Black Footed Ferret Release

Editor’s Note

Western Confluence has grappled with some controversial topics, but as the editorial crew planned this issue, a focus on endangered species felt especially fraught.

Watercolor illustration of Earth

Avoiding Extinction on a Warming Planet

Can the Endangered Species Act protect wildlife in a changing climate?

On a summer day in 2011, a group of US Geological Survey researchers hiked through the wildflowers high above Glacier National Park’s tree line

Pika at lower Slide Lake

Coping, Not Overcoming

Scientist discovers pikas’ strategies for dealing with heat

By Alanna Elder

Just like the creature she studies, Embere Hall spends much of the winter beneath the snow. Her office is tucked in a network of hallways beneath the University of Wyoming’s older science buildings.

Lost Seas: picture of dead tree in water

Lost Seas

Photo of blackened dead tree sticking out of water on a stormy dayWhen the Soviets started draining their inland sea
to grow cotton in the desert,
a Kremlin engineer said it is obvious to everyone

Spring Snowstorm at Obsidian Creek with grizzly bears

Return of the Grizzly

No longer federally protected, is the great bear ready to strike out on its own?

In the early 20th century, tourists gathered around dump pits in Yellowstone National Park to watch grizzlies devour trash.

A black footed ferret sits on the edge of its burrow in grass.

New Neighbors

Wyoming ranchers are key to black-footed ferret recovery

Lenox Baker’s hands gripped the steering wheel, and the large silver ring on his finger glinted, revealing an outline of a black-footed ferret.

Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse

A Tale of Two Species

Plants and animals receive different protections under the Endangered Species Act

In 1998, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed a small brown mouse with large hind feet and a 6-inch-long whip-like tail as threatened

Wolves in snow

Mapping Recovery

Once missing from Yellowstone, reintroduced wolves make a comeback

On a crisp March morning in 1995, wolf biologist Doug Smith and colleagues from the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service made their way toward a makeshift pen in Yellowstone National Park’s northern range.

Collaborate or Litigate

Collaborate or Litigate

Local collaboration faces off against outsider litigation in the long, slow process to help a threatened species

From his Chevy Silverado, Phil Fine watched heavy rain fill up an irrigation ditch on his family farm in central Oregon.

Illustrations of wolf, bear, and sagegrouse

Modernizing the Act

As calls for ESA reform have conservationists on high alert, western governors offer a way forward

“Here’s the problem. The Endangered Species Act isn’t working today,”

laser focus on sage grouse illustration

Laser Focus on Sage Grouse

Researchers deploy cutting-edge technology to understand sage grouse and their habitat

Alarms wake the researchers, students, and technicians living in “Chicken Camp” at 3:45 a.m. this chilly April morning.

Sabine Mellmann-Brown

Time Warp

Wyoming plants of bygone eras

We have all seen movies where characters step back in time.

Line drawing of an extinct passenger pigeon


When the last passenger pigeon dies in the Cincinnati Zoo,
it is autumn,
a hot September day,

Wyoming Natural Diversity Database Zoologist Ian Abernethy examines the wing of a western long-eared bat (Myotis evotis) for signs of potential white-nose syndrome infection. Photo by Kathryn Walpole / WYNDD

Staying Vigilant

Scientists are on the lookout for white-nose syndrome in Wyoming bats

Just miles from Devil’s Tower National Monument, the sun was dropping in the sky, and Ian Abernethy, lead vertebrate zoologist for the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database

Illustration of people watching from railing while ghosts of animals rise into a night sky


A meditation on extinction

No more northern white rhinos live in the wild, and the three in captivity are too old to reproduce.

Botanist Emma Freeland pauses to sniff a half buried blowout penstemon in Wyoming. Photo by Bonnie Heidel

Wyoming’s Only Endangered Plant

A tale of re-discovery

In the 1850s, the geologist Ferdinand Hayden crossed the Nebraska Sandhills on an expedition to map uncharted territory and chronicle its natural resources.

sage grouse

A Win-Win Situation

What’s good for sage grouse is good for landowners

I met Peter John Camino in the lobby of the Johnson County Public Library in Buffalo, Wyoming.

A lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae) sips nectar from an agave blossom.

To the Bat Cave!

Conservationists turn to tourism to protect endangered bats

In the 1980s, more than 50,000 visitors toured Colossal Cave annually.