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Climate change threat: Mount Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan

UPDATED: Wed., June 16, 2021

A Mount Rainier White-Tailed Ptarmigan, found July 14, 2011, in the Cascade Mountains, spends its entire life on mountaintops. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes listing the bird found in the North Cascades as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to the likelihood that climate change will shrink its high-elevation habitat from southern British Columbia to southern Washington.  (Pete Plage)
A Mount Rainier White-Tailed Ptarmigan, found July 14, 2011, in the Cascade Mountains, spends its entire life on mountaintops. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes listing the bird found in the North Cascades as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to the likelihood that climate change will shrink its high-elevation habitat from southern British Columbia to southern Washington. (Pete Plage)
Associated Press

Associated Press

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes listing a bird found in the North Cascades as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to the likelihood that climate change will shrink its high-elevation habitat throughout the state.

The Mount Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan is found in the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia to southern Washington, the Skagit Valley Herald reported. They are one of few animals that spend their entire lives on mountaintops. They move seasonally between snow-covered habitat and summer alpine meadows.

As temperatures continue to warm, the region’s snowpack will decline. Alpine meadows may also be at risk as conditions move tree lines to higher elevations.

“As the iconic alpine meadows of Washington diminish with climate change, this alpine bird … will be pushed out of the home it is specially adapted to,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Andrew LaValle said.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife lists the Mount Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan as a species of greatest concern and as highly vulnerable to climate change.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposal includes rules to protect the birds from types of intentional and unintentional harm, and states that a species recovery plan will be written after the listing becomes official.

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