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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.