Claus Ableiter // Wikimedia Commons

Bruneau Hot springsnail

- Scientific name: Pyrgulopsis bruneauensis
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Idaho

This unusual snail is found only in hot springs in Idaho. It is vulnerable because of this, mainly because of groundwater withdrawal from agriculture. It has also fallen prey to some introduced species of fish.

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22 / 25
Isaac Chellman/NPS // Wikimedia Commons

Mountain yellow-legged frog

- Scientific name: Rana muscosa
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: California

These frogs are usually found within just a few feet of a water source.They mainly appear at high elevations, ranging from 4,500 to 12,000 feet. Unfortunately, fish farming has been a major threat to the frogs, as fish stock compete with them for food.

23 / 25
Unknown // Wikimedia Commons

Flattened musk turtle

- Scientific name: Sternotherus depressus
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Alabama

It can take this tiny turtle up to 60 years to reach its full length—which is only 12 centimeters. Habitat fragmentation has had a major impact on the turtle, although it is now protected by the state of Alabama, and recovery efforts are underway to restore its habitat.

24 / 25
Desert LCC // Flickr

Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard

- Scientific name: Uma inornata
- Red List status: Endangered
- Geographic range: California

This lizard has adapted to life in the harsh desert. It spends most of its daylight hours “swimming” in the sand: burrowing underneath during the worst of the heat. Its biggest threat is human development in its habitat.

25 / 25
US Forest Service // Flickr

Northern Idaho Ground Squirrel

- Scientific name: Urocitellus brunneus
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Geographic range: Idaho

This rare squirrel relies on large amounts of grass and seeds to fatten up for its long winter hibernation. Fire suppression efforts have greatly reduced its food supply, leading to population decline.

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