A List of the Endangered Species of Washington State

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

State of Washington Flag
State of Washington Flag / bndart via Istock

Washington is a nature-rich state, featuring exotic flora and fauna in every corner.

While this is great in itself, some of the creatures in this state are endangered or threatened.

Conservation measures have been protecting some of these species from total extinction, but that is not to say that they are completely safe for now.

Some noteworthy threatened or endangered species include the marbled murrelet, grizzly bear, bull trout, and the northern sea otter.

Below is a brief description of each of these animals, their current conservation status as well as possible threats to their existence.

Gage Beasley's In-Demand Plush Toys
Gage Beasley’s In-Demand Plush Toys

4. Marbled Murrelet

Marbled Murrelet showing winter plumage
Marbled Murrelet showing winter plumage | Gus Van Vliet via Wikipedia Public Domain

The marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) belongs to the Alcidae family and the genus Brachyramphus.

Marbled murrelets are small seabirds that nest in old-growth forests and on the ground at higher latitudes, where trees cannot grow.

These birds are from the North Pacific, so you will usually find them in areas like Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and some Canadian provinces.

However, in summer, they nest in places like Barren Islands, Santa Barbara County, and Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, among others.

Also, like the coastal birds that they are, marbled murrelets are found in coastal areas within 1.2 miles of saltwater.

Still, they have been found inland in specific regions, including the states mentioned above.

A Marbled murrelet in the midst of flying
A Marbled murrelet in the midst of flying | Oregon State University via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

Marbled murrelets are currently listed as an endangered species, and their population is said to be on a steady decline.

While monitoring the marbled murrelets’ population between 2000 and 2018, it was discovered that the birds’ population reduced in Washington while it increased in northern California and Oregon.

The major threat to these birds is environmental processes.

For one, since they use old-growth trees and forests for their nesting habitat, the loss of these trees has negatively impacted their population greatly.

In addition, human activities like increased boat traffic, pollution, and commercial fishing have all contributed to the gradual loss of marbled murrelets.

To protect these birds from impending extinction, the Northwest Forest Plan (NFP) has put in measures to maintain and increases this species’ nesting habitat. 

3. Grizzly Bear

A Grizzly Bear roaming a wooded area in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
A Grizzly Bear roaming a wooded area in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada | Dwayne Reilander via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

The grizzly bear, with the scientific name Ursus arctos horribilis, is also called grizzly or the North American brown bear and is a subspecies of the brown bear living in North America.

Once upon a time,  grizzly bears were widely spread across central Mexico, the western half of the contiguous US, a large part of Alaska, and western Canada. 

Unfortunately, when the Europeans arrived in North America, they saw grizzly bears as a threat to human safety and their livestock.

As a result, in the 1800s, grizzly bears were freely trapped, poisoned, or shot wherever they were found.

This led to a massive reduction in the population of these animals in key regions, especially in the contiguous states.

Grizzly Bear fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls, Alaska
Grizzly Bear fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls, Alaska | Dmitry Azovtsev via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

While Alaska and northern Canada still recorded a significant number of this species, by 1975, individual grizzly bears were only found in wilderness areas and national parks in Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, etc. 

To sustain the existence of grizzly bears, in 1993, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan established recovery zones in six ecosystems.

They are the Greater Yellowstone, the Northern Continental Divide, the North Cascades, the Selkirks, the Cabinet-Yaak, and the Bitterroot.

Thousands of grizzly bears have been recovered in these ecosystems, and some have been discovered in areas between these ecosystems.

Until today, these animals are protected as a threatened species in the 48 contiguous states.

2. Bull Trout

Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus)
Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) | Bart Gammet via Wikipedia Public Domain

The bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) is native to northwestern North America and Canada and belongs to the Salmonidae family.

These fish stay in water bodies that meet the following criteria: clean, complex, connected, and cold.

So, you will mostly see them in deep pools of big, freezing lakes and rivers.

You can also find them in high mountainous regions where glaciers and snowfields occur.

In Washington, bull trout are regarded as game fish, but due to their population, the United States Endangered Species Act has listed them as a threatened species.

A juvenile Bull Trout resting underwater
A juvenile Bull Trout resting underwater | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikipedia Public Domain

Therefore, you cannot fish for bull trout in the state.

Also, if this fish is accidentally caught while fishing, it is required to return it to the water.

Similarly, anglers are not allowed to remove bull trout from waters closed to bull trout fishing.

This has helped to reduce overharvest of bull trout as much as possible, but there is still the issue of competition from introduced species and habitat degradation.

On top of that, their big size makes them easy prey to large predators like bears and ospreys.

1. Northern Sea Otter

A close-up of a Sea Otter in Morro Bay, California
A close-up of a Sea Otter in Morro Bay, California | Marshal Hedin via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

The northern sea otter (Enhydra lutis kenyoni) is a marine mammal primarily found on the coast of the eastern and northern North Pacific Ocean.

They are the largest members of the weasel family but also the smallest marine mammals.

While they can walk and survive on land, these animals can also live exclusively in the ocean.

Sea otters once inhabited areas from the central Baja California Penisula in Mexico to northern Japan and southern Alaska.

During that time, there were about 150,000 to 300,000 sea otters worldwide.

However, in the 1740s, this species was hunted to the brink of extinction for its furs.

A Northern Sea Otter resting on top of rocks
A Northern Sea Otter resting on top of rocks | Image via Wikipedia Public Domain

Commercial hunting of sea otters stopped in 1911, with only a few thousand sea otters remaining.

Since then, these creatures have been reintroduced into several of their past habitats.

They are now commonly found in Washington, Alaska, California, British Columbia, etc., with news of recolonization in Japan and Mexico. 

Between 2004 and 2007, reports revealed that the population of sea otters had bounced back to 107,000, but they are still regarded as a threatened species.

This is because of factors like predation, oil spill, disease, fishery interactions, and overharvesting.

Regarding oil spills, sea otters spend a lot of time floating on the water’s surface, with most of them ingesting oil in the process.


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