Wildlife species given protected status by state Fish and Wildlife Commission


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Tim Waters (206) 775-1311, ext. 119
LONGVIEW -- It is illegal to kill, harm or possess the California mountain kingsnake, Washington ground squirrel, and all bats under a law passed Saturday by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Commissioners, convening here for a regularly-scheduled meeting, unanimously voted to designate two small mammals and a reptile as protected species in Washington state to prevent their numbers from declining further. All three species had been afforded little or no protection under existing law. Bats found in homes and buildings are exempted under the new law.

The new law takes effect in about 30 days.

The California mountain kingsnake is non-poisonous. It is sought after by reptile lovers because of its distinct red, black and white rings. The snake, which is sometimes confused with the coral snake, presently is found only in open-forested areas in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Washington ground squirrel is one of three ground squirrels found in the Columbia Basin. The mammal can be identified by its small, white spots and black- tipped tail, and is found in the Columbia Basin. Various agricultural practices, livestock grazing and poisoning and shooting have led to the squirrel's decline.

There are 16 bat species native to Washington. The only known, flying mammal, bats are extremely beneficial because they eat enormous numbers of insects. Their numbers have decreased because of disturbances to their colonies while they are hibernating and when mothers are nursing offspring.

Under the law, people would still be allowed to control bats found in homes, workplaces or outbuildings. The law specifically states the mammal cannot be harmed, killed or in anyone's possession "except when found in or immediately adjacent to a dwelling or other occupied building."

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