July 06, 2010

Q. How many endangered species are there in Washington State?

The Burke Museum partners with the Seattle PI's Big Blog to answer commonly asked questions about the natural and cultural history of our region. Read past entries from the Ask the Burke column here.

The following was posted to the Seattle PI's Ask the Burke column on July 4.

Q. How many endangered species are there in Washington State?

A: The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals on the federal level. Species that receive protection under the ESA are either listed as endangered, meaning they are at the brink of extinction now, or threatened, meaning they are likely to be at the brink of extinction in the near future.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists 38 species that live in Washington State that are either endangered or threatened – 29 animals and 9 plants.* Animal species on the "endangered" list include the woodland caribou, Chinook salmon, leatherback sea turtle, killer whale, and gray wolf. Animal species on the "threatened" list include the grizzly bear, northern spotted owl, bull trout, and Steller sea-lion. Plant species that are marked as either endangered or threatened include Kincaid's lupine, golden paintbrush, and Spalding's catchfly.

The Woodland caribou is recognized as endangered by the federal and state government.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also keeps a list of state "Species of Concern" that includes species not federally recognized under the ESA, but recognized by the State as endangered, threatened, or sensitive. Some of the species on the State list are the golden eagle, gray whale, Olympic marmot, and Olympia oyster.

*In April, it was announced that three species of Puget Sound rockfish would be listed under the Endangered Species Act; however, the listing will not become effective until July 27, 2010, so these species do not currently appear on the list of endangered and threatened species in Washington State.