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Columbia Plateau Wildlife

From short-horned lizards to sharp-tailed grouse, roughly 45% of Washington’s 829 species of vertebrates are found in the Columbia Plateau ecoregion.

Animal Group

Approx. number of species
Reptiles and amphibians
Dragonflies and damselflies
Other insects
Yet to be determined
Other invertebrates
Yet to be determined

The Columbia Plateau affords significant habitat for migratory waterfowl and wetlands-dependent birds. While dams of the Columbia Basin Project inundated many wetlands, new ones were created from irrigation runoff. These wetlands, combined with the region’s grain fields and reservoirs, provide food and shelter for birds such as sandhill cranes, wigeons, and buffleheads.

Raptors nest in high densities here. Introduced game birds, such as chukars and ring-necked pheasants, make use of the varied terrain. At-risk bird species in the ecoregion include the upland sandpiper and the sage grouse.

Salmon make spawning runs up rivers in the inland Northwest, though in far fewer numbers than they once did. Fish species of conservation concern include the bull trout and the mid-Columbia coho. Invasive animals such as bullfrogs and brook trout jeopardize the Columbia’s Plateau’s natural aquatic heritage.

The region has dozens of wildlife species considered of greatest conservation concern by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Mammals like the pygmy rabbit and American badger; reptiles and amphibians like the striped whipsnake and the tiger salamander; and invertebrates like the Juniper hairstreak butterfly and Mann’s mollusk-eating ground beetle are vulnerable to the ongoing changes in the Columbia Plateau’s environment.


For details of this ecoregion within Washington, click a subheading in the left column.

View the more general description of this ecoregion in North America

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