Hibernating Mouse Gets Federal Protection

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse was listed Tuesday as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, with its critical habitat designation to come later this year.
     The WildEarth Guardians filed a petition to list the mouse in 2008. A 2011 consolidated settlement agreement between the USFWS and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other environmental groups resulted in a five-year workplan to speed listing decisions for hundreds of at-risk species across the country, including the mouse. “Saving the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and the streamside habitat it needs to survive is long overdue. When we protect this tiny animal, we’re also helping people, because we all rely on clean water for survival,” Jay Lininger, a senior scientist at the CBD was quoted as saying in the group’s response to the listing.
     The tiny mouse is unusual in that it sleeps up to nine months of the year, leaving little more than a three month period in which to breed, raise its young and gain enough weight to survive the hibernation period. For this reason, the mouse only has one small litter per year, usually with seven or fewer young per litter.
     The meadow mouse has “exceptionally specialized habitat requirements,” according to the listing rule. Streamside vegetation must be tall and dense enough to provide rich food sources of seeds and insects, and must consist of the right structural material for day nests needed for shelter from predators. The mouse also requires nearby upland areas beyond the floodplain, to rear young in the summer and hibernate over the winter. “If resources are not available in a single season, populations are greatly stressed,” the USFWS noted in its press release.
     More than 70 historical populations have died out since the 1990s, the regulation said. In the period since 2005, only 29 populations are now known. Of these, two are in Colorado, 15 are in New Mexico and Arizona has 12. Some of these populations may no longer be viable. “All of the remaining populations are small and isolated, and 11 of them have been substantially compromised since 2011 (due to water shortages, grazing, or wildfire and flooding). Another seven populations in Arizona may also be compromised due to post-fire flooding following the 538,000-ac Wallow Fire that burned in 2011,” the agency’s fact sheet emphasized. Of the remaining habitat, 95 percent is on state and federal lands, the USFWS said.
     Grazing, water use and management practices, drought and wildfires are the main causes of habitat loss. These factors are also worsened by climate change, the agency noted.
     “Additional sources of habitat loss are likely to occur from scouring floods, loss of beaver, highway reconstruction, residential and commercial development, coalbed methane development, and unregulated recreation,” according to the listing regulation.
     In the 2013 listing proposal, the agency proposed 14,560 acres of critical habitat in twelve counties in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. The agency plans to publish the final critical habitat designation later this year, according to its press release.
     The listing designation is effective July 10.

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