Mammals of the Pacific Northwest: From the Coast to the High Cascades

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Columbian Ground Squirrel Urocitellus columbianus. Piute Ground Squirrel Urocitellus mollis. Townsend's Ground Squirrel Urocitellus townsendii. Washington Ground Squirrel Urocitellus washingtoni.

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Yellow-pine Chipmunk Tamias amoenus. Least Chipmunk Tamias minimus.


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Red-tailed Chipmunk Tamias ruficaudus. Townsend's Chipmunk Tamias townsendii. Northern Flying Squirrel Glaucomys sabrinus. Beaver Castor canadensis. Order Rodentia, Family Castoridae. Ord's Kangaroo Rat Dipodomys ordii. Order Rodentia, Family Heteromyidae. Great Basin Pocket Mouse Perognathus parvus.

Mazama Pocket Gopher Thomomys mazama. Order Rodentia, Family Geomyidae. Northern Pocket Gopher Thomomys talpoides.

Western Jumping Mouse Zapus princeps. Order Rodentia, Family Dipodidae. Pacific Jumping Mouse Zapus trinotatus. Sagebrush Vole Lemmiscus curtatus. Gray-tailed Vole Microtus canicaudus. Long-tailed Vole Microtus longicaudus. Montane Vole Microtus montanus. Creeping Vole Microtus oregoni. Meadow Vole Microtus pennsylvanicus. Water Vole Microtus richardsoni. Townsend's Vole Microtus townsendii. Red-backed Vole Clethrionomys gapperi. Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus. Western Heather Vole Phenacomys intermedius. Northern Bog Lemming Synaptomys borealis.

Bushy-tailed Woodrat Neotoma cinerea. Northern Grasshopper Mouse Onychomys leucogaster. Deer Mouse Peromyscus maniculatus. Keen's Mouse Peromyscus keeni. Potential vegetation includes the western hemlock Tsuga heterophylla , Pacific silver fir Abies amabilis , and western red cedar series Thuja plicata McNab and Bailey Predominant natural disturbances include fire, wind, floods, and volcanoes McNab and Bailey Extensive logging and fire suppression have substantially altered natural disturbance regimes, shifting regional landscapes from those with a full range of seral stages to highly fragmented landscapes where late-seral stages are rapidly being replaced by monocultural tree plantations see DellaSala et al.

Land Mange. Description Biological Distinctiveness When compared to other ecoregions within the Temperate Coniferous Forest Major Habitat Type, this ecoregion contains intermediate levels of biodiversity e. This ecoregion contains one of the highest levels of endemic amphibians 5 of 11 endemics are amphibians of any ecoregion within its major habitat type.

Several taxa, including salamanders e. The threatened northern spotted owl has been used as an indicator species in environmental impact assessments because its range overlaps with 39 listed or proposed species 10 of which are late-seral associates and 1, total species associated with late-seral forests USDA For. Late-seral forests in general are of national and global importance because they provide some of the last refugia for dependent species, and perform vital ecological services, including sequestration of carbon, cleansing of atmospheric pollutants, and maintenance of hydrological regimes.

These areas contain unusually high levels of species richness for diverse taxa e. One of the two hot spots also received a relatively high composite ecological integrity ranking, meaning that the area still consists of a mosaic of plant and animal communities maintained by well-connected, high-quality habitats USDA For. Land Manage. In particular, late-seral multi- and single-story forests have declined basin-wide to as much as 40 percent of their original extent see USDA For.

Northwest Wildlife: Rodents

Late-seral forests in general have experienced sharp declines in many other ecoregions within the temperate coniferous forest major habitat type and are therefore a national as well as ecoregional priority e. In addition, mid-seral subalpine forests have experienced a 35 percent decrease while late-seral montane multi-story forests have increased by 35 percent USDA For.

Moreover, many terrestrial and aquatic areas within this ecoregion have relatively low composite ecological integrity rankings due primarily to cumulative impacts of extensive logging, road building, and hydroelectric development USDA For. In addition to the above declines, ecological processes in this region have been altered by a century of fire suppression activities that have increased the severity and extent of fires and altered fire-dependent plant communities see DellaSala et al. The absence of periodic fires also has resulted in declines in rangeland integrity and increases in exotic species invasions USDA For.

Remaining Blocks of Intact Habitat Both the Oregon and Washington GAP projects provide more detailed information on remaining intact blocks of habitat and areas of high biological importance outside protected areas.

East Cascades

In addition, the USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of Land Management identified other key areas of importance to fish and terrestrial biodiversity, particularly the aquatic strongholds and biodiversity hot spots discussed above. They have weakly differentiated horizons layers , are little altered from their parent material, and occur where summers are cool. Much of the Klamath Mountains area is characterized by ultisols , leached reddish soils that develop where winters are mild and moist and summers are warm and dry.

Spodosols form under coniferous forests at higher, cooler elevations. The orientation of the Pacific mountains has a profound effect on the climate of the western United States and Canada. Regionally, they act as an orographic barrier to storms from the Pacific Ocean, which especially in winter bring large quantities of precipitation to the western slopes of the ranges.

For example, the highest annual precipitation levels in the 48 conterminous states more than inches [3, mm] occur on the southwestern slope of the Olympic Mountains, while the greatest annual precipitation total in Canada more than inches [5, mm] occurs along the British Columbia coast north of Vancouver Island. Inland precipitation decreases on the eastern rain shadow side of the coastal ranges and increases again on the higher, western slopes of the Cascades, in some places exceeding inches 2, mm ; much of this is in the form of snow. Immediately east of the Cascades the annual precipitation decreases drastically to less than 8 inches mm at Yakima, Washington.

In California more than 50 inches 1, mm fall on the windward side of the Coast Ranges, decreasing to 30 inches mm in the Transverse Ranges to the east. In sum, precipitation in these ranges increases with elevation and reaches higher annual levels on the western windward sides. Climate is the major influence on vegetation type. Conifers predominate and can grow to enormous size, especially on the moister, western slopes.

Sitka spruces are dominant along the coast from southern British Columbia to northern California.

The largest standing midlatitude rainforest in the United States is on the west side of the Olympic Mountains. Inland and up into the Cascades, Douglas firs and western hemlocks dominate. They give way at high elevations to trees such as Pacific silver firs and mountain hemlocks. On the eastern slopes of the Cascades, ponderosa pines are the major trees, because they are capable of thriving on the drier slopes where fire is not uncommon.

Along the coast from southern Oregon to the Monterey Peninsula of California, redwoods are dominant, occurring with Sitka spruces, Douglas firs, and hardwoods such as alders. Farther from the coast, the Coast Ranges are characterized by mixed forests of bigleaf maples, madrones, various oaks, and pines and other conifers. On the eastern slopes is an oak-grassland association. In the drier Transverse Ranges, bigcone Douglas firs, as well as pines and oaks, are found. The anadromous river-spawning salmon are the most distinctive creatures of the coastal ranges. Five species—pink, chum, coho, sockeye, and chinook—are found in the streams draining the mountains, each with its own distinctive range and environmental conditions.

The pink and chum spawn in coastal streams near the ocean, while the sockeye usually spawns in upstream lakes. The chinook or king favours large rivers such as the Columbia and Sacramento and travels hundreds of miles inland. The coho also favours the larger rivers.

Another anadromous fish, the American shad, originally native to the Atlantic coast, was introduced in the late 19th century and has adapted to streams of the Pacific coast. Also inhabiting coastal waters are harbour seals, northern fur seals, northern elephant seals, sea otters, and northern and California sea lions. The pelts of sea otters were the first furs traded in the Pacific coastal region, obtained from the Indians of British Columbia and sold in China. The larger land mammals include Roosevelt elk in the coastal ranges from British Columbia to northern California and black bears in the coastal ranges and Cascades.

Three species of deer are found: mule deer on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, black-tailed deer in the coastal and Cascade ranges, and, locally in the Coast Ranges of Oregon, white-tailed deer. Three members of the cat family—lynx, bobcat, and puma mountain lion —are found throughout the Pacific mountain system.

Two Pacific Northwest Salamanders Move Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

The beaver, a mainstay of the 18th- and 19th-century fur trade, is found as far south as northern California. Brought to the brink of extinction in the 19th century, beavers are now protected in most areas. Pacific mountain system.


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