The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse for endangered status under the Endangered Species Act, with over 14,500 acres of critical habitat.
The mouse's unusual eight to nine month hibernation period contributes to the species' vulnerability, the agency said in a press release. With an active period of only three to four months during the summer, there is little time to breed, give birth, raise young, and also eat enough to survive the hibernation period. The species is short-lived, generally living only three years or less, and they have small litters. "If resources are not available in a single season, jumping mice populations would be greatly stressed," the agency said.
The species has specialized habitat requirements of tall vegetation near flowing water. "Over-grazing destroys the streamside riparian and wet meadow habitat on which the meadow jumping mice depend," the WildEarth Guardians (WEG) noted in a statement. The WEG maintains that the recent listing and critical habitat proposals are in response to a "scientific petition" filed by the group in 2008.
"The most important thing we can do to protect the jumping mouse and the ecosystem they call home is to reign in grazing on public lands," Bethany Cotton, Wildlife Program Director at WEG was quoted as saying in the group's statement.
While the USFWS acknowledges that grazing has contributed to the species' habitat fragmentation, it maintains that "water management and use (which causes vegetation loss from mowing and drying of soils), lack of water due to drought (exacerbated by climate change), and wildfires (also exacerbated by climate change)," add to the problem as well as "scouring floods, loss of beaver ponds, highway reconstruction, residential and commercial development, coalbed methane development, and unregulated recreation," according to the listing proposal.
Data from the 1980s and 1990s compared to more recent data indicate that 70 locations formerly occupied by the jumping mouse have been destroyed, leaving only 29 isolated populations spread over Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, the listing action said, and "none of the 29 populations known to exist since 2005 is of sufficient size to be resilient."
The USFWS has concluded that the species is "at an elevated risk of extinction now and no data indicate that the situation will improve without significant conservation intervention," according to the listing proposal.
The agency has proposed 193.1 miles, or 14,560 acres in eight units as critical habitat in twelve counties in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
Comments on the two proposals are due Aug. 19, with public hearing requests due by Aug. 5.