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Land and Marine Carnivores: Carnivora

Conservation Status

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) promotes the conservation of species, assesses their conservation status worldwide, and publishes an annual list of threatened species. The 2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists 125 carnivores as threatened. Five are listed as Extinct, no longer living: the Falkland Island wolf, the Caribbean monk seal, the sea mink, the Barbados raccoon, and the Japanese sea lion. The black-footed ferret is classified as Extinct in the Wild. The five Critically Endangered species, facing an extremely high risk of extinction, are the red wolf, the Ethiopian wolf, the Iberian lynx, the Mediterranean monk seal, and the Malabar civet.


The feature that differentiates the order Carnivora from other orders is a set of scissor-like carnassial teeth, specifically the upper last premolar and the lower first molar on both sides of the jaw. These are shearing teeth that slice animal flesh and crush bones. Each carnassial has ridges that grip meat, much like a fork that holds a piece of steak in place, so it does not slide around.

The Endangered list of carnivores, facing a very high risk of extinction, consists of thirty-one species, made up of one dog, one eared seal, one true seal, two bears, four cats, four mongooses, four viverrids, seven mustelids, and seven procyonids. Of these species, three are classified as endangered species in the United States. These are the sea otter, the northern sea lion, and the Hawaiian monk seal.



Attenborough, David. The Life of Mammals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Ewer, R. F. The Carnivores. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates, 1998.

Kruuk, Hans. Hunter and Hunted: Relationships between Carnivores and People. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

McLoughlin, John C. "The Rise of the Carnivores" and "The World of Mammalian Carnivores." The Canine Clan. New York: The Viking Press, 1983.

Wade, Nicholas, ed. The Science Times Book of Mammals. New York: The Lyons Press, 1999.

Whitaker, John O. Jr., and William J. Hamilton Jr. Mammals of the Eastern United States, 3rd ed. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates, 1998.


Tedford, Richard H. "Key to the Carnivores." Natural History (April 1994): 74–77.

Web sites:

American Society of Mammalogists. Why Species Become Threatened or Endangered: A Mammalogist's Perspective. http://www.mammal-society.org/committees/commconslandmammals/whyendangered.pdf (accessed on June 23, 2004).

World Conservation Union. The IUCN Red List Collection. http://www.iucn.org/redlistcollection/english/index.html (accessed on June 23, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsLand and Marine Carnivores: Carnivora - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Carnivores And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT