Fire-dependent woodpecker may be listed as endangered species

Black-Backed Woodpecker
Black-Backed Woodpecker

The black-backed woodpecker may be protected in two locations as a threatened or endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The bird depends on fire-killed stands of trees and feeds on the outbreaks of wood-boring beetles found on recently burnt snags. It can also use stands of snags that have been killed by beetles. The woodpeckers nest in the dead trees and feast off of the wood-boring beetle larvae.

The agency is considering protecting it in California, Oregon, and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

This may be the first time that the Endangered Species Act has been used to protect a wildlife species that depends on stands of fire-killed trees.

There are approximately 1,000 pairs in Oregon and California, and about 400 pairs in the Black Hills.

The FWS is seeking more information about the black-backed woodpecker before they make a decision about listing it as threatened or endangered. A comprehensive review will occur when funding becomes available. The process was triggered by petitions from John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance.