The bison—a resilient and iconic species roaming our Northern Great Plains—now serves as the national mammal of the United States. In a show of bipartisan support, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Bison Legacy Act on April 26, celebrating a species once on the brink of extinction.
Prairie dogs tend to be celebrated for their larger ecological virtues. In the grasslands across the central and western United States, their intricate underground colonies—called prairie dog towns—create shelter for jackrabbits, toads, and rattlesnakes. These small, chubby-looking mammals are also fascinating in their own right. Check out these facts for a glimpse into their strange, surprisingly complex world.
WWF and partners used a drone to map and evaluate habitat for endangered black-footed ferrets. Only about 300 of the slender, masked carnivores are left in the wild today. Scientists must monitor prairie dog colonies to determine current and potential new habitat for black-footed ferrets.
One hundred and thirty-six wild Yellowstone bison—free of cattle genes—reclaimed their historic home in the Northern Great Plains when released into the Fort Peck Indian Reservation’s cultural buffalo reserve.
Despite roaming vast distances in the Northern Great Plains, bison do not move south as the weather grows cold and inhospitable, though they may move to lower elevations where snow is not so deep. Temperatures plummet well below zero, bitter winds whip across the landscape, and bison still remain.
Once found throughout the Great Plains, the black-footed ferret is one of North America’s most endangered animals. WWF is helping to reach this goal by restoring and protecting ferrets and their prairie dog habitat in seven locations in the region.
The US Congress took major steps to protect one of the last four intact grasslands in world. By passing the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress is ensuring your tax dollars do not incentivize the plow-up and drainage of native grasslands and wetlands.
The communities and wildlife of the Northern Great Plains have not suffered the fate of the Dust Bowl on the Southern Plains. But threats loom—runaway oil and gas development, a changing climate, and agriculture policies that incentivize conversion of grasslands and wetlands to crops, regardless of expectations for crop success.
In March 2012, 71 new bison calves were released on the American Prairie Reserve (APR)—a WWF partner in the Northern Montana Prairie. The young calves are descendents of the last bison that called this area home more than 100 years ago.
In 2015, WWF marked its third consecutive year of black-footed ferret reintroductions on the Fort Belknap Reservation in northern Montana. WWF and partners also documented both first and second generation kits— young ferrets—born to individuals released in 2013 and 2014.