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Giant Palouse worm denied endangered status

The giant Palouse earthworm.
Photo courtesy Jodi Johnson-Maynard
The giant Palouse earthworm.

The giant Palouse earthworm has had a celebrity status among Northwest species,  but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied the worm endangered status today.

The federal government said the worm has been found in more habitats than previously thought and in more abundance than expected.

The big worms have now been found in small patches of native Palouse grasslands and some wooded areas near Leavenworth, Wash.

Jodi Johnson-Maynard is a soil ecology researcher with the University of Idaho. She's been tracking the worm since 2005 and will continue that work, even though the species is more common than she thought.

"It's gratifying as a scientist to study something that's relatively unknown, because every new discovery is important," Johnson-Maynard says. "So it's a good creature to study."

Fish and Wildlife officials said the worm could make the endangered list in the future if new evidence bolsters its protection status.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.