As part of an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized protection today for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The mouse only lives along streams; it was once found from southern Colorado to central New Mexico and eastern Arizona, but has been lost from the vast majority of its range due to loss and degradation of streamside habitat.
“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,” said Jay Lininger, a senior scientist at the Center.
The mouse, which is threatened primarily by overgrazing of riparian habitat, is unique in that it hibernates up to nine months. Each summer it must reproduce and gain enough weight to survive that long hibernation. It can only survive in areas with tall, dense streamside grasses and sedges.
As of 2005 there were only 29 surviving populations of the mouse, all of which are small, and none of which are found in habitat areas that are large enough to ensure the animal’s long-term survival. Eleven of the 29 may already have been extirpated due to drought, excessive grazing, wildfire and post-fire flooding. The mouse is also threatened by the disappearance of beaver, highway reconstruction, residential and commercial development, coalbed methane development and unregulated recreation.
“The New Mexico Meadow jumping mouse is one of the most precariously endangered mammals in the country, and the Endangered Species Act is the best hope for stopping it from being lost forever,” said Lininger.
In June 2013 the Service proposed to protect 14,561 acres of critical habitat for the mouse, but that proposal has not been finalized.
The jumping mouse was first recognized as being in need of federal protection in 1985. It was placed on the official candidate waiting list for protection in 1991 and again in 2007; in 2008 the group WildEarth Guardians submitted a petition seeking listing for the species.
Today’s listing results from a 2011 settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians under which 118 species have already gained Endangered Species Act protection and another 24 have been proposed for listing.