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Mazama Pocket Gopher - Proposal to Extend Protection Under ESA to Four Subspecies and Their Habitats


Mazama pocket gopher up close (Photo: WDFW)   Mazama pocket gopher showing its teeth (Photo: Kim Flotlin, USFWS)
Photo: WDFW   Photo: Kin Flotlin (USFWS)


On December 10, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed extending Endangered Species Act protection to four subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher and their habitats. The recent announcement affects only the subspecies found in Washington.

The Mazama pocket gopher is a small mammal that occupies prairie habitats in Washington and Oregon. The prairies of south Puget Sound and western Oregon are part of one of the rarest ecosystems in the United States. Dramatic changes have occurred on the landscape over the last 150 years, including a 90% to 95% reduction in the prairie ecosystem.  In the south Puget Sound region, where most of western Washington’s prairies historically occurred, less than 10 percent of the original prairie persists, and only 3 percent remains dominated by native vegetation.  Since the mid-1800s much of Washington’s Puget prairie habitat has been lost through conversion to human uses such as development or agriculture, or to invasive species or encroachment of woody plants resulting primarily from fire suppression. Only the Mazama pocket gopher subspecies found in Washington are considered in this rule.

For more information about the Mazama pocket gopher, its habits and locations, USFWS proposals, and the local government agencies whose jurisdictions include south Puget Sound prairies, click on the links below:

Federal Register - Proposed Rule
Critical habitat GIS shapefiles and KMZ data (.zip)
Critical habitat UTM coordinates (pdf)
News release (pdf)
Questions & Answers (pdf)
Informational memo (pdf)
Thurston County
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Species fact sheet (pdf)
WFWO Flickr photo set
10 Fun Facts About Mazama Pocket Gophers
WFWO Word from the Wild blog