America's Wildlife in Trouble, Needs Help

By Cheyenne MacDonald for

Conservationists have issued a grave warning about the state of America's wildlife.

A new report has found that one-third of wildlife species in the United States are at increased risk of extinction, with everything from butterflies and fish to large mammals facing threats.

New England cottontail

Wildlife researcher holds radio-collared New England cottontail. Conservation partners are working hard to reverse population declines in this regional rabbit./A. Cheeseman

According to the latest estimates, roughly 500 species once found in the country have not been seen in decades, and are now feared extinct.

"America's wildlife are in crisis and now is the time for unprecedented on-the-ground collaboration," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

"Fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates are all losing ground. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to prevent these species from vanishing from the earth.

"Recovering wildlife is a win-in-win: strengthening our economy, improving public health, and making communities more resilient," O'Mara said.

The worrying new figures released by the National Wildlife Federation, the American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society are based on status assessments led by NatureServe.

According to the report, over 150 species in the US have gone extinct, and one-third are now facing heightened risks.

Freshwater fish, for example, have been hit particularly hard. The researchers say roughly 40 percent of freshwater fish in the United States are now "rare or imperiled."

And, 70 percent of freshwater mussels in North America are extinct, or in danger of extinction.

Pollinators have been hit hard, too – and not just bees. The report warns monarch butterfly populations have plummeted in the US, dropping by 90 percent in just the last two decades.

Over the same amount of time, 30 percent of North America's bat species have declined. Bats have been reeling from a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed millions in recent years.

"I have spent more than three decades looking at how wildlife in the United States are faring," said Bruce Stein, Ph.D., chief scientist and associate vice president of the National Wildlife Federation.

"Although there have been some great conservation successes, many of our species continue to decline, and we are seeing the emergence of major new threats to America's wildlife.

"It's time to make sure that the scale of our conservation efforts match the scope of this problem."

But, the researchers say the news isn't all bad.

Conservation efforts in the past have led to huge improvements in some populations, such as Canada lynx in Colorado and the New England cottontail rabbit.

"Wildlife in America needs help," said John McDonald, Ph.D., president of the Wildlife Society. "Species are increasingly at risk in all regions of the country and across all categories of wildlife.

"This decline is not inevitable. Wildlife professionals in every state have action plans ready to go to conserve all wildlife for future generations, but we need the funding to turn this situation around."

Download the report Reversing America's Wildlife Crisis, from National Wildlife Foundation, American Fisheries Society, and The Wildlife Society.