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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


May 11, 2006
Contact: Harriet Allen, 360-902-2694

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Public comments on recovery plans sought
for fisher, western gray squirrel

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comments on draft recovery plans for the western gray squirrel and the fisher.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission listed the western gray squirrel as a state threatened species in Washington in 1993 and the fisher as a state endangered species in 1998.

The draft recovery plans for both species are now available for review on WDFW's website at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/recovery/wgraysquirrel/ and http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/recovery/fisher/

Printed copies of the plans can be requested by calling the WDFW Wildlife Program at 360-902-2515 or by sending an email request to wildthing@dfw.wa.gov.

The department will take public comments on the draft plans from May 15 through Aug. 15. Comments may be submitted by email to wildthing@dfw.wa.gov or by regular mail to:

Endangered Species Section Manager
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capital Way North
Olympia, WA 98501-1091

Western gray squirrels are native to Washington, although they are often confused with eastern gray squirrels which were introduced here and are increasingly common in the state's urban areas. Westerns are larger and have white-tipped tails. The current population of western gray squirrels in Washington, estimated at 1,200 animals, is confined to the Puget Sound, Klickitat and Okanogan regions. Major threats to the species include small population size, loss and degradation of habitat, disease, and vehicle traffic.

The draft plan for the western gray squirrel outlines strategies to protect and restore populations and habitat.

The fisher is a large, stocky member of the weasel family that was once widely distributed throughout the Cascades, Olympic Peninsula and parts of southwestern and northeastern Washington. Over-trapping eliminated the fisher population, said Harriet Allen, WDFW endangered species section manager. A re-introduction effort would be necessary to re-establish the species here, she added.

"A feasibility study identified the Olympic National Park as having the most suitable habitat to initially support reintroduction of fishers into Washington state," said Allen. "The draft recovery plan details the actions needed to reintroduce and maintain fisher populations in the park and other subsequent locations in the Cascades."

Federal lands, specifically national parks and forests, would be the main focus for fisher recovery in Washington since they contain substantial areas of mature forest and are likely to maintain favorable fisher habitat into the future.

Achieving recovery of western gray squirrels and fishers will require cooperation and partnerships among state, federal and local agencies, tribes, timber industries, non-governmental organizations and private citizens, Allen noted.

"These draft plans help pull together our efforts around common strategies," she added.