Washington may upgrade Western gray squirrel to ‘endangered’ status

By Courtney Flatt
Oregon Public Broadcasting
September 6, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

Washington’s Western gray squirrels are in trouble. So much so that state officials are considering uplisting the squirrels from threatened to endangered. The change comes after a periodic status review. It’s getting harder to find a Western gray squirrel in the state. Right now, they mostly live in a few spots: the Okanogan, in north-central Washington; Klickitat County, near the Columbia River; and in the South Sound area. Historically, these large, tree squirrels commonly roamed low- to mid-elevation forests, where they could find lots of oaks, pines and Douglas firs. Declining habitat is a big problem for the squirrels. …The squirrels like forests “on the edge,” forests with full canopies that transition from dry conifers to deciduous trees, Linders said. The squirrels also like open spaces where they’re safe from predators. …Squirrels help spread out truffle spores that attach to tree roots, which helps the trees take up water and nutrients for the soil.

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