Over the next few months opinions will again be rolling in regarding the Mazama pocket gopher, but this time the state is quite literally asking for it.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued a recommendation to leave the pocket gopher on the state’s threatened species list while also releasing the agencies draft plan for recovering the controversial rodent.
Mazama pocket gophers were formerly found in large swaths of western Washington but are now limited to portions of prairies in Thurston, Pierce and Mason counties as well as the sub-alpine areas of Olympic National Park.
Their presence has caused tension between counties and landowners over the years due to restrictions on land use due to the species’ threatened status.
Mazama pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama) were listed as threatened by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2006. Then, in 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher as threatened and outlined critical habitat areas for those animals.
The reduction in population distribution has been blamed primarily on habitat loss and degradation.
Recovery plans are prepared by the WDFW in order to guide conservation and recovery efforts. Periodic reviews of the status of protected species is a part of that process.
The WDFW has extolled the virtues of pocket gophers. A press release noted their ability to enhance soil structure and chemistry, their creation of burrows for use by multiple species, and their propensity to be eaten by an array of predators.
The WDFW is expected to discuss the periodic status review with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its meeting in April 2020. The agency’s press release noted that, “WDFW is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. The agency works to keep common species common and restore species of greatest conservation need.”
A full copy of the draft recovery plan and periodic status review is available online at wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01449. Public comments on the recovery plan will be accepted through March 15, 2020.
Written comments can be sent by email to TandEpubliccom@dfw.wa.gov. Comments submitted by standard mail to Hannah Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 43141, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.