Alaska is home to a variety of endangered and threatened wildlife. From the iconic polar bear to the majestic bald eagle, these animals are an essential part of Alaska’s ecosystem.
However, their populations are declining due to climate change and other human activities. Here are some of the most endangered species in Alaska and what you can do to help protect them.
Most Endangered Animals in Alaska
Alaska is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species. Here are some of the most endangered animals in Alaska and what is being done to protect them.
1. Steller Sea Lion
The Steller Sea Lion is one of Alaska’s most significant animals considered endangered. Steller Sea Lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. These social animals live in large colonies along the Alaskan coast and feed on fish, squid, and crustaceans.
The primary threats to their populations are commercial fishing, climate change, existing regulatory mechanisms, disease, and natural or manmade factors affecting the species’ population.
Steller Sea Lions were historically hunted for their meat, skin, and oil. Hunting them became a huge business in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Consequently, their populations declined sharply during this time. By the 1950s, they had recovered somewhat, but then their numbers began to fall again in the 1970s. This decline was largely due to the increased fishing by commercial fisheries.
Steller Sea Lions starve when competing with commercial fisheries for food. They are also frequently killed as bycatch.
Climate change is another threat to their populations. Steller Sea Lions haul out of the water onto ice floes to rest and give birth.
As the Arctic warms, these ice floes break up and disappear, putting Steller Sea Lion habitats at risk. We need to do what we can to protect these beautiful animals so that they can continue to thrive in the wild for generations to come.
Protection measures for Steller Sea Lions are implemented throughout the Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska laws at 50 CFR 679. The current Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures in the Alaska Groundfish Fisheries were adopted in both the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska in 2003 and in the Aleutian Islands in 2015.
2. Northern Sea Otter
The Northern Sea Otter is a species of otter that is found in the northern hemisphere. They are principally found in the coastal waters of Alaska and Canada.
The Northern Sea Otter is a marine mammal and is therefore protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They are also listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
Their populations are threatened by oil spills, commercial fishing, and climate change.
Oil spills can cause contamination of the sea otters’ food supply and lead to skin lesions and organ damage. Commercial fishing can result in entanglement and drowning.
Climate change is melting the sea ice, which is critical for the Northern Sea Otters as it provides them with a resting place and a hunting ground. The Northern Sea Otters are an important species, and their populations need to be protected.
The species is protected thanks to the International Fur Seal Treaty, which helps to ensure its survival in the wild.
This international agreement between the United States of America, Russia, Japan, and the United Kingdom prevents the commercial hunting of sea otters and fur seals on a large scale and permits the populations of these animals to recover.
See Related: Encouraging Endangered Species Success Stories
3. Spectacled Eider
The Spectacled Eider is a large sea duck found in coastal Alaska. The Spectacled Eider is the only member of the genus Somateria. The Spectacled Eider breeding range extends from Bristol Bay to the Copper River Delta in Alaska.
The Spectacled Eider is a critically endangered species due to habitat loss and overhunting. The Spectacled Eider is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
The Spectacled Eider is a fascinating bird, and it is hoped that this beautiful bird will be saved from extinction through education and awareness.
The spectacled eider is vulnerable to a number of dangers, the most significant of which is drilling for oil and gas. In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity was successful in preventing Shell Oil from moving forward with its plans to commence exploration close to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Before the project could move forward, a judge said that there needed to be a more in-depth look at how it might affect the environment and how it might affect several endangered animals, including the spectacled wider.
4. Cook Inlet Beluga Whale
The Cook Inlet Beluga Whale is one of the most endangered species in Alaska. These whales are endangered due to several factors, including hunting, pollution, and habitat loss.
In addition to being listed as an endangered species, the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale is also designated as a marine mammal protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
As a result, it is illegal to hunt, capture, or kill these whales. Despite these protections, the Cook Inlet beluga whale population has declined sharply.
Estimates suggest that only about 300 individuals remain in the wild. This decline is due in part to the fact that these whales are often killed as bycatch in commercial fisheries. Additionally, their habitat is being increasingly degraded by pollution and development.
These threats have led some scientists to recommend that the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale be declared extinct in the wild. While this would be a devastating loss, it may be the only way to ensure that these marine mammals are not forgotten and that their plight is not ignored.
Each and every species of a beluga whale is provided protection under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The act places a ban on the hunting of marine mammals as well as the importation of any parts or products derived from marine mammals.
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5. Blue Whale
The endangered Blue Whale is the largest animal on Earth. It can weigh up to 200 tons and grow 98 feet long. These gentle giants migrate along the Alaskan coastline and feed on krill, tiny crustaceans.
The Blue Whale population has declined due to hunting and accidental entanglement in fishing gear. Thanks to international protection, their numbers have begun to rebound in recent years.
The endangered Steller sea lion is one of the largest members of the seal family. Males can grow up to 11 feet long and weigh 2,500 pounds. These social animals live in large colonies along the Alaskan coast and feed on fish, squid, and crustaceans.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act both provide legal protection for blue whales in their entirety (ESA). They aim to safeguard blue whales by lowering the number of times vessels collide with them.
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6. North Pacific Whale
The endangered North Pacific right whale is one of the rarest whales in the world. These massive creatures can grow up to 60 feet long and weigh 80 tons. They migrate along the Alaskan coastline and feed on krill and small fish.
These marine mammals’ numbers have declined due to hunting and entanglement in fishing gear. Thanks to international protection, their numbers have begun to rebound in recent years.
These are just a few of the endangered species that call Alaska home. With proper protection and conservation, and recovery efforts, we can ensure that these magnificent creatures will continue to thrive for generations to come.
The Endangered Species Act is used to save the whales’ essential habitat, which is overseen by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
See Related: Killer Whale: Is This Animal Endangered?
7. Short-tailed Albatross
The Short-tailed Albatross is one of the most endangered species in Alaska. These birds are endangered due to several factors, including habitat loss, climate change, and human activity.
The Short-tailed Albatross is a vital part of the ecosystem in Alaska, and their loss would be devastating to the environment.
According to the Endangered Species Act, as well as the responsible National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), it is considered to be in a “threatened” status across its entire range Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Additionally, the state of Alaska has included it on its list of endangered species.
The Short-tailed Albatross and other seabirds are the focus of the Seabirds Program at ABC Birds, which employs a variety of conservation strategies, including direct action, awareness, and policy work, to further their cause.
The organizations are in favor of passing legislation to join the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) to minimize the risk of unintentionally capturing seabirds in their nets.
8. Eskimo Curlew
The Eskimo Curlew is part of the Alaska endangered species list. It is a small, migratory bird that was once common across the tundra and prairies of North America. However, its number has declined sharply due to habitat loss and hunting.
The Eskimo Curlew is now critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is estimated that fewer than 1,000 individuals remain in the wild.
Despite its decline, the Eskimo Curlew still holds an important place in the culture of many Indigenous peoples in North America, who have traditionally hunted the bird for food. Today, there is a growing effort to protect the Eskimo Curlew and its habitat to prevent this species from becoming extinct.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of the United States provides legal protection for the Eskimo curlew.
It is an act that makes it illegal to hunt, shoot, catch, sell, trade, or transfer protected species of migratory birds in the United States without first receiving permission from the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service.
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9. Arctic Fox
The Arctic Fox is one of the most endangered species in Alaska. A top predator in their ecosystem, they play a vital role in maintaining the health of their environment. However, Arctic Foxes are at risk of extinction due to climate change and human activity.
Climate change is causing the Arctic to warm at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, melting the sea ice that Artic Foxes rely on for hunting and travel.
In addition, human activity such as oil and gas development disturbs the Arctic Fox habitat and increases the chances of contact with diseases from other animals. Arctic Foxes are a vital part of their ecosystem, and we must work to protect them from extinction.
The World Wide Fund (WWF) is dedicated to ensuring that fragile ecosystems receive the help and protection they need. In order to secure the survival of the Arctic fox and other species, the organization takes measures to reduce the consequences of climate change.
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10. Mountain Caribou
Mountain Caribou are one of the most endangered species in Alaska. They are often found in the state’s high country, where they are threatened by habitat loss and degradation. Climate change is also a significant threat to these animals, as it can disrupt their food sources and make their habitat less hospitable.
Mountain Caribou are an essential part of the state’s ecosystem, and their decline could have severe consequences for other threatened species in Alaska.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is working to protect Mountain Caribou populations through various conservation measures. These include habitat protection and restoration, research into the effects of climate change, and management of predator populations.
With the help of these efforts, it is hoped that Mountain Caribou will be able to recover and thrive in Alaska for many years to come.
How to know if a species is an endangered or threatened species?
Some factors that are considered when determining if a species is endangered or threatened include:
- The population size of the species
- The rate of decline in the population
- The size and location of the species’ breeding habitat
- The amount of available food
- Predation rates
- Climate change
How climate change is affecting their populations
The Alaskan climate is changing faster than anywhere else in the United States, having a profound effect on its animal population.
Some species are struggling to adapt, while others are being forced into new territory where they may not be able to survive. Here are some of the most endangered animals in Alaska and how climate change is affecting their populations.
Why it’s important to preserve these species
One of the most important reasons it’s important to preserve wildlife species is that they play a significant role in the food web.
Another reason is that they are integral in maintaining the ecological balance.
Finally, it’s simply crucial to protect them from becoming extinct and solve the declining number of endangered species in Alaska.
How you can get involved in endangered species conservation!
There are many ways to get involved in threatened and endangered species conservation. You can volunteer with a local organization, donate to a conservation fund, support a refuge like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or even purchase endangered species merchandise to help support the cause.
By becoming more educated about the plight of endangered species and taking action to help protect them, we can all make a difference in preserving our natural world for future generations.