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Species 101

Washington is home to a remarkable variety of species, a reflection of our ecosystems diversity, including marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. We have grizzly bears and pygmy rabbits, sea anemones and sagebrush, diminutive lichens and giant Palouse earthworms, deer-ferns and death camas. Within the state there are 3,100 vascular plant species, 140 mammals, 470 freshwater and marine fishes, 341 birds, 25 amphibians, 21 reptiles, an estimate of thousands of mosses, lichens, liverworts and fungi and an estimated 20,000 invertebrates (including more than 2,000 moths and butterflies).

Many of our species are migratory, spending part, but not all, of their lives in Washington. Salmon, gray whales, southern resident orcas, and many marine bird species utilize marine and inland waters outside of our borders. Migratory waterfowl and neotropical migratory birds are here only seasonally.

On the other hand, some of our species are endemic, i.e., unique to Washington, occurring nowhere else on Earth. According to NatureServe, Washington ranks 13th among the 50 states, with 53 endemic species, 49 of which are vascular plants. Areas of the state rich in endemic species include the Olympic Mountains, the Wenatchee Mountains, and the Columbia Plateau.

It’s important to note that the cataloging of Washington’s biodiversity is not yet complete; species new to science are still being discovered in Washington.

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