With a declining population and an estimate of just 300 left in the state, the Oregon Vesper Sparrow is struggling to maintain its foothold in Washington and the Pacific Northwest coast, according to a press release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Below is the full statement by WDFW:
Decline in native prairie and savannah habitat and reduction of genetic diversity in remaining populations pose serious challenges to the continued viability of the species.
Today, WDFW wildlife managers are working with partners like Joint Base Lewis-McChord, American Bird Conservancy and the Center for Natural Lands Management to oversee a strategy of prairie protection, banding and monitoring to bring these birds back.
Large-scale loss of native prairie habitat likely played a major role in the decades-long decline of the population, which breeds in western Washington, western Oregon, and extreme northwestern California. The birds are present in the state from April to September.
Washington's population of about 300 individuals is found primarily at sites in Thurston and Pierce counties with a smattering more numbering only in the dozens estimated for both San Juan Island and islands in the lower Columbia River.
The birds once occupied breeding locations dispersed widely from southwestern British Columbia and the San Juan Islands through the southern Puget lowlands.
WDFW staff members are tentatively scheduled to report on the listing recommendation with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its meeting on Oct. 2. The commission is a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW. For meeting dates and times, check the commission webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission .
The status report on the Oregon Vesper Sparrow listing recommendation is available on WDFW's publications website, and the agency is welcoming review and comment on its findings.
The public can provide comment on the status report through Aug.17. Submit written comments on the report document via email to TandEpubliccom@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Taylor Cotten, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 43141, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.
In addition to Washington's state endangered status recommendation, the Oregon Vesper Sparrow is currently scheduled for review for listing under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.
Forty-five species of fish and wildlife are listed for protection as state endangered, threatened or sensitive species in Washington today.