In this July 24, 2013 photograph, a meadow jumping mouse stands on the edge of a container while being released at Rollins Savanna in Grayslake, Ill. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen/Stacey Stanford/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)
Rare jumping mice discovered
November 07, 2016
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Biologists recently spent weeks in three New Mexico national forests searching for signs of an elusive, endangered mouse. It looks somewhat like a tiny kangaroo. The scientists say they have found what they call undeniable evidence that it still lives in the state for which it is named.
The biologists have trapped New Mexico meadow jumping mice. The scientists collected fur and fecal samples. This occurred during summertime surveys. They were taken in the southern Lincoln National Forest, the northern Santa Fe National Forest and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests along the New Mexico-Arizona border. The news is according to Beth Humphrey. She is a district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service. The jumping mice had not been seen for years in those places.
The mouse has a tail that makes up most of its length. It is called a jumping mouse because it can leap. In fact, it can jump more than two feet into the air. It jumps when it is frightened. Super-long tails help the mice keep their balance. This is especially when they scale plant stems to reach ripening seeds. The seeds are one of their main food sources.
The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse was listed as an endangered species in 2014. It prompted the U.S. Forest Service to fence off streams and watering holes in the Lincoln and Santa Fe forests to protect habitat. That spurred criticism from ranchers and others. They claimed that the federal government was trampling private access to public lands in New Mexico.
Small populations of New Mexico meadow jumping mice have been found in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.
Last summer's surveys turned up the first hard evidence that they still live in areas where they had not been spotted in years. That's according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in an emailed statement.
The discoveries provide "hope that this species can recover over a period of time," said Humphrey. She works in New Mexico's Sacramento Mountains.
Humphrey said her district will collect public comments this fall. Proposals will be sought for long-term strategies. They would be aimed at trying to protect and boost New Mexico meadow jumping mouse populations.
The mice live near streams. They depend on tall grass to hide from predators. They hibernate for about nine months. Then they emerge in the late spring to gorge themselves before mating, giving birth and going back into hibernation. They normally live three years.
Jack Williams is a wildlife biologist. He is based in the Sacramento Mountains. He said the jumping mouse is difficult to trap. His crew surveyed five sites over six weeks. More than 5,000 traps were set.
Why are there so few of the jumping mice? Biologists blame drought, wildfires, flooding and grazing in the habitat of the New Mexico meadow.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why were the mice difficult to find?
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