OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public input on a draft periodic status review for western gray squirrel that includes a recommendation to re-classify the squirrel as a state endangered species. The public comment period closes May 10.
“We are recommending this change to the conservation status of the western gray squirrel, which is currently listed as threatened in the state, primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation,” said Taylor Cotten, WDFW Conservation Assessment Section Manager. “We also recognize multiple existing and potential threats to the species across its range. The Department’s conservation concern for the western gray squirrel has increased since the last periodic status review, suggesting that uplisting may be appropriate.”
The draft periodic status review for western gray squirrel is now available on WDFW’s website. The public can submit written comments on the document via email (email@example.com) or by postal mail to Taylor Cotten, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 43141, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.
“Following the public comment period, we will initiate rulemaking and brief the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on the species’ status and public input received,” said Cotten. “The Commission will then use this information to vote on recommended changes to the classification of the western gray squirrel.”
The Commission is tentatively scheduled to consider this topic in summer 2023.
The western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) is the largest tree squirrel native to the Pacific Northwest and is distinguishable by its very long, bushy tail that is primarily gray with white-frosted edges. The three remaining populations of the western gray squirrel in Washington are isolated and face numerous threats including habitat loss and degradation, wildfires, highway mortality, and disease. Western gray squirrels are a protected species in Washington and cannot be hunted, trapped, or killed.
WDFW regularly researches and reviews information to inform status and classification recommendations for species of conservation concern in Washington. If a species is listed, WDFW prepares recovery plans to guide conservation and recovery efforts. More information is available on WDFW’s At-Risk Species webpage.
WDFW works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.