Allison Cook

Cascade mountain wolves. Santa Barbara song sparrows. Golden toads. Caribbean monk seals. Las Vegas dace. Imperial woodpeckers. Ainsworth’s salamander. Tasmanian tigers.  

Extinct. Gone. Wiped from the face of the earth.  

The species listed above all went extinct in the early and mid 1900s, and they were not alone. Now, evidence is growing to suggest we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction where we could the loss of species is 1,000 times faster than normal due to human activities. 

Grizzly bears. Humpback whales. Tennessee purple coneflower. Lake Erie water snake. American Alligators. Bald eagles. These are among the nearly 50 species who were brought back from the brink of extinction after protections from the Endangered Species Act went into place. Thankfully, more than 95% of species listed under the ESA are still with us today.  

The ESA passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was enacted on December 28, 1973. In honor of its 50th anniversary, for the next 50 days Defenders of Wildlife will be highlighting 50 species recovered or protected by the ESA. Here is a sneak preview of just five of the 50 species we are highlighting in the countdown: 

Bald Eagle   Haliaeetus leucocephalus      Fun Fact: The bald eagle has been the symbol of the U.S. since the 1780s. It is the only eagle unique to North America.      Date Listed: 1978      Primary Threat When Listed: DDT pesticide accumulated in the birds’ primary food source, fish. Today, illegal shooting and lead poisoning are still threats to bald eagles.       Date Recovered: 2007      Take Note: As a result of conservation efforts, the bald eagle population has risen from 417 nesting pairs in 1963 to roughly 316,700 individual birds, including over 71,400 nesting pairs, in the Lower 48 today.
Fast facts about the bald eagle and its recovery from endangerment.
Golden Paintbrush   Castilleja levisecta      Fun Fact: These bright yellow flowers are native to prairies in the Pacific Northwest and southern British Columbia. They typically flower between April and June.      Date Listed: 1997      Primary Threat When Listed: Prairie habitat loss and fragmentation to agriculture and development.       Date Recovered: 2023      Take Note: There were fewer than 20,000 plants across 10 sites when the golden paintbrush was listed. Within the last five years, thousands can
Learn quick facts about the golden paintbrush (plant) and its recovery from endangerment.
California Tiger Salamander   Ambystoma californiense      Fun Fact: For a few rainy nights between November and April, these salamanders partake in a mass migration to their breeding sites, which are standing bodies of fresh water.      Date Listed: 2000      Current Status: Endangered   Santa Barbara and Sonoma Counties in California list the species as endangered. Central California lists the species as threatened.      Primary Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation      Take Note: California tiger sala
Fast facts about the endangered California tiger salamander. 
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark   Sphyrna lewini      Fun Fact: Scalloped hammerheads are named after the grooves along the front edge of their hammer-shaped heads.      Date Listed: 2014      Current Status: Populations living in the Eastern Atlantic and Eastern Pacific are currently listed as endangered. Populations living in the Central and Southwest Atlantic and Indo-West Pacific are threatened.      Primary Threats: Finning — hunted for its dorsal fin which is used in shark fin soup— and bycatch.      Take
Learn some quick facts about the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark.
Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit   Brachylagus idahoensis      Fun Fact: Weighing a maximum of one pound and growing up to nearly a foot long, pygmy rabbits are the world's smallest rabbit.       Date Listed: 2003      Current Status: Endangered in the Columbia Basin of Washington state      Primary Threats: Loss of sagebrush and grass habitats due to development, extraction, and invasive grasses and wildlife. Also, rabbit hemorrhagic disease — a highly contagious, fatal virus that spreads to domestic and wild r
Fast facts about the endangered Columbian Basin pygmy rabbit. 

Follow Defenders on our website to learn more about these species and the other 45 species we’re highlighting!


A Cook Headshot

Allison Cook

Content Writer

Areas of Expertise: Communications, writing for the blog and website

Allison joined Defenders of Wildlife in 2023 after working for Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation


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