Endangered woodpecker returns to Sumter National Forest

Updated: Mar. 23, 2018 at 4:32 PM EDT
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This group of Forest Service employees helped locate, capture, identify, and release the male...
This group of Forest Service employees helped locate, capture, identify, and release the male red-cockaded woodpecker found in the area. The team also introduced a female into a nearby tree to encourage a new breeding environment. (Source: USDA)

SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A species of woodpecker that hasn't been seen in the area for over 40 years has been found in Sumter National Forest, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A male red-cockaded woodpecker was spotted last month by Savannah River Site biologist Thomas Mims. The species was last seen in the Midlands during the mid-1970s, but during that period, forest officials say, habitat conditions were not suitable for their survival.

"This species is the only woodpecker to excavate cavities in live trees and flourishes in well-managed older pine forests with a diverse, open understory," the Forest Service said in a statement.

Through timber management and prescribed burning, the Forest Service has returned the area to a habitable state for the woodpecker.

"The Lick Fork Lake Recreation Area has been managed to provide a suitable environment for a whole host of native wildlife," Long Cane District Ranger John Kirkaldie said. "We give credit to the employees who worked here for decades on the Long Cane and to today's present employees. In the land management arena, it is quite a feat to have everything align to attract a federally listed endangered species back that was historically here."

A female red-cockaded woodpecker was introduced into a nearby tree in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

"We estimate that the male has been in this particular tree for up to a year and a half based on the condition of the natural cavity," district biologist Jeff Magniez said. "We have brought a female to this area in hopes of starting a new breeding population. We will be monitoring the outcome of today's events and look forward to having this endangered species flourishing once again on the Long Cane."

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