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Animals in Danger
By Amy Miller

American crocodile
American crocodiles lay eggs. They hide their eggs under twigs and leaves, or bury them in the sand. Some crocodiles help their young hatch, then carry them to the water in their mouth.
(Photo: Photo Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Today, nearly 400 animals are listed as threatened or endangered in the United States. Many are at risk of becoming extinct, or disappearing permanently. Unless efforts to save these vulnerable animals succeed, many of the country's greatest creatures will be lost forever. From the facts listed under each question mark, guess which animals are endangered. Click on the picture to find out more about each of these animals in trouble.

American Crocodile
  • American crocodiles are about 12 feet long. They live on land and in shallow water, swamps, and marshes.
  • American crocodiles like to float in the water with only their eyes and nose above the surface.
  • American crocodiles eat mostly small animals, which they grab with their strong jaws and razor-sharp teeth.
  • American crocodiles lay eggs. They hide their eggs under twigs and leaves, or bury them in the sand.
  • Some crocodiles help their young hatch, then carry them to the water in their mouth.


Habitat
Southern Florida, Mexico, Central and South America, Caribbean islands

Why It's Endangered
Overhunted for its hide
Habitat destruction


Gray bats
Gray bats hang upside-down to help digest their food.
(Photo: Jeff Lepore/Photo Researchers Inc.)
Gray Bat
  • Gray bats only weigh up to half an ounce. Their wings measure about 1.5 inches across.
  • Gray bats live in colonies, or groups, in caves. The caves are usually found near a river or lake.
  • During the day, gray bats sleep. At night, they eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes or other pests in one hour.
  • Gray bats hang upsidedown to help digest their food.
  • Gray bats hibernate, or sleep, in the cold winter months.
  • There are about 2 million bats, but their numbers are shrinking. Almost all gray bats hibernate in one of nine caves.


Habitat
Most gray bats live in caves in Alabama, northern Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Why endangered?
Loss of habitat
Use of pesticides to kill the insects they eat


Big horn sheep
Bighorn sheep live in herds, or groups. The male sheep with the biggest horns is usually in charge. Male horns can weigh as much as 30 pounds.
(Photo: Mike Barlow/Dembinsky Photo Associates)
Peninsular Bighorn Sheep
  • Bighorn sheep can weigh as much as 280 pounds and stand about 3 feet tall.
  • They live in dry, desert mountain ranges, near rocky cliffs.
  • Bighorn sheep eat grasses, twigs, and leaves.
  • Male sheep are called rams and can be recognized by their huge, brown horns. The horns curl back over the ears, down, and up past the cheeks.
  • They live in herds, or groups. The male sheep with the biggest horns is usually in charge. Male horns can weigh as much as 30 pounds.
  • Males will use their massive horns to fight. The fights can last as long as 24 hours.
  • Females are called ewes. They are smaller than rams and have shorter, smaller horns.


Habitat
Nevada and California to west Texas and south into Mexico

Why It's Endangered
Loss of habitat
Poaching
Drought and disease


California condors
In 1982, there were fewer than 25 California condors left in the wild. Today, there are about 200.
(Photo: Frier/Scott Nikon/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
California Condor
  • Condors pair for life and breed once every two years, producing only one egg.
  • Condors roost, or sleep, in large groups. They "talk" to each other with hisses, growls, grunts, and body language.
  • From tip to tip, their wings can stretch up to 9 feet.
  • Instead of flapping their wings, condors soar on wind currents.
  • Condors are scavengers, which means they eat animals that are already dead. But they don't rely on their sense of smell. They watch for other scavengers eating dead animals.
  • In 1982, there were fewer than 25 California condors left in the wild. Today, there are about 200.


Habitat
California, Arizona, Utah

Why It's Endangered
Loss of habitat
Hunting
Collisions with power lines


Florida panthers
Florida panthers only eat meat. They may eat only once a week. They sleep as much as 18 hours a day and usually hunt alone at sunrise and sunset.
(Photo: Oxford Scientific/PictureQuest)
Florida Panther
  • Florida panthers are fast and lean. They can weigh up to 150 pounds and are about 3 feet long.
  • Panthers only eat meat. They may eat only once a week. They sleep as much as 18 hours a day.
  • They usually hunt alone at sunrise and sunset.
  • They will cover what they don't eat with twigs and leaves to hide food from other animals.
  • Since 1972, cars have hit and killed 44 Florida panthers.


Habitat
Southwest Florida

Why It's Endangered
Loss of habitat
Lack of food
Disease


West Indian Manatee
The upper lip of the West Indian manatee is divided into two halves, which close like a pair of pliers on plants. There are less than 2,000 manatees living in the U.S.
(Photo: Oxford Scientific/PictureQuest)
West Indian Manatee
  • West Indian manatees eat water plants.
  • They are slow and friendly.
  • West Indian manatees can eat more than 100 pounds of plants in a day.
  • They may grow to 13 feet long and weigh up to 3,500 pounds.
  • Their upper lip is divided into two halves, which close like a pair of pliers on plants.
  • There are less than 2,000 manatees living in the U.S.


Habitat
Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Caribbean

Why It's Endangered
Overhunting
Habitat destruction
Boats


Atlantic salmon
Atlantic salmon are about 2 1/2 feet long and weigh a hefty 10 pounds. Only a small number of salmon reach the ocean after they are born. The few that make it can live for up to seven years.
(Photo: Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Image Collection )
Atlantic Salmon
  • Atlantic salmon are about 2 1/2 feet long and weigh a hefty 10 pounds.
  • Salmon are born in rivers. Then, they swim to the ocean, where they live most of their lives.
  • Only a small number of salmon reach the ocean after they are born. The few that make it can live for up to seven years.
  • Salmon swim upstream back to the place they were born to spawn, or reproduce.
  • Salmon may swim upstream as far as 2,000 miles. The journey may take many months.
  • Salmon eat shrimp, squid, and other small fish.


Habitat
North Atlantic Ocean

Why It's Endangered
Logging in watersheds
Chemicals from farms
Introduction of nonnative salmon that escape from pens and breed with wild salmon
Acid rain


Humpback whales
Humpback whales eat by opening their mouth wide and swimming through schools of small fish. There are only about 25,000 humpback whales living today.
(Photo: Index Stock Imagery/PictureQuest )
Humpback Whale
  • Every year, humpback whales swim from cold polar waters to warm tropical waters to mate.
  • They usually travel in groups.
  • Humpback whales talk to each other with moans and screams.
  • When trying to attract female whales, males repeat some sounds for a long time. These "songs" can sound beautiful.
  • Humpback whales eat by opening their mouth wide and swimming through schools of small fish.
  • There are only about 25,000 humpback whales living today.


Habitat
All the world's oceans

Why It's Endangered
Hunting
Pollution
Coastal development


Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America. They stand about 5 feet tall and have long legs and a long neck. Their wings stretch about 7 feet.
(Photo: Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Whooping Crane

  • Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America. They mate for life.
  • They stand about 5 feet tall and have long legs and a long neck. Their wings stretch to about 7 feet.
  • Whooping cranes eat clams, crabs, snails, frogs, and berries.
  • Their call sounds like a very loud bugle.
  • There is only one wild migratory flock of whooping cranes with about 194 birds.
  • Every winter, they fly about 2,700 miles from Canada to Texas.
  • During their long flight, young whooping cranes are often killed when they fly into electrical or telephone wires.


Habitat
Spring and summer: Canada
Fall and winter: Texas

Why It's Endangered
Collisions with power lines during flight