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Animals, plants and habitat

Biodiversity in King County, Washington

To offer a suggestion or report an error on the King County Biodiversity website, please contact Jennifer Vanderhoof, senior ecologist.

Biodiversity of Wildlife - Animals and Plants - in King County, Washington State

Regulations and Policies Related to Biodiversity

King County Regulations and Policies

The King County Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) is the guiding policy document for all land use and development regulations in unincorporated King County, and for regional services throughout the County including transit, sewers, parks, trails and open space. The Comp Plan was updated in 2012, and biodiversity is addressed in its own section as well as throughout the Environment Chapter (Chapter 4).

Critical Areas, Stormwater, and Clearing and Grading Ordinances: The goal of the Critical Areas Ordinance package is to protect the existing functions and values of critical areas and ensure public safety where there are identified hazard areas. The ordinance identifies two general classes of critical areas: (1) environmentally sensitive critical areas, which include rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and wildlife habitat; and (2) public safety critical areas (hazard areas), which include areas at high risk for erosion, landslides, earthquakes, or flooding, as well as coal mine hazard areas. The ordinance applies throughout unincorporated King County. Updates to the ordinance are mandated by the State of Washington’s Growth Management Act.

For a list of species protected in the Comp Plan and CAO as Species of Local Importance, scroll down on this page.

Federal Laws

Endangered Species Act

The Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973 and prohibits the importation, exportation, taking, and commercialization in interstate or foreign commerce of fish and wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered species. The Act also implements the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Here is a digest of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531-1543). And here is the entire ESA in PDF format.

Other Federal Laws

In addition to the ESA, many Federal Laws are in place that protect wildlife. This fact is often overlooked when people are considering County wildlife regulations. Federal Laws are an additional protection for many of our migratory birds, for example.

This external web site presents a summary of some federal wildlife regulations. Here is an excerpt:

  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712), except as allowed by implementing regulations, makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, kill, capture, possess, buy, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird, including the feathers or other parts, nests, eggs, or migratory bird products.
  • Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668C) makes it illegal to import, export, or take bald or golden eagles, or to sell, purchase, or barter their parts, or products made from them, including their nests or eggs.
  • makes it illegal to import, export, or take bald or golden eagles, or to sell, purchase, or barter their parts, or products made from them, including their nests or eggs.
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361-1407) establishes a moratorium on the taking and importation of marine mammals, including parts and products, and defines Federal responsibility for conservation of marine mammals, with management authority vested in the Department of the Interior for the sea otter, walrus, polar bear, dugong, and manatee.
  • Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42; 16 U.S.C. 3371-3378) provides authority to the Secretary of the Interior to designate injurious wildlife and ensure the humane treatment of wildlife shipped to the United States. Further, it prohibits the importation, exportation, transportation, sale, or purchase of fish and wildlife taken or possessed in violation of State, Federal, Indian tribal, and foreign laws. Also, the act provides an important tool in the effort to gain control of smuggling and trade in illegally taken fish and wildlife.
  • Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (16 U.S.C. 4901) promotes the conservation of exotic birds by (1) encouraging wild bird conservation and management programs in countries of origin; (2) ensuring that all trade in such species involving the United States is biologically sustainable and to the benefit of the species; and (3) limiting or prohibiting imports of exotic birds when necessary to ensure that exotic wild populations are not harmed by removal for the trade.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) web site contains a lot of relevant information:

Enforcement

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University took a look at Trends in prosecution in wildlife laws. They found that "Enforcement of the federal laws designed to protect migratory birds, endangered species, marine mammals and other kinds of wild life has slumped during the Bush Administration, according to authoritative Justice Department data." Additionally, "The decline was documented in an analysis of a special new data base comparing the number of individuals and corporations charged with violating such laws during the first term of President Clinton, the second Clinton term and the Bush years. The data were obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC)."

Washington State Laws

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Title 77: Fish and Wildlife is the primary source of fish and wildlife laws specific to Washington State. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Enforcement Program is primarily responsible for enforcing the Fish and Wildlife Code.

List of Species Protected in the King County Comprehensive Plan and CAO

This list is current as of June 1, 2009, and represents species protected in King County's Comprehensive Plan via the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). Asterisks (*) indicate which species have specified development standards in the CAO. Federal and State status codes are defined at the bottom of the list. These are grouped by animal type and then alphabetized by common name.

COMMON NAME


SCIENTIFIC NAME


Animal Type


Federal STATUS


State STATUS


notes on presence in King County


Larch Mountain Salamander


Plethodon larselli


Amphibian


FCo


SS


in King County


Northern Red-legged frog


Rana aurora


Amphibian


none


none


Oregon Spotted Frog


Rana pretiosa


Amphibian


FC


SE


historic presence; no current populations known


Van Dyke's Salamander


Plethodon vandykei


Amphibian


FCo


SC


Eastern King County near Snoqualmie Pass


Western Toad


Bufo boreas


Amphibian


FCo


SC


Present and breeding in King County


Beller's Ground Beetle


Agonum belleri


Beetle


FCo


SC


In WA, only known in King County


Bog Idol Leaf Beetle (formerly known as Long-horned Leaf Beetle)


Donacia idola


Beetle


none


SC


only known in Snohomish County in WA; is new PHS list wrong? Has it as only King county


Hatch's Click Beetle


Eanus hatchii


Beetle


FCo


SC


Endemic: only known in King County (historically also SnoCo, but no longer)


American bittern


Botaurus lentiginosus


Bird


none


none


American three-toed woodpecker


Picoides tridactylus


Bird


none


none


Rare in King County with only three BBA records near Cascade crest, including "confirmed" breeding pair at Pyramid Creek. Sparse occurrence does not support generous range on west side of crest mapped by Washington Gap report (Smith et al. 1997).


American White Pelican


Pelecanus erythrorhynchos


Bird


none


SE


Eastern WA; rare in K.C.; 5+ records


Bald Eagle*


Haliaeetus leucocephalus


Bird


FCo


SS


nesting in King County


Band-tailed pigeon


Columba fasciata


Bird


none


none


Barrow’s Goldeneye


Bucephala islandica


Bird


none


none


Belted kingfisher


Ceryle alcyon


Bird


none


none


Black scoter


Melanitta nigra


Bird


none


none


Black-Backed Woodpecker


Picoides arcticus


Bird


none


SC


confirmed breeding in eastern King County


Blue-winged teal


Anas discors


Bird


none


none


Brandt's Cormorant


Phalacrocorax penicillatus


Bird


none


SC


winters in King County waters


Brant


Branta bernicla


Bird


none


none


Brown Pelican


Pelecanus occidentalis


Bird


FE


SE


outer coast; rare in K.C.; 5+ records


Burrowing Owl


Athene cunicularia


Bird


FCo


SC


E WA; not in King County (fewer than 5 records)


Cassin’s Finch


Carpodacus cassinii


Bird


none


none


IUCN list: Near threatened


Cassin's Auklet


Ptychoramphus aleuticus


Bird


FCo


SC


outer coast; not King County; fewer than 5 records in K.C.


Cinnamon teal


Anas cyanoptera


Bird


none


none


Common Goldeneye


Bucephala clangula


Bird


none


none


Common Loon


Gavia immer


Bird


none


SS


breeding in King County


Common Murre


Uria aalge


Bird


none


SC


winters in King County waters


Flammulated Owl


Otus flammeolus


Bird


none


SC


E WA; not in King County; fewer than 5 records in K.C.


Golden Eagle


Aquila chrysaetos


Bird


none


SC


confirmed breeding in eastern King County


Hairy Woodpecker


Picoides villosus


Bird


none


none


Harlequin duck


Histrionicus histrionicus


Bird


none


none


Hooded merganser


Lophodytes cucullatus


Bird


none


none


Lewis' Woodpecker


Melanerpes lewis


Bird


none


SC


E WA; not supposed to be in King County; record from 1900s post-logging on Vashon


Marbled Murrelet*


Brachyramphus marmoratus


Bird


FT


ST


probable nesters in King County


Merlin


Falco columbarius


Bird


none


SC


winters in and migrates through King County; no breeding


Mountain chickadee


Poecile gambeli


Bird


none


none


Northern Goshawk*


Accipiter gentilis


Bird


FCo


SC


few breeding in King County


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Contopus cooperi


Bird


none


none


IUCN list: Near threatened


Oregon Vesper Sparrow


Pooecetes gramineus affinis


Bird


FCo


SC


not in King County; rare in K.C.; 5+ records


Peregrine Falcon*


Falco peregrinus


Bird


FCo


SS


in King County


Pileated Woodpecker


Dryocopus pileatus


Bird


none


SC


confirmed breeding in King County


Purple Finch


Carpodacus purpureus


Bird


none


none


Purple Martin


Progne subis


Bird


none


SC


confirmed breeding in King County


Ruffed grouse


Bonasa umbellus


Bird


none


none


Fairly common in hardwood and mixed woodlands at low to middle elevations throughout forested parts of four-county area, especially along brushy riparian corridors.


Sandhill Crane


Grus canadensis


Bird


none


SE


Eastern WA breeder; some migrate through K.C.


Snowy Plover


Charadrius alexandrinus


Bird


FT


SE


SW coast of WA; not their habitat or range; fewer than 5 records in K.C.


Sooty grouse


Dendragapus fuliginosus


Bird


none


none


Spotted Owl*


Strix occidentalis


Bird


FT


SE


confirmed breeding


Streaked Horned Lark


Eremophila alpestris strigata


Bird


FC


SE


extremely unlikely; if in county, extreme NE edge


Surf scoter


Melanitta perspicillata


Bird


none


none


Upland Sandpiper


Bartramia longicauda


Bird


none


SE


Eastern WA, if in WA at all; fewer than 5 records in K.C.


Vaux's Swift*


Chaetura vauxi


Bird


none


SC


confirmed breeding in King County


Western Grebe


Aechmophorus occidentalis


Bird


none


SC


winters in and migrates through King County; no breeding


Western Meadowlark


Sturnella neglecta


Bird


none


none


White-winged scoter


Melanitta fusca


Bird


none


none


Wood duck


Aix sponsa


Bird


none


none


Yellow-Billed Cuckoo


Coccyzus americanus


Bird


FC


SC


historic presence; no current populations known in WA


Johnson's Hairstreak


Mitoura johnsoni


Butterfly/Moth


none


SC


have been recorded in King County in suitable habitat: lowland coniferous forests that contain dwarf mistletoes of the genus Arceuthobium.


Valley Silverspot


Speyeria zerene bremnerii


Butterfly/Moth


FCo


SC


may be in King Co.


Black Rockfish


Sebastes melanops


Fish


none


SC


in King County waters


Bocaccio Rockfish


Sebastes paucispinis


Fish


FE


SC


potentially in King County waters


Brown Rockfish


Sebastes auriculatus


Fish


FCo


SC


in King County waters


Bull Trout


Salvelinus confluentus


Fish


FT


SC


in King County


Canary Rockfish


Sebastes pinniger


Fish


FT


SC


potentially in King County waters


Chinook Salmon (Puget Sound)


Oncorhynchus tshawytscha


Fish


FT


SC


in King County


chum salmon


Oncorhynchus keta


fish


none


none


coastal resident/searun cutthroat


Oncorhynchus clarki clarki


fish


none


none


coho/silver salmon


Oncorhynchus kisutch


fish


none


none


Copper Rockfish


Sebastes caurinus


Fish


FCo


SC


in King County waters


Dolly Varden


Salvelinus malma


fish


none


none


English sole


Parophrys vetulus


fish


none


none


Green sturgeon


Acipenser Medirostris


fish


none


Monitor


Greenstriped Rockfish


Sebastes elongatus


Fish


none


SC


potentially in King County waters


kokanee salmon


Onchorhynchus nerka


fish


none


none


lingcod


Ophiodon elongatus


fish


none


none


longfin smelt


Spirinchus thaleichthys


fish


none


none


Olympic Mudminnow


Novumbra hubbsi


Fish


none


SS


possibly in King County; tho' records could have been from planted fish


Pacific Cod


Gadus macrocephalus


Fish


FCo


SC


King County waters


Pacific Hake


Merluccius productus


Fish


FCo


SC


King County waters


Pacific Herring


Clupea pallasi


Fish


FCo


SC


spawning grounds in Quartermaster Harbor, Vashon-Maury Island


Pacific sand lance


Ammodytes hexapterus


fish


none


none


pink salmon


Oncorhynchus gorbuscha


fish


none


none


Pygmy Whitefish


Prosopium coulteri


Fish


FCo


SS


in King County


Quillback Rockfish


Sebastes maliger


Fish


FCo


SC


in King County waters


rainbow trout


Oncorhynchus mykiss


fish


none


none


Redstripe Rockfish


Sebastes proriger


Fish


none


SC


in King County waters


River Lamprey


Lampetra ayresi


Fish


FCo


SC


in King County


rock sole


Pleuronectes bilineatus


fish


none


none


sockeye/red salmon


Onchorhynchus nerka


fish


none


none


Steelhead (Puget Sound)


Oncorhynchus mykiss


Fish


FT


none


in King County watercourses


surfsmelt


Hypomesus pretiosus


fish


none


none


Walleye Pollock (So. Puget Sound)


Theragra chalcogramma


Fish


FCo


SC


possible in King County waters


White sturgeon


Acipenser transmontanus


fish


none


none


Yelloweye Rockfish


Sebastes ruberrimus


Fish


FT


SC


in King County waters


Yellowtail Rockfish


Sebastes flavidus


Fish


none


SC


in King County waters


Black Right Whale


Balaena glacialis


Mammal


FE


SE


coastal - offshore; visitor to King County waters


Columbian black-tailed deer



Mammal


none


none


Douglas Squirrel


Tamiasciurus douglasii


Mammal


none


none


elk in their historic range



Mammal


none


none


Fin Whale


Balaenoptera physalus


Mammal


FE


SE


coastal - offshore; visitor to King County waters


Fisher


Martes pennanti


Mammal


FC


SE


extirpated; historically present


Gray Whale


Eschrichtius robustus


Mammal


none


SS


coastal - offshore; visitor to King County waters


Gray Wolf


Canis lupus


Mammal


FE


SE


possible; former range in Cascades of King County


Grizzly Bear


Ursus arctos


Mammal


FT


SE


possible, but highly unlikely in King County


Humpback Whale


Megaptera novaeangliae


Mammal


FE


SE


coastal - offshore; visitor to King County waters


Killer Whale


Orcinus orca


Mammal


FE


SE


potentially the entire Sound; in K.C. waters


Lynx


Lynx canadensis


Mammal


FT


ST


extremely unlikely, but theoretically possible in extreme NE corner of county


Marten


Martes americana


Mammal


none


none


mink


Mustela vison


Mammal


none


none


mountain goat


Oreamnos americanus


Mammal


none


none


Pacific Harbor Porpoise


Phocoena phocoena


Mammal


none


SC


range includes King County waters


Sea Otter


Enhydra lutris


Mammal


FCo


SE


outer coast; visitor to King County


Steller Sea Lion


Eumetopias jubatus


Mammal


FT


ST


outer coast; visitor to King County


Townsend Chipmunk


Tamias townsendii


Mammal


none


none


Townsend's Big-Eared Bat*


Corynorhinus townsendii


Mammal


FCo


SC


presumed in King County


Wolverine


Gulo gulo


Mammal


FCo


SC


possible in King County


Olympia Oyster


OSTREA conchaphila


Mollusk


none


SC


not present currently or historically in King County waters; PHS data indicates otherwise


Oregon floater


Anodonta oregonensis


Mollusk


none


Monitor



Western pearlshell mussel


Margaritifera falcata


Mollusk


none


Monitor


Western ridged mussel


Gonidea angulata


Mollusk


none


Monitor


Alligator lizard


Elgaria coerulea


Reptile


none


none


western fence lizard


Sceloporus occidentalis


Reptile


none


none


Western Pond Turtle


Actinemys marmorata


Reptile


FCo


SE


there are just a few historic records in KC


Dungeness crab


Metacarcinus magister


Shellfish


none


none


Geoduck clam


Panopea generosa


Shellfish


none


none


Pacific oyster


Crassostrea gigas


Shellfish


none


none


Pandalid shrimp


Pandalus species, and Pandalopsis dispar. Spot (Prawn)
Pandalus platyceros
Sidestripe
Pandalopsis dispar
Dock (Coonstripe)
Pandalus danae
Humpback (Coonstripe)
Pandalus hypsinotus
Humpy (Coonstripe)
Pandalus goniurus
Northern (Rough) Pink
Pandalus eous
Ocean (Smooth) Pink
Pandalus jordani


Shellfish


none


none


Red Urchin


Strongylocentrotus franciscanus


Shellfish


none


none


Status Codes:

  • FE: Federal Endangered
  • FT: Federal Threatened
  • FC: Federal Candidate
  • FCo: Federal Species of Concern
  • SE: State Endangered, defined in WAC 232-12-297, Section 2.4, to include "any wildlife species native to the state of Washington that is seriously threatened with extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the state."
  • ST: State Threatened, defined in WAC 232-12-297, Section 2.5, to include "any wildlife species native to the state of Washington that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout a significant portion of its range within the state without cooperative management or removal of threats."
  • SS: State Sensitive, defined in WAC 232-12-297, Section 2.6, to include "any wildlife species native to the state of Washington that is vulnerable or declining and is likely to become endangered or threatened throughout a significant portion of its range within the state without cooperative management or removal of threats."
  • SC: State Candidate, defined in WDFW Policy M-6001 to include fish and wildlife species that the Department will review for possible listing as State Endangered, Threatened, or Sensitive. A species will be considered for designation as a State Candidate if sufficient evidence suggests that its status may meet the listing criteria defined for State Endangered, Threatened, or Sensitive.
  • SM: State Monitor Species.

    1. State Monitor Species are those that require management, survey, or data emphasis for one or more of the following reasons:

    a. They were classified as endangered, threatened, or sensitive within the previous five years.
    b. They require habitat that is of limited availability during some portion of their life cycle.
    c. They are indicators of environmental quality.
    d. There are unresolved taxonomic questions that may affect their candidacy for listing as endangered, threatened, or sensitive species.

    2. State Monitor Species will be managed by the Department, as needed, to prevent them from becoming endangered, threatened, or sensitive.

    3. Species already classified in a category that provides adequate management emphasis, survey work, and data maintenance (e.g., game animals, game birds, furbearers, etc.) will not be designated as State Monitor Species.