Updated: Feb 22
North America is a continent of varied landscapes, stretching from the Arctic biomes of the far north to the narrow land bridge of Central America in the south and bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Just like its habitats, the wildlife of North America is extremely diverse, ranging from hummingbirds to bison to bald eagles and all kinds of biological magnificence in between. Let us talk about few iconic species of this continent.
Facts about North American Wildlife You Should Know
North American Bison: In North America, the iconic Bison (erroneously called Buffalo) is the largest terrestrial animal, living in herds. If frightened, the Bison will stampede and can reach speeds of up to 32mph (51.5 kph). The American bison was named the national mammal of the United States on May 9, 2016.
Grizzly Bear: Approximately 50,000 Grizzly Bears roamed the western United States in the 1800s. Today they are on the Endangered Species List. Their numbers are somewhat stable now.
North American Black Bear: The North American Black Bear's diet consists mainly of vegetation even though it is in the order Carnivora. The Louisiana Black Bear is on the US Endangered Species List.
Grey Wolf: By the late 1900s, the grey wolves were all but wiped out by settlers in the west of USA. The reintroduction of these species in Yellowstone National Park has been a thundering success. Sadly, the Mexican Wolf has not recovered as expected despite intensive reintroduction efforts.
American Beaver: The Beaver can remain submerged under water for up to 15 minutes before surfacing for air. Unregulated trapping almost drove the Beaver to near extinction by the middle of the 20th century in the west. Now protected, the Beaver has become reestablished over most of the North American continent.
Moose: The Moose is the largest cervid (a mammal of the deer family) in the world. In North America, the Moose can be found in Canada, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan's Isle Royale, Alaska, Colorado, and Utah.
Black-footed ferret: Belonging in the same group as the weasel, badger, and marten, the Black-footed Ferret is one of North America’s most endangered mammals. Once thought to be extinct, few of them were discovered in Wyoming in 1981.Then, due to diligent efforts by the government along with the help given by local Indian tribes, this sleek, captivating mammal was brought back from extinction.
Monarch Butterfly: The Monarch Butterfly is a yearlong resident in Hawaii and Southern California. Every autumn, millions of them migrate 3,000 miles (4,828 km) from their breeding grounds in northeastern North America to spend the winter in the forests of southwestern Mexico. Each migration is by a new generation, so they cannot learn from others. Instead, they rely on their genes. Incredible!
Bald eagle: The Bald Eagle is the National Bird of USA. Because of widespread use of hunting and extensive use of pesticides that seeped into lakes, rivers, and streams, their numbers dwindled. In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act and strict regulation ensued. Eagles have now come back to even those areas where they had not been seen since the 1960s.
Ruby-throated hummingbird : The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that breeds east of the Mississippi River. Mature males have a bright red throat.
Nine-banded Armadillo: The Nine-banded Armadillo is the only North American mammal that has its own armor. The armor is heavy bony plate that is widest at the front and back of its body.
Gila Monster: A species of venomous lizard native to the Southwestern United States and the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora. It is a heavy, typically slow-moving reptile, up to 56 centimeters (22 in) long, and it is the only venomous lizard native to the United States.
Elk: Elk are territorial ungulates. They mark their territories by stripping the barks of seedling trees. These posts serve as warnings to other Elk to "keep out". The successful reintroduction of the Wolf in Yellowstone and subsequently the healthy reduction in the Elk population has allowed trees, that were almost destroyed by Elk herds, to return in the Park.
Barking frog: Then, there is a Frog that barks just like a dog. It is found in the southwestern United States. This plump frog is the largest native tree frog in Florida. It is known for its distinctive loud, barking call during mating season. They are usually found in swampy woods or pinelands.
There are huge variety of fish like the tuna, and mammals in the continent’s water biomes. Majority of these exotic animals, birds, and reptiles, are in “threatened” status.
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