North America’s Most Endangered Animals- page 4 | Science | Smithsonian
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Kemp's ridleys are the world's smallest sea turtles and are also the most endangered. (Erich Schlegel / International_NI / Corbis)

North America’s Most Endangered Animals

Snails, marmots, condors and coral reef are among the many species on the continent that are close to extinction

California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)

California condor
(Momatiuk - Eastcott / Corbis)
With its nine-and-a-half-foot wingspan, deep black feathers and bare pink head, the California condor is quite a sight. Before settlers rushed into California in the mid-19th century, lured by the discovery of gold, the condors soared peacefully through the skies. But then people starting shooting them and stealing their eggs. Birds that weren’t killed outright often died of lead poisoning from eating bullet fragments in the carcasses they scavenged. In 1985, when only 22 birds survived, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service captured the last nine in the wild and placed them in a breeding program. Seven years later, condors from that program were reintroduced into California, and that program has since been expanded to two more release sites in that state as well as sites in Arizona and Baja California, Mexico. About 150 birds have been released into the wild, and with normal breeding the population now numbers more than 300 birds. – SZ

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